Home > Uncategorized > The Cato Institute’s Idea About Public Education: Public Funds Should be Used to Promote Religious Segregation

The Cato Institute’s Idea About Public Education: Public Funds Should be Used to Promote Religious Segregation

January 21, 2019

In a recent op ed post that appeared in The Hill, Neal McCluskey, the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom argues that public funds should be used to promote schools that segregate students based on their religion, a concept that flies in the face of our country’s longstanding desire to be a tolerant melting pot of racial and religious thinking and undercuts the democratic governance of public schools.

Mr. McCluskey’s article was spurred by the recent reports that Vice President Mike Pence’s wife had begun a teaching job at the Immanuel Christian School, “…which among many policies does not admit actively gay students and forbids employees from engaging in “homosexual or lesbian sexual  activity.” This is clearly consistent with Mr. Pence’s views on homosexuality and also aligns with the views of roughly 30% of the public according to polls cited by Mr. McCluskey. Moreover, it is difficult to condemn Mr. Pence’s wife for taking a job in a school whose values reflect her own.

But Mr. McCluskey believes that ANY parent who shares the belief that their children should be shielded from “homosexual and lesbian sexual activity” should be entitled to a voucher to attend a school that will do so, even if “such sexual activity” is lawful and widely accepted by most citizens. He goes so far as to assert that this segregation by religious belief is desirable because if avoids placing children in an uncomfortable environment and avoids public “battles” over a charged issue:

Indeed, choice systems were sometimes created specifically to end painful wars for public school supremacy among highly religious people like Karen Pence and folks with different beliefs.

Unfortunately, American choice programs only reach about 500,000 students, meaning millions of families have little recourse but to try to impose their will on the public schools.

You may hate Karen Pence’s beliefs and those of the school where she teaches. For your own protection — and a truly free society — you should want school choice for everyone. 

Part of public education’s “hidden agenda” is to resolve these “differences of belief” democratically at the local level and, failing that, through court decisions. As I read this on the MLK Holiday, I cannot help but observe that “choice systems were sometimes created specifically to end painful wars for public school supremacy”. Indeed, in the South the idea of vouchers was developed to sustain the separate but equal schools Brown v. Board of Education eliminated. Our country remains engaged in a “painful war” over race. We once believed that black students shouldn’t share the same water fountains as white students and in the south a “separate but equal” system of public education was created based on that belief. That same kind of belief persists today regarding gay. lesbian and transgender students. In order for a democracy to thrive we need to work though our differences of belief… not separate ourselves based on those differences.

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