Good News on the Liberal Education Front

Good news on the liberal education front:

More than 1,700 students from the District will get the chance to attend a private school this year through a federal voucher program, despite an ongoing debate among leaders in the city and on Capitol Hill about whether “school choice” should stay within the bounds of the public school system.

I am always more happy when I can find a reason to praise our elected officials than I am angry when I can find a reason to criticize them. Just as I show my love for my brother better by focusing on the good that he does without denying his failures, I still have faith in my government, because my government consists of my brothers.

Congress established the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program in 2004, a first-of-its-kind program for the city’s parents who want to send their disadvantaged children to Catholic schools or other private facilities instead of struggling public schools.

Mr. Obama had not included any funding for the politically sensitive scholarship program in his fiscal 2013 budget proposal, part of a trend by his administration since 2009 to phase out the program by funding only existing enrollees.

It’s only a tiny increase, as the article goes on to state, but it’s a move in the direction of greater respect for the freedom of conscience of citizens and of faith in those citizens’ goodwill toward their country.

But House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent — two high-profile supporters of vouchers — announced in June that they had struck an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to carry out the program with no specific cap on enrollment, so both new and existing enrollees can apply to the program.

The administration depicted the pact as more limited in scope than that of Capitol Hill lawmakers, who claimed Mr. Obama had “reversed course” through the agreement. The U.S. Department of Education said that rather than an open-ended program, it wanted to increase enrollment from 1,615 to about 1,700 students for the coming year to allow for a “statistically valid evaluation of the program.”

One has to wonder, though, what such remarks as the following could possibly mean:

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, has opposed the voucher program, arguing that true school choice lies with a robust system of traditional public schools and charter schools.

For example, what is the difference between “true” school choice and (the implied) fake school choice? Unfortunately the article, which is published in the Republican daily, does not let Mr. Gray’s words speak for themselves, but the DC Mayor’s most recent public demonstration would seem to corroborate the attribution. One thing about DC is for sure: it would benefit from more liberal education, and thus more diversity of viewpoints. There isn’t a more politically homogenous city in the United States (DC only has one party in its government, 75% of the electorate is registered Democrat, and the Republicans did not even field a candidate in the last mayoral election, which is likely to happen again in 2014).

The public school system is not in the business of liberal education. Not now. It can be though. But who should participate in the conversation about what a liberal education is and ought to be?

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About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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