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5 reasons why school choice is liberty

Conservative Review


The war on school choice is taking on an air of desperation, employing rhetorical tactics I never would have expected.

In the latest salvo, history professor Johann Neem, writing in the Washington Post, claims that we should reject school choice for the Founding Fathers’ sake. It’s a clever argument designed to appeal to conservatives, who largely hold great faith and reverence toward America’s founders. Nevertheless, here are five reasons why conservatives should remain unpersuaded and pro-school choice.

1. The appeal to authority fallacy

The founders were wise, but they were not infallible. As the Left is fond of reminding us, even great heroes like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington did things and held beliefs that we would consider questionable (if not deplorable) today.

Claiming that “the founders wanted such and such” doesn’t tell us anything. It merely demands blind allegiance to the opinions of dead men. While we would always do well to consider the founders’ reasons for their decisions — reasons which were, in most cases, very well thought through — the fact that they supported or opposed a particular policy is not in itself reason enough for us to do the same.

2. School choice does not preclude public schools

It seems to be a commonly held opinion that school choice and public schools are opposing forces in a zero-sum war — that if you allow parents to choose where their children are educated, public schools will cease to be. It’s a pretty poor defense of a policy to claim that it has to be mandatory because, otherwise, everyone will flee from it. But, in reality, this is not the case.

The point of school choice is to prevent children from getting trapped in bad public schools —schools where violence and drug use are rampant, for example — simply because of their zip code. Even with vouchers or charter schools, many parents still send their children to a public school (if not necessarily the one nearest their home).

In fact, rather than making them disappear, the competition resulting from school choice ought to make all public schools better.

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