School Vouchers Will Indoctrinate a Generation in Alternative Truths

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My middle school students are good at telling the difference between facts and opinions.

Facts, they’ll tell you, are things that can be proven.

They don’t even have to be true. They just have to be provable – one way or the other.

For instance: “I’m six feet tall.” It’s not true, but you could conceivably measure me and determine my height.

Opinions, on the other hand, are statements that have no way of being proven. They are value judgements: That is good. This is bad. Mr. Singer is short. Mr. Singer is tall.

It doesn’t make them less important – in fact, their relative importance to facts is, itself, an opinion.

But today the very ability to prove facts has been called into question.

Our government has put forward statements that are demonstrably false: The Bowling Green Massacre. Undocumented immigrants commit massive amounts of crime. Donald Trump had the largest electoral college victory of modern times.

All of these should objectively be viewed as facts. They’re false, but they are provable. Yet when we resort to the kinds of things that should count as proof, we refuse to agree, we come to a clash of epistemologies.

Today, your truth depends more on your political affiliation than your commitment to objective reality.

There was no Bowling Green Massacre. No one was killed in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Certainly there was no large scale mass death perpetrated by terrorists. There were two Iraqi nationals arrested who had been planning an attack outside of the U.S. They had been buying guns and materials here because they were easier to get.

However, many conservatives refuse to accept this. They believe there was a Bowling Green Massacre. And they believe that it justifies Trump’s immigration ban.

The same goes for undocumented immigrants committing crime. They do NOT actually commit more crime than U.S. citizens. In fact, they commit less. They don’t want to attract unnecessary attention and risk deportation.

But once again many conservatives refuse to believe it. With no hard evidence, maybe some anecdotal evidence blown way out of proportion, they simply accept what they’re told by their government and their chosen media.

And Trump’s electoral college victory? He won 306 of 538 electoral votes and lost the popular vote. Forty-five Presidents won by a greater margin. And only two Presidents had a lower popular vote tally.

These are just numbers. I don’t know how they’re controversial or how anyone can disagree, but many conservatives do.

Don’t get me wrong. Liberals do it, too, though to a lesser degree. Ask most liberals about President Barack Obama’s education policy and you’ll get a gooey story about support and progressivism. It isn’t true.

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One popular meme shows Obama lecturing a tiny Trump about how he should invest in education and respect parents and teachers. Yet Obama never really did those things, himself. He held federal education funding hostage unless districts increased standardized testing, Common Core and charter schools. THAT’S not what parents and teachers wanted! It’s what huge corporations wanted so they could profit off our public schools!

But to many liberals Obama is some kind of saint, and any evidence to the contrary will be accepted only with great reluctance.

THIS is our modern world. A world of alternative facts and competing narratives.
Part of it is due to the Internet and the way knowledge has been democratized. Part of it is due to the media conglomerates where almost all traditional news is disseminated by a handful of biased corporations that slant the story to maximize their profits.

People end up picking the sources of information they think are trustworthy and shutting themselves off to other viewpoints. There is no more news. There is conservative news and liberal news. And the one you consume determines what you’ll accept as a fact.

As bad as that is, Trump’s education policy is poised to make it much worse.

He wants to radically increase the amount of school vouchers given to students. These allow federal dollars to be used to send children to private and parochial schools. As if the fly-by-night charter schools weren’t enough.

It’s a scam. A get rich quick scheme for corporations at the expense of students. But perhaps the worst part is how it exacerbates our world of alternative facts.

Students at private and parochial schools don’t learn the same things as public school students. At many religious schools they are indoctrinated in conservative market theory and a Biblical view of history and science.

You think we can’t agree on the truth or falsity of facts now? Just wait! What counts as a source will be radically different for the first generation of kids sent to such disparate schools.

This isn’t just about cashing in on education dollars today. It’s about creating a generation of adults educated with school vouchers who accept far right ideas about the world as bedrock truths. Climate change and evolution are hoaxes. Trickle down economics works. Slavery benefited slave and master alike.

These are the false truths the Trump administration hopes to seed into a larger portion of the next generation. And when you indoctrinate children so young, there is little hope they’ll ever be able to see beyond what they’ve been taught.

Conservatives counter that liberals are doing the same thing today in our public schools. That’s why they want to send their children to the private and parochial schools. They don’t want their kids taught about modern science without reference to God. They don’t want them to learn history that puts socialistic policies in a positive light. They don’t want them to learn that white people were ever inhuman to people of color.

And how do you argue with them? How do you have a productive conversation when you can’t agree on what proves a fact true or false?

This is the challenge of our generation.

I don’t know how to solve it, but I know that school vouchers will make it exponentially worse.

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31 thoughts on “School Vouchers Will Indoctrinate a Generation in Alternative Truths

  1. Excellent work as always Mr. Singer. Here a quote from a piece I wrote a few years back:

    “Our rulers don’t just want exclusive control over the governance and finances of our schools, they want to control both what is taught and by whom.” ( http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31748-the-non-profit-industrial-complex-s-role-in-imposing-neoliberalism-on-public-education )

    That’s true regardless of which bourgeois party is in control (cf CCSS), but this horrible Trump era has made this more clear.

