Category: Educational Choice

Today at Public Discourse, I explore the dubious connection between educational attainment and upward income mobility, arguing instead that a focus on cultivating social capital would be far more effective than the conventional wisdom: “Stay out of trouble and stay in school.” Staying out of trouble is still a good idea, but staying in school — when it comes to higher education — is becoming less and less effective on its own at predicting economic improvement.

In addition, while I believe education to be desirable for itself, I do not think that one can turn a blind eye to the great cost, decreased quality, and decreased utility of higher education today. I write,
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abrahamkuyper1One of the great misconceptions about Christian higher education is that Christian colleges are places where Christian young adults go to withdraw from “the world.” A closer look at some historical roots of Christian colleges prove otherwise. For example, in the work of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), a Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, journalist, and statesman, we see that Christian colleges are not places of withdrawal but education centers of preparation for a life of living in a pluralistic world — a world with more similarities to Daniel’s Babylon than Europe’s 16th-century Christendom.

In the book Wisdom and Wonder Kuyper offers perspective to help Christians understand that a university education that presupposes and integrates the Triune God across the curriculum can solidly develop the Christian minds of young adults. Kuyper believes that if it is true that “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:19), then divorcing higher education from the knowledge of God will produce knowledge that is likely to appear as foolishness to God. Christians, then, in ways consistent with honoring God, need to create additional educational opportunities so that Christians do not abandon higher education and retreat to the asceticism of church life: Christians should be trained properly for participation in public life. This is one of the many reasons Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches have invested so much institutional capital in maintaining colleges and universities. Kuyper explains:
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choiceopportunityfront1Last week, as the country was remember MLK’s dream of children being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, Attorney General Eric Holder was suing the state of Louisiana because he’s more worried, as the Wall Street Journal says, about the complexion of the schools’ student body than their manifest failure to educate.

Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder’s lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation progress” required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn’t be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.

Passed in 2012, Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.

During the 2012-13 school year, about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders from 50 or so years ago.
For example, says the complaint, in several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” In other words, Justice is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

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In an early morning raid last week, a SWAT team stormed a residence in residence near Darmstadt, Germany. “I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed,” says Dirk Wunderlich. “They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.”

Wuncherlichs_Farris_GHEC2012_1“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” added Wunderlich. “It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”

Social workers forcibly removed four children, aged 7 to 14, from the home and put them in state custody. “When I went outside, our neighbor was crying as she watched,” said Wunderlich. “I turned around to see my daughter being escorted as if she were a criminal by two big policemen. They weren’t being nice at all. When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said—‘It’s too late for that.’ What kind of government acts like this?”

The Wunderlich children were taken away because their parents committed a serious crime in Germany: homeschooling.

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Blog author: abradley
posted by on Wednesday, August 28, 2013

tn-Dr.-MLK,-Jr.As we mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” we find reason for pause, for praise, and for lament. There is much to celebrate because MLK’s dream has been experienced for many blacks, albeit imperfectly, especially for the black middle-class. There have been some racial tensions along the way, but the black, middle-class, Civil-Rights generation has accomplished great things since the 1960s. The private sector has demonstrated some of the greatest gains because skill and performance do not have a color.

Black Enterprise Magazine has compiled a list of some of the most accomplished black CEOs. The magazine reports that in 1987, Dr. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. became Chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, distinguishing him as the first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Franklin Raines became the second black person to lead a Fortune 500 company when he became CEO of Fannie Mae in 1999. Moreover, American Express, Merck, Xerox, McDonald’s, Citigroup, Alcoa and many other large companies are full of all sorts of black talent in key positions representing the best of what Dr. King envisioned 50 years ago.

The public sector, however, has been an absolute disaster. This is where we pause for much lament. Low-income blacks have experienced nothing but a sabotaged King dream at the hands of elites who not only took it upon themselves to make decisions for how blacks should live, but also used the coercive power of government to do so. For example, as predicted in 1965 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who was, at the time, a sociologist serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor and later as U.S. Senator) in “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,” expanding welfare programs destroyed the black family in low-income areas. According to the most recent data, over 70% of all black children are born outside of the context of marriage compared to 17% for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Given what we know to be the advantages of children being reared in two-parent homes, this fact alone may explain much of the achievement gap and social mobility gap between blacks and Asian-Americans.
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One of the unintended consequences of the church growth movement was the narrowing of an understanding of how Christianity contributes to the common good by reducing what Christians contribute to the local church. While the church remains vital for the moral formation of society, there are other aspects of human flourishing that require the development of other institutions as Andy Crouch recently explained at Christianity Today.

