EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 24, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

Vouchers give parents choice in education

To the editor:

Regarding the letter, “New Hampshire should repeal school voucher program,” Dee Lewis thinks that some parents shouldn’t be allowed to use taxpayer money to send their kids to Phillips Exeter because other parents will choose to send their kids to Manchester’s Trinity High, a Catholic school, or to better schools than the public schools simply because some parents will foolishly choose worse ones?

Like far too many Americans, Ms. Lewis makes a dread idol of the supposed constitutional requirement of “separation of church and state.”

The First Amendment says no such thing: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” No cognate of “separate” appears, nor the idea of a “wall” between church and state.

An “established” church is an official church favored by the government over all others. And part of government’s not “establishing” religion is not discriminating against religious institutions.

Our government gives money to churches and synagogues to help the old, the poor, the sick, homeless people, battered women, hungry children, and people with substance abuse and psychological problems. Unfortunately, some Americans are so misguided, fearful or even downright hateful toward religion that they’re against all that, too.

Society, and government, have powerful interests in doing these good works, of course, just as they do in the education of our children.

Conservatives pretend to love competitive free markets, and liberals pretend to love diversity, choice and toleration. Rational-empiricist atheists like myself are quite fond of experimentation. Why not tolerate choice, diversity, competition and experimentation in K-12 education?

Simply test each child’s individual improvement over the course of each year rather than merely the position of each child relative to others of the same age across the state, and post the overall results for each school in the state for all to see. Parents will send their kids to good schools and abandon bad ones. Test that kids understand things like Darwinism and the theories and supporting evidence that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, but allow kids to decide for themselves what they believe or disbelieve. Refuse to honor vouchers for schools that fall below a certain level on the tests.

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