Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thoughts before the voucher vote

Soon the issue of taxpayer funded vouchers for private schools will be decided by Utah voters. Most of us would say "not soon enough" after having been bombarded by radio and TV commercials, and having hauled pounds of mail out of our mailboxes, and seen the newspaper ads, etc. etc. etc.

After having written about the media observations of vouchers, and various other aspects of this campaign for several weeks, tonight I am making a few observations without links to this or that.

First is that this whole voucher campaign was not a Utah-driven effort. It was thrust upon Utahns by out of state groups that continue to seek out "small states" that they can "use" to experiment with this Libertarian driven concept. (See accountabilityfirst for details.)

My second observation is that a lot of really good Uthans - teachers, parents, business people, civil rights leaders - recognized that this out of state voucher effort was not in keeping with the values of Utah. So they organized a huge effort to ensure that voters would have a say - yes or no - on the issue.

From that, a host of people and organizations weighed in and the whole issue became one of intense interest and emotion.

Now, my position from the start has been clear. You can tell from the title of my blog.

What has had me riled through this whole debate is that the pro voucher advocates have used "dirty tricks" and intimidation and obfuscation to keep the underlying issue at bay. They've tried to put up the teachers association as some bad entity when all the association really is is - duh - an association of teachers. They even went so low as to steal yard signs and send spam e-mail. Good grief.

The pro voucher campaign was single-handedly funded by Patrick Byrne, a childless bachelor, CEO of a struggling (to say the least) company, and paranoid who thinks the "Sith Lord" is out to get him. What was his stake in this effort? It certainly hasn't been the interest of children.

No, the whole underlying effort is truly about dissolving public education and public schools. It is a philosophical tug of war about how our children should be educated. It's a difference of opinion about the public good and the "free market."

Should we be a state, a nation, a democracy where children gain their opportunities through education? Should we fulfill the vision of Thomas Jefferson, who fought for a public school system open to all that would help teach generations about the values of freedom and democracy so that they could intelligently participate in that democracy and stand up to defend freedom? Should we continue and value our public schools and our teachers in their quest to, despite all bureaucratic obstacles, ensure that every child has a chance?

OR, as the pro voucher folks believe, but won't say, should education - the ability to think critically - be reserved for a few? Should the education of our children be open to the "free market" where those perceived to offer a better product be subsidized by state taxpayers? Should a "free market" compete to teach our children? Teach our children what? We know, and we influence, what our public schools teach. There is no influence like that in a "free market."

Utah voters will answer those questions for themselves on Tuesday.

So, however you chose to vote, please do vote. It is a lesson important to our children.

No comments: