Yesterday on the “Wall of Separation” we blogged about a shocking report in The New York Times shining light on a network of ultra-Orthodox schools in New York that offer mostly religious education with little or no attention paid to secular subjects. By offering a substandard education like this, the schools are in violation of state law, yet they still receive millions in taxpayer dollars.
As I read the article on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of the many fundamentalist Christian academies that dot the land. They do much the same thing: Every subject is run through a fundamentalist religious filter – and often a far-right political one as well. Modern science is ignored in favor of creationism. “Christian nation” myths are taught in lieu of actual history. Books are banned. Yet in states with private school voucher plans, these schools often receive public support.
Writing in Salon, Amanda Marcotte says The Times story should be a warning to our country.
“Americans across the country should pay close attention to this story, and should consider its national implications,” Marcotte wrote. “The same political pressures and flaws in the educational system that allowed this problem to fester in New York are being exploited across the country by conservative activists, nearly all of whom are Christian rather than Jewish. Worse yet, these Christian activists aren’t just interested in keeping their own kids away from secular education. They have grander ambitions, and would like to gut the education system as we know it, to make sure that no one’s kids can enjoy the right to a free, robust public education.”
That’s exactly right. Voucher advocates these days tend to come in two varieties: extreme free market advocates who reflexively hate any service provided by the government, including public schools, and Christian nationalists who want to force everyone else to live according to their beliefs.
Both factions despise public education but for different reasons. For the free marketeers, public schools are a highly visible arm of “Big Government,” creeping socialism, the freedom-crushing welfare state, etc. For many fundamentalist Christians, public schools are cesspools of secularism and sex ed where humanism reigns.
Americans know better. That’s why 90% of American children rely on public schools. That’s why, when given the chance to vote directly on voucher schemes, Americans always reject them.
Most people reading The Times exposé could only shudder. How could such a thing be happening in America in 2022? Yet we must remember that there are people who believe that situation, as appalling as it is, should be a model for the nation.
Our task is to make sure they never get away with it.