Monday, June 10, 2013

Religious “education”, tax dollars, and why Scott Walker has it all wrong


What is the difference between an education and indoctrination? If you had to sum it up in a few words, or break it down to a single concept, what would you come up with?
The ability to question. In a nutshell, that’s it. There are better and worse educations, but ultimately, it comes down to this: if you can question an idea, if you’re allowed to entertain doubts and give voice to alternate, fact based ideas, during your learning, that’s education. If you can’t question a concept for fear of being expelled, if you are taught to believe without evidence rather than deduce from evidence, you are being indoctrinated.
Religious “education” is not education. It is indoctrination. There are some obvious examples of this. One need only to look to the rules and mission statements of Christian universities to see that even in higher education indoctrination is the byword; and that’s not even touching the racist (remember how Bob Jones students weren’t allowed to date people of a different race until after the 2000 election, when it was a headline grabber after a stop by George W. Bush?) and misogynist (there’s one right here in WI, a Baptist school, that takes rape culture and victim blaming to depths not attained in centuries) depravity of some of these “universities”. And that’s for universities. Accredited universities. Grade schools and highschools are even more pathetic. We all remember, no doubt, the “dinosaurs roamed the earth a few thousand years ago” fourth grade quiz that recently made headlines. There’s the sad example of Louisiana’s own funding of religious schools to go by, where kids are taught, among other things, that the Loch Ness monster is real and debunks evolution and that dinosaurs are still alive. And then there’s hundreds of voucher schools already teaching “creationism” (and all that that entails).
Not only are these kids taught lies, they’re not taught them as science (where new and better data changes our working knowledge) but as religious truth (which is beyond questioning). They are taught that fact is lie, lie is fact, and to question is to defy Jesus (and to defy Jesus is to burn forever and ever, amen). This is not education. This is indoctrination, pure and simple. (Personally, I don’t even think this should be legal, to willfully lie and mislead kids and call it “science”.) This is a huge disservice to these young people, and to society as a whole. But, of course, to implement any sort of standards for religious schools would be trampling over parent’s rights to mindf*ck their kids. So we can’t go there.
And, lo and behold, Wisconsin’s beloved governor wants to do what? Send oodles more money each year to private and religious schools. That was the plan, and Walker got his way, along with tax credits for those higher earners not eligible for the voucher. Now, there are a lot good reasons why vouchers are a bad idea. First of all, unless the voucher covers the entire cost of private tuition, it is unlikely to benefit the poor (if you’re making minimum wage and have a kid or two, additional thousands of dollars a year for a private education isn’t happening). It’s not just that, though. By taking money from public education to give to private schools, your public school cannot afford to provide as robust an education as it used to; which means that all the affected, less wealthy kids are now receiving a worse education, because the government is sending money that used to go to that school to subsidize a wealthier kid’s education.
Now, as it stands in the current proposal, the cut off is “185 percent of poverty, or about $43,000 for a family of four,” with an enrollment cap of 500 this year and 1,000 a year after that. Senator Dale Schultz (R) points out, however, that “the plan puts the state on a ‘dangerous path’ toward creating a parallel school system that will suck money away from public schools” because:
“We are only one budget away from opening the flood gates," Schultz said, referring to the likelihood that enrollment caps would be loosened. "It's grown every single budget. By going statewide you sort of legitimize the concept."
If the voucher cannot reasonably be expected to cover a family’s costs, how much use is the 185% of poverty cut off going to be? And if it’s not useful, how soon before we “have” to raise or eliminate it, along with dropping enrollment caps? The pattern is established – more and more toward vouchers, away from our public schools. And proponents of the issue are demanding more (proponents who, by the by, donated hefty sums to Walker’s campaign).
And, beyond all that, why the hell are we giving tax payer money to schools over which we “can’t” exercise any control, and which have no legal obligation to teach facts; schools that instead have a terrible reputation for indoctrination rather than education?
From any light, this is a bad idea. It will not help the purported audience, it will allow taxpayer money to be funneled to indoctrination mills rather than centers of education, and it will bring us one step closer to a system of education that leaves the poor and lower middle class in the dust.

1 comment:

  1. That was the plan, and Walker got his way, along with tax credits for those higher earners not eligible for the voucher. Now, there are a lot good reasons why vouchers are a bad idea.
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