I was pleased to learn, from a recent discussion on the Intellect list, that there's somebody else in the US who is ambivalent about school vouchers; from what I read in the newspapers I had gotten the impression that I'm the only one who isn't hot on one side or the other.
I dislike vouchers on principle, because it seems to me that the public schools provide most of what little unity we have in this country; dismantle the public schools and we have nothing left in common but television. I also like the institution of the local school, where all the kids from the neighborhood can meet each other. I work 45 miles from my house, and the only way I have met people who live close to me is because they are the parents of my kids' friends. I also think the teachers' unions are right that a big explosion in cheap private schools would further undermine their earning power, and I think they are pretty badly paid as it is.
But if I were stuck in a neighborhood with terrible schools, I'm sure I would bitterly resent the politicians (like the Clintons) who say they are for public education while sending their kids to places like Sidwell Friends that cost $20,000 a year. And maybe national unity isn't a goal we should be forcing on people; in most ways I think that if people want to opt out of the mainstream they ought to be able to. Also, if I think about the problems of an aging city like Baltimore or Washington and ask myself, "what can they do to get middle-class families to move back?" about the only thing I can think of is to shift to a voucher system for their schools.
So I don't know.
January 15, 2001
"Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others."
--Ambrose Bierce, The