Story Stream