Exhibit A For School Choice

For years I have argued that the killer app that may someday actually lead to school choice will not be individual liberty (because no one in government gives a rip about that any more) and not education quality (because again, its clear no one really cares) but speech and religion.  If the right messes up schools enough, the left might finally be willing to shed their alliance with the teachers unions and consider school choice.  From a live-blog of a Texas Board of Education meeting (via Radley Balko)

9:27 - The board is taking up remaining amendments on the high school world history course.9:30 - Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with "the writings of") and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson's ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don't buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar's problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.

9:40 - We're just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board's far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America's exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America's Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.


  1. Tom Kelly:

    The killer app I've been believing in (perhaps erroneously) is real estate prices. Imagine how much inner city and inner suburban ring real estate prices could rise if school choice were available to those who live there rather than declining public schools. It should also help the environment as there would be less pressure for families to continue moving even farther out in search of newer school systems that are on an incline rather than decline, extending urban sprawl.

  2. Mike C.:

    Tossing out Jefferson was an act of insanity, and an indicator of why I very much mistrust many people supposedly "on my side" of political issues.

    But no, I sincerely doubt if this will cause a rift between the left and unions.

  3. artemis:

    The left solution will be more federal control of schools, perhaps even federally designed curriculums and the removal of local school board authority. The federal curriculum czar will be appointed by the President with no Congressional oversight or approval. It will be a prominent PTA or Teachers union (they aren't functionally separate), most likely after said union delivers massive voter turnout for the Party.

  4. DrTorch:

    Heh, pot.kettle.black

    Throwing references to Jefferson out- silly.

    Ignoring the truth that Jefferson was not the originator of many of those philosophical ideals- dishonest.

    Just because _you_ learned something in history class, doesn't make it any more true than the revisions that are being put out today.

  5. Rick Caird:

    Which raises an interesting question: who is and who should be in charge of the curriculum? That is not so easy a question.

  6. Jess:

    Sorry Warren, but no, the TSBOE did not "remove" Jefferson at all - in fact, if one takes the time to actually read the segment in question, the changes seem rather well, factual, in as much as Jefferson is not likely to have had much influence on the development of the so called "Revolutionary" period (often stated as starting in 1750) as he would have been 7 years old at the time...
    But hey, let's not let facts get in the way of a good ol' "christianist" bashing.

  7. DanielH:

    I agree with the need for school choice. It's the only solution which allows free expresion of ideas. As a libertarianish fundamentalist Christian (Is that possible?) I think each family is responsible for the educational choices of their children. I think it's appropriate for an Athiest family to send their kids to a place the teaches that, a Christian family can send their kids to a place that teaches much more about Christ. Maybe some will send their kids to a school that teaches other ideas. The point being is that when "The Community" controls the curriculum, then someone else dictates the indoctination of your children. Yes, I did mean indoctrination. All teaching is slanted with a world view. If nothing more than in what is covered, and how much weight is given to various ideas.

    Ideally, we would all pay for our own education, however with the current state of affairs that is not possible (that's another discussion), we will have to publicly fund them. Vouchers and complete school choice have demonstrated the results and accountability people have clamored for.

    The GI bill was just vouchers for college, and it worked very well. Even the left supports it. You money goes to whatever college you want - even a religious one.

    It all boiled down to the notion that people want to control what other people think. I'm willing to let you be responsibe for your family, may I please be responsible for mine?

    Full-disclosure: My kids have been home schooled, privately schooled, and to public charter schools. I went to public schools, except that k-2 was private.

  8. DrTorch:

    I agree with the need for school choice. It’s the only solution which allows free expresion of ideas. As a libertarianish fundamentalist Christian (Is that possible?)

    Welcome to the club. I use the term "quasi-libertarian" for myself, as I'm more likely to agree w/ them than not, especially Warren's version.

  9. DOuglas2:

    Reading between the lines, when the science standards were under review there was a concerted pushback to political efforts that would have emphasized "theory" in areas where some religionists (not just Christian) feel that science threatens their worldview. This brought heightened scrutiny to the whole curriculum review process, which is why the Discover magazine science "Bad Astronomy" blog is reporting in revisions to a history/social science curriculum.
    I'm not quite clear on the timeline, but the volunteer committee that the BOE put together to suggest needed revisions to the Social Science curriculum instead decided that the whole thing be discarded and replaced with a new one which social conservatives felt was drawn in large part from organizations promoting the Howard Zinn "A People's History Of The United States" worldview. The kicker seemed to be that many issues were "framed" in the language of Marx. I don't suppose that it really matters if you call it "capitalist" rather than "free market", although the former can encompass systems in practice that are far from the latter.
    So there was the strong sense from some quarters that the majority of the board was starting from a proposal that was philosophically off the wall, and battling an extreme faction on the board to restore balanced education. And there was a strong sense from opposite quarters that the board was starting from a proposal that was philosophically off the wall, and battling an extreme faction on the board to restore balanced education.
    If you want the opposite side of the argument from the AP/NYT/Discover?

    Somehow I don't think that having a single national curriculum is the answer to reducing the influence of the culture war in education. Education is the front line.