The recently published Heritage Foundation op-ed, “School choice is providing hope,” written by Lindsey M. Burke, obscures the real objectives of those driving the “school choice” movement. One needs to look no further than the words of the Heritage Foundation’s newly-anointed President-elect, Jim DeMint, to see that.
In 2009, DeMint wrote that “the most important public policy change in America today would be to facilitate more choices in education, choices including various forms of nonsecular education and more faith-based schools teaching a Judeo-Christian worldview.”
While organizations like the Heritage Foundation are quick to cite any statistics that could, on their surface, undermine our confidence in public education, they never explain how “nonsecular education” and programs that allow parents to “customize their child’s educational experience with control over education funding” will enhance academic performance. In states where they have been implemented so far, “school choice” programs have poured many millions of taxpayer dollars into religious schools that are very openly anti-science. Many of those schools teach that “any theory that goes against God’s word is in error,” or some permutation of that.
So given freedom to choose, it is clear that a sizable percentage of parents will use their school vouchers to equip their children with the faith needed for a lifetime in America’s pews and pulpits, instead of the knowledge needed within our libraries and laboratories. But I’m afraid that is exactly what DeMint and the Heritage Foundation want to happen.
Sorting by educational attainment, President Barack Obama fared the best among those with advanced degrees in both 2008 and 2012. Obama’s support was considerably larger in that demographic, but not nearly as large as Romney’s was among white evangelical protestants, who voted for the challenger by a four-to-one margin. So, getting more people to think like the latter group is now high on the Heritage Foundation’s priorities list.
Some on the right have begun to open up to the truth, at least on a superficial level. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana recently said that Republicans “must stop being the stupid party” and “must stop looking backward.” Former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi remarked that Jindal “was exactly right” and that “any Republican that’s thinking about talking about running for president in 2016 needs to get his head examined.”
But unfortunately for those two, a new push for enlightenment on the right is going to be lost among those who are in dire need of it. After all, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum proudly proclaimed just last year that “we will never have the elite, smart people on our side.” Senator turned million-dollar-a-year “think tank” president Jim DeMint knows that all too well.
The Heritage Foundation is now using its resources not to modernize the “stupid party,” but instead to increase the supply of stupid people via the oh-so-marketable and benign sounding mechanism of “school choice.” How’s that for solving a problem with a conservative, supply-side solution?
No country that is reportedly out-achieving us in education uses a system like what the Heritage Foundation advocates. Americans of all political persuasions must realize that science and real scholarship are nonpartisan. Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists and others are still trying and succeeding in suppressing reality-based ways of understanding the world in the short-term, but historical precedent makes their efforts look futile.
Bill Nye, a.k.a. The Science Guy, summed up the issue about as well as anyone by stating, “I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them.” Hopefully for this generation and ones yet to come, the call of the future will rise above the fading echoes from the past.
Barrett Maners, a Rock Hill native, is the author of Stopping Radicalism: We Can Stop Jim DeMint’s Crusade for Stupidity, available at Amazon.com.