    Like

    • Robert,

      It seems to me that not wanting “our rulers” to have exclusive control over the governance, finances, content, and teacher qualifications is an argument in favor of vouchers. Vouchers take those decisions out of the hands of the school board and put them largely in the hands of parents. Of course, from a students perspective, that may still mean that “our rulers” are making those choices, but that is about as decentralized a way to make those decisions as possible.

      Did you mean this comment to support vouchers?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Teachingeconomist, you assume “our rulers” are somehow our elected representatives. That’s inconsistent. Our rulers are the plutocrats who have bought too many of our elected representatives so they’ll enact vouchers. It’s a privatization scheme and our corporate masters are behind it. Wake up, my good man!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think I am confused. If, as you say, our rulers are the plutocrats who have bought too many of our elective representatives, surely they have bought too many of our elected school board members along with the rest.

        Why on earth would you think those elections would be any different from other elections?

        Like

      • There are many more school boards than federal or state legislatures. Many school boards are too small to be bothered with. We have more than 500 districts in Pennsylvania, alone. But even if I’m wrong, the problem wouldn’t be our elected representatives. It would be the plutocracy. It would be how our government has been co-opted by corporations and billionaires. It would be allowing money to function as speech.

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      • But Plutocrats to not come fully formed from Zeus’ head, they start out as Mr. Potter in Bedford Falls or Mr. Burns in Springfield. They practice by dominating local school board elections where turnout is extremely low. How much easier is it to dominate the Albuquerque Public School election when turnout is .03% of eligible voters than to dominate state or national elections.

        If plutocrats have bought too many of our elected officials, there is absolutely no reason to believe that publicly elected school board members are not among those many who are purchased. Yours is an argument to take these choices out of the hands of politicians at every level, including the locally elected school board.

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  2. I appreciate your insight about schools with different views. This is of course already happening everywhere, even in the current public school system. Also at the family level. I agree with you that it will just get worse in a school choice system.

    This discussion, and your thoughts, are closely tied to a conversation happening in Education Week:

    Stanford History Education Group Study: “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth” in Ed Week: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/11/02/why-students-cant-google-their-way-to.html?r=279816670

    My Letter to the Editor in response: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/02/08/subjective-motivations-affect-critical-reading-techniques.html

    Like

  3. “Students at private and parochial schools don’t learn the same things as public school students. At many religious schools they are indoctrinated in conservative market theory and a Biblical view of history and science.”

    Private schools are not the same thing as parochial schools. Many give an education that is far superior to the education in many public schools. They are expensive. I agree, public vouchers SHOULD NOT BE USED to send children to private school–but your conflating two different things does not help the argument.

    Like

    • Judith, I don’t think this is conflation. These are separate school systems. We’ve seen that “separate but equal” does not exist. It causes a multitude of problems. Some private schools are great. Some parochial schools are great. But teaching more kids an epistemology that is out of the mainstream is not conducive to argumentation or finding consensus.

      Like

      • I don’t understand why you assume that private schools–not parochial but private–teach “kids an epistemology that is out of the mainstream.” That’s what I am objecting to. That’s why I say that private schools are being conflated with parochial schools. Yes, they are separate school systems. Yes, separate but equal does not work–in fact, many private schools (not parochial, separate issue) are superior to many public schools. And public money SHOULD NOT BE USED to send children to non-public schools.

        Many private schools are better because the people sending their kids there have money to donate to the schools, their kids almost automatically go to the kind of colleges where they meet other well-educated and wealthy people, and they go on donating to the schools, which consequently have better facilities. They also aren’t subject to a lot of federal laws, which may mean that their teachers aren’t strangled by a bureaucracy run by people who don’t teach. They have the flexibility to offer courses that aren’t streamlined to an exit test. That should be a model for our public schools.

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  4. If private schools are so terrible, then why do public school teachers send their kids to non-public schools, at a rate higher than the general population? A researcher at Harvard confirmed this. see

    educationnext.org/teachers-more-likely-to-use-private-schools-for-their-own-kids/

    If school vouchers are so bad for minorities, then why do so many minority parents (in California) want to have school choice. Here is a recent poll by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute for California.

    From their article:

    One measure of this is a recent survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, which found 60 percent of adults and 66 percent of public school parents across the state expressing support for providing parents tax-funded vouchers for use at the public, private or parochial school of a parent’s choice. Support for vouchers was especially pronounced among African Americans (73 percent) and Latinos (69 percent). Respondents with a household income of less than $40,000 were also more likely to support (68 percent) vouchers than those with higher incomes.

    see

    http://www.ocregister.com/2017/05/07/despite-public-support-little-chance-of-school-vouchers-in-california/

    Like

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