As an experiment in social reconstruction, ObamaCare was nothing compared with what’s coming down the line as a result of the Obama administration’s Friday the 13th diktat that all public schools in the United States must allow every student to use the bathroom of his/her/zis/zir choice, or risk federal civil-rights lawsuits and the withholding of federal funds for (among other things) school lunch programs. Defending his decision in an interview with BuzzFeed News, President Obama declared, of course, that he was doing it for the children: “I think that it is part of our obligation as a society to make sure that everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are all loved, and that they’re protected and that their dignity is affirmed.”
Fairness, love, protection, and the affirmation of dignity are all apparently more important than a full stomach, even though the American people have been told for years that federally funded school lunch (and breakfast, and sometimes now even dinner) programs are the only thing keeping a significant number of poor children from starvation.
Consistency, of course, is the hallmark of the ideologue, who consistently ignores the real problems of real people when they clash with the ideals burning in his mind.
Having been reared in a small town with excellent public schools, I have never been opposed to such schools in principle. And even though my wife and I homeschool our children because Rockford’s public schools were destroyed by 13 years of federal control stemming from a class-action desegregation lawsuit, I haven’t ever been a homeschool ideologue, either. Small, locally controlled schools, funded by local means such as property taxes, still seem to me a reasonable way for a community (which means something other than simply the people who happen to be living in a particular area at a particular time) to provide for the mutual education of their children.
But decades of “funding reforms” have replaced local funding with state funding, and greater and greater federal regulation of local public schools has led to school consolidation and the loss of local control in anything but name. As always, Democratic administrations have pressed the boundaries, but they couldn’t have nationalized America’s public schools if the stage hadn’t been set by the Reagan administration, which tripled the size of the federal Department of Education that Reagan promised to abolish, and the George W. Bush administration, which increased federal control through expanded federal funding as part of the utterly anticonservative “No Child Left Behind” program.
At the time of this writing, 11 states have challenged President Obama’s bathroom diktat, but unless and until those states are willing to forgo all federal funding for their public schools, the likelihood that they will prevail is close to zero. They will win some lower-court rulings, but when the first case makes it to the Supreme Court, the outcome is a foregone conclusion: Money trumps all.
Which is what makes Princeton philosopher Robert George’s solution, expressed on the thinking man’s forum of Twitter, worse than a nonstarter. Indeed, one might call it a Trojan horse, except in this case, it’s as if a Greek Donald Trump convinced the people of Troy to build the horse themselves and present it to the Greeks to fill with their warriors and return it to the city.
Tweeted George: “With Obama’s bathroom edict, the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of children is in graver peril than ever. Vouchers!”
Yes, vouchers, that “free market” solution to the problems of public education that was so in vogue 20 years ago. Allow parents to transfer a certain sum of tax dollars from the local public school in which their children would normally be enrolled to a private or parochial school. What could possibly go wrong?
Twenty years ago, some of us could already see the problem: With money comes control. That’s how, as The Rockford Institute’s founder John Howard warned his fellow college presidents back in the 1960’s, the federal government would—and did—take control of higher education. That’s how George W. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” led under Obama to federal regulations ordering Christian adoption agencies to allow homosexuals to adopt children. And, even more to the point, it’s the very mechanism by which the Obama administration promises to enforce the bathroom diktat today.
For those who are not satisfied with the destruction of America’s public schools but who want to ensure that our private and parochial schools suffer the same fate, there’s no better solution than vouchers. One doesn’t have to be Homer to see that.