This reduction has been adopted in some platforms that currently promote church planting. This church planting emphasis, in some cases, has led to an atrophied historical understanding of the Christian tradition’s emphasis on seeking the peace of the city through multiple institutions like schools, hospitals, professional societies, etc. While many churches are being planted in America’s most “strategic” cities, there seems to be little interest in coupling church planting with the creating of Christian schools to provide alternative education opportunities for children trapped in substandard public schools.

Let’s take New York City as an example:

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homeschool-jpg“Public education is the fount of most problems in the United States, not simply based on content, but also on structure,” says Thomas Purifoy. “Simply put: it is economically impossible for American public education to be successful in the long-run (or the short-run, for that matter).” Purifoy offers three lessons centralized public education can learn from the free market economy of home education:

Instead of getting more centralized, educational and curricular control should be pushed down to the lowest possible level (the school and the teacher herself, with significant parental control). This would require booting out the unions (that efficient perpetuator of educational mediocrity), breaking our huge schools apart and creating a whole new market-based model of education, where size/content matches local market needs, curriculum and methods are in the hands of parents/teachers, etc.. It would also require public schools to compete with each other for students (who would likely use vouchers – although when I say this, it is a concession to a faulty principle, since vouchers are just another form of redistribution of wealth, albeit far superior to the current setup.)

What is my proof for this? Consider one fact: there are hundreds of thousands mothers who have no educational degrees, no educational backgrounds, and almost no educational experience, who spend far less time educating their children than their public school counterparts, yet their kids consistently outperform the vast majority of public school students in the nation year after year.

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President Barack Obama, during a recent trip to Northern Ireland, decried the segregation of denominational churches and schools:chalkboard

Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.

If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.

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Politicians and public educators seem to constantly revert back to status quo arguments of further centralization as a way to reform education failures in the U.S. The most recent push for uniformity in the public school system is the Common Core, a set of national assessment standards and tests that has been adopted by 45 states and will be implemented possibly as soon as the 2014 school year.  President Obama enticed the states to adopt Common Core with his $4.35 billion “Race to the Top Fund,” promising stimulus money to any that complied.  He also announced that $350 million of that fund would be spent on developing the tests that would be aligned with the Common Core Standards.

Common Core constitutes another government takeover under the Obama Administration. While defenders of the Common Core correctly point out that Obama and his cabinet had nothing to do with the design or implementation of Common Core, they fail to recognize the coercion of the governors to adopt Common Core through Race to the Top. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has also used questionable tactics in support of Common Core. In a recent speech at the American Society of News Editors Annual Convention, as reported by the Huffington Post, Duncan claimed, “When the critics can’t persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data.  For the record, it doesn’t, we’re not allowed to, and we won’t. And let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.”  Such straw man arguments appear to be desperate attempts to obfuscate opponents’ central criticism: Common Core wipes out competition amongst states to produce better education programs, and it severely cripples school choice through more centralization. (more…)

Sometimes parents in low-income areas get a bad rap. Many are thought to be negligent and uncaring about their children’s education and futures. While that may be true in some extraordinary cases, you will rarely ever meet a parent who wants to enroll their child in a low-performing school. In fact, research suggests that when parents are given free choice about where to place their children in school, they will choose the best school they can find.

The positive outcomes for parental choice have been demonstrated yet again in a new study by Matthew M. Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul E. Peterson, Director of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

In “The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City,” Chingos and Peterson studied the college-enrollment outcomes of school voucher programs and found that the percentage of African-American students who enrolled part-time or full-time in college by 2011 was 24 percent higher for those who had won a school voucher lottery while in elementary school and used that voucher to attend a private school.

The study concludes the following:
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