There was more at stake in the recent elections than the election of candidates. All across the country there were state and county ballot initiatives relating to public education. Their main theme, of course, was more money for public-school classrooms and teachers — which, of course, also means more money for education bureaucrats to oversee the classrooms and the teachers.
In my county in Florida, voters overwhelmingly approved the continuation of a special school-property tax that was first approved by voters in 2010. And this after just voting a few months ago to extend a half-penny sales tax for school construction for an additional 10 years.
Some of these ballot initiatives for education are quite comical. In Illinois, there was on the ballot the “Millionaire Tax Increase for Education Question”:
Should the Illinois Constitution be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than one million dollars?
That was one of three nonbinding advisory questions placed on the ballot by the Democrat-controlled Illinois legislature in hopes of enticing their left-wing constituents to come out to the polls. It passed with 63.6 percent of the vote.
These education ballot initiatives are mainly supported by liberals, progressives, and those moderates and conservatives who are persuaded by election advertising that more money is needed for public education. The money is, after all, for “the children.”
For decades now conservatives in general have criticized the public schools not only because of their failure to properly educate children, but also for their focus on climate change, “celebrating diversity,” observing Earth Day, and what they see as their promotion of multiculturalism, feminism, globalism, environmentalism, collectivism, and socialism. Christian conservatives have likewise joined the chorus, but also fault public schools for being biased against religion, teaching evolution and sex education, and promoting alternative lifestyles.
Many libertarians would agree with conservatives in their criticisms of public schools, but as a whole libertarians have their own issues with the public schools as well: Public schools promote statism, glorify American military might, and teach every economic fallacy known to man. They also maintain their existence by compulsion and coercion; that is, by compulsory attendance laws and taxation.
The latest conservative brouhaha is over the supposed promotion of Islam in public schools and the downplaying of other religions, especially Christianity.
Last month in Revere, Massachusetts, a father pulled his son out of a middle-school history class because of what he perceived to be its “pro-Muslim” bias.
A handout about Islam given to students contained the Muslim call to prayer: “Allah is the greatest. I bear witness that there is no God but Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad is his Prophet.” It also stated that Muhammad “was kind,” “had a strong sense of right and wrong,” and before his death, “had united many people in the Arabian Peninsula.”
“No religion should be taught at school. In their paper it says Allah is their only God. That’s insulting to me as a Christian who believes in just Jesus only,” said the concerned father. “We don’t believe in Allah. I don’t believe in my son learning about this here.”
The school system superintendent, Paul Dakin, told The Huffington Post that “the Revere school district is teaching history, not religion, and that Massachusetts requires middle schools to cover such topics.” In response to public criticism, he sent out a letter to parents to clarify the “misinformation circulating about the teaching of religion in our middle school social studies classrooms.” In the letter he states,
Islam, like all of the other major world religions, is studied in relation to the specific culture, time period, or historical events that students are focusing on in a social studies or history class. I want to be very clear that no religion is taught with the purpose of converting students to that religion, insulting their own religious beliefs, or promoting the beliefs of one religion as superior to the beliefs of another.
It is impossible to study history without studying religion.
A letter issued by various Revere community groups expressed support for the school district.
Clearly, there is a big difference of opinion about whether the Revere school curriculum has a “pro-Muslim” bias.
But supposing that it and other school systems in Massachusetts and the other states do have such a bias, what is the solution that conservatives would generally propose? Some would say that “the truth” about Islam needs to be presented; that is, Islam should be presented in a negative light. Others would say that “the truth” about Christianity should be presented; that is, Christianity should be presented in a positive light. Still others would take the middle ground and say that neutrality concerning anything to do with religion should be observed. Religious conservatives want the teaching of sex education and evolution in the classroom outlawed and prayer and Bible reading restored to schools. All conservatives believe that if they can just get more conservatives elected to state legislatures and local school boards, then they can “fix” or “restore” or “reform” the public education system. And most conservatives believe that if a public school system is “failing,” then the government should provide vouchers to parents so they can send their children to the school of their “choice,” including a private school. Even some libertarians support that idea.
In a free society, there would be no controversies concerning the teaching (or lack of teaching) of religion in public schools. That is because there would be no public schools, which, after all, are nothing but government schools.
In a free society, not only would the government not operate schools, it would have nothing to do with education. No student grants or loans, no school lunch or breakfast programs, no special education or bilingual education mandates, no math and science initiatives, no Elementary and Secondary Education Act, no Common Core, and certainly no Department of Education.
In a free society, parents would be responsible for the education of their children. That includes their children’s religious education.
In a free society, all educational vouchers for “school choice” would be privately funded.
In a free society, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, nonprofit companies, for-profit companies, religious organizations, secular organizations, and even atheist organizations would be perfectly free to operate their own schools and teach whatever they wanted to about the merits of a particular religion and the demerits of any other religion.
In a free society, nontraditional education adapted to the specific needs, interests, and religion of each individual child would flourish.
In a free society, home-schooling would be free from the meddling of government education bureaucrats. Parents would be free to provide however much or however little religious instruction they chose.
In a free society, there would not only be schools that catered to particular religions, but also schools that catered to specific political views, ethnic groups, nationalities, and socio-economic statuses.
The solution to the problem of religion and public education is the same as the solution to every other problem with public education: abolish public education.