One argument against school vouchers is that, unlike charter schools, the lack of oversight will allow ideological and overly niche schools to thrive. This will mean more children will receive an education lacking in either general breadth or something else, depending on the niche of the voucher school. I find this to be probably the most compelling argument against vouchers; I have a hard time imagining ideological elementary schools not arising and becoming popular, and in some areas even crowding out unideological schools in general. Given the other benefits of vouchers, I don’t find this a sufficient reason to oppose them, but I do believe it to be a potential cost.
Of course the counterargument to this is that current public and charter schools are already ideological, that teachers tend to be liberal overall, and that leftist ideology is already pervasive in public school curriculum. An article today on the burgeoning trend of Green schools is evidence in favor of this counterargument. These are charter schools that focus curriculum around environmentalism, and other “social justice” issues. Not only are they operating under public charter funds, but according to the article, “some of them [are] benefiting from state grants and mandates to incorporate environmental education into the curriculum.”
Curriculum includes things like recycling, environmental justice, and other issues related to the environment. It’s fair to say a well-rounded education should involve understanding these issues, but indoctrinating a particular ideological perspective should not be the focus of a child’s education. Furthermore, even if they were being even-handed about it in presenting different perspectives on environmental issues, which is almost certainly not the case, it’s as absurd to think that these issues should be the central component around which a child’s education is organized. Kid’s deserve a break from the constant reminder of the issue of environmentalism. But not even math class does not provide a respite from environmentalism; at the Green School in Brooklyn, students “walk the streets to map trees and trash cans, then incorporate their findings into mural sketches for geometry class.”
In addition to having and ideological slant when teaching traditional school subjects like math and general science, some schools also “emphasize the environmental sciences or teach skills that will prepare students for careers in renewable energy or other pillars of a greener economy”. This means teaching students to design energy-efficient buildings, and install solar panels. I would hope that even the economics think tanks that put out the absurdly optimistic reports on our future “green economy” would advise against taking their forecasts this seriously. It’s one thing to bend a child’s understanding of the world to your ideological convictions, but to force their skills to fit that mold as well? This is parents and administrators gambling children’s future incomes and on an ideologically driven fad, and it’s so obvious that one administrator quoted in the article is on the defensive about it:
“We’ve got some schools investing in the skills kids need to compete,” Mr. Betheil said. “No way is this a fad.”
Down the street the “No Limit Texas Hold’Em Elementary School” and “Future House Flippers High School” shuttered their doors, tearing down plaques containing the same mottos: “No way is this a fad”.
I also find it hard to believe that a wider ideological indoctrination does not take place at these schools. I’m sure there are plenty of multicultural and post-modern critiques of science, and constant reminders that what is being taught in standard elementary schools contains a Western, Capitalist, white male bias.
Global warming is real, pollution is an issue, and children should learn about it in all schools. But to build an education around those issues in the same way that many liberals build their lives around them is an extreme ideological corruption of education. It would be nice to see progressive critics of vouchers stand up against these sorts of schools in the same way that they would if “Heritage Foundation Charter Schools For Young Capitalists” were springing up across the country. Otherwise, it becomes apparent that the objection to vouchers is not that children will be indoctrinated to partisan ideologies in publicly funded schools, but that they will be indoctrinated to partisan ideologies other than their own.