Friday, June 29, 2012

Republicans, Romney, Education Vouchers, and the Religious Right

Diane Ravitch has provided a review of a white paper issued on education by the Romney campaign.

A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education
a white paper by the Romney campaign, with a foreword by Jeb Bush
34 pp.

Ravitch’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books: In Mitt Romney’s Classroom. Ravitch concludes that Romney’s plan, and that of the Republicans, is, ultimately, to destroy the public education system in this country. She may have underestimated Romney and the Republicans; they could be plotting something even more sinister than that.

Consider these quotes from Ravitch’s article.

"Romney claims that school choice is ‘the civil-rights issue of our era,’ a familiar theme among the current crop of education reformers, who now use it to advance their efforts to privatize public education."

"He takes a strong stand against certification of teachers—the minimal state-level requirement that future teachers must pass either state or national tests to demonstrate their knowledge and skills—which he considers an unnecessary hurdle."

Consider now that Romney and the Republicans are strongly in favor of providing public funds in the form of vouchers that children can use to finance their education at a school of their choice. A compliant school accreditation system, and lax standards for what might be called a "teacher," would mean that just about anyone can hang out a shingle and soak up those public funds. That would give free rein to the for-profit schools that have already caused so much grief. Ravitch suggests that this "liberal" view of education can lead in other directions as well.

She provides Louisiana as an example.

"In Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform legislation was enacted in mid-April, the new law declares that students in low-performing schools are eligible to take their share of state funding—about $8,500—to any accredited private or religious school. About 400,000 students (more than half the students in the state) are eligible...."

Consider some of the schools that are scheduled to receive students and funding.

"....the Eternity Christian Academy, which currently has fourteen students, has agreed to take in 135 voucher students. According to a recent Reuters article, students in this school

"....sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains ‘what God made’ on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution."

"The pastor-turned-principal explained, ‘We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children.’ Some of the other schools that have been approved to receive state-funded vouchers ‘use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution’."

Every dollar that goes to this type of school is subtracted from the funds available for the public education system. Is this the kind of education that tax-payers should be supporting?

Ravitch has revealed the tip of an iceberg. This is no quaint exception; this is a type of education that is popular among evangelicals and is growing rapidly. And now they have figured out a way to get the public to pay for it.

We discussed some of the issues associated with the evangelical base of the Republican Party in Religious Extremism—U.S. Style. Let us return to Joe Bageant and his experiences with fundamentalism and this class of citizen as detailed in his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.

"Middle of the road Jews, Unitarians, Protestants, and Catholics, not to mention the secular humanists among us, cannot imagine how complete a lifestyle the cultish fundamentalist churches provide. This self-referential culture is so focused on religion and conviction that it was bound to come to see the larger secular society as its persecutor and all authority other than God’s, especially that of the government, as corrupt."

For many, the goal is to establish a theocracy in which all citizens would adhere to biblical laws. To accomplish their goals they have established their own school system. Once homeschooling was a means of avoiding racially integrated schools, now it is a means of indoctrinating children with conservative ideals, and avoiding contact with people having other beliefs.

"Fundamentalist strategists make it clear in their writings that the purpose of homeschooling and Christian academies is to create the right-wing Christian cadres of the future. The goal is to place ever-increasing numbers of believers in positions of governmental influence."

"The training of Christian cadres is far more sophisticated than nonfundamentalists realize. By now, most informed people probably know that the homeschoolers have a university network, with dozens of campuses across the nation, each with its own smiling Christian pod people, each school a clone of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. But how many outsiders know the depth and specificity of political indoctrination in these schools?"

"For example, Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, a college exclusively for Christian homeschoolers, offers programs in strategic government intelligence, law, and foreign policy, all with a strict, Bible-based ‘Christian worldview’."

These comments may seem a bit over the top, but we learned in The Tea Party Unmasked that those citizens who would be considered the Tea Party core are concerned not so much with small government, but rather with the need for "putting God in government."

Let’s consider what happened the last time the Republicans controlled the White House.

"Seven percent of all internships handed out by the Bush administration went to Patrick Henry students, and many more went to graduates of similarly religious rightist colleges. The administration also recruited from the faculties of these schools, appointing right-wing Christian activist Kay Coles James, former dean of the Robertson School of government at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. What better position from which to recruit fundamentalists?"

If the Republicans regain control, this "Christianization" of the government will resume. The Christianization of society will be buttressed by pouring large amounts of taxpayer dollars into what are fundamentalist madrassas.

Romney has bought into this process—anything that will get him the presidency.

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