Feds lead kids to Christian schools
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a very nice smile but “teeth of steel,” as Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko once characterized Mikhail Gorbachev.
The steel derives from DeVos’ unbendably conservative Christian faith. She grew up in a devout family, was educated exclusively in Christian schools and is today an elder in an evangelical church. None of this is problematic, except that she is using her influence as the nation’s education secretary to aggressively promote tax-supported vouchers for disadvantaged children, more than 95 percent of which are used to attend private, mainly religious, schools.
The problem is that this is being done stealthily under the disingenuous guise of providing better “educational choices” for poor, underprivileged kids. But, as everyone knows, kids don’t make educational choices; their parents do. Since virtually all these vouchers are being used in religious schools, the ostensible secular intent of the program becomes dubious. The U.S. Supreme Court, chronically trying to circle the square regarding freedom of religion—or from religion, as is the case here—has provided possibly unintended openings for widespread, and legal, Christian indoctrination of children.
Unfortunately, as these voucher schools (read: religious, mostly Christian) quietly proliferate, unseen damage is being done to America’s “liberal” education ethos, which in this sense means “broad,” not left-wing. Of note, Devos grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church, which originally held that education should be the sole purview of families. Religion, at least before college, should not have a place in such education except as an incidental part of human history but not a depository of empirical knowledge.
The voucher push is part of the shared conservative Christian and Republican desire to have more state and less federal influence and ultimately more faith content in the education of American children. Unfortunately, unfettered state influence over education has resulted in religious bigotry like being taught in schools, primarily in opposition to the reality of biological evolution (as opposed to divine creation). This impulse gave us the embarrassments of Tennessee’s Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 and Pennsylvania’s so-called Dover Panda Trial that ended in 2005, both about inserting biblical creationism in schools.
So, as our education secretary with the nice smile goes quietly about her work dismantling the Department of Education and scattering tax-paid school vouchers all about, be aware that an evidence-based liberal education is not what she’s trying to ensure for the nation’s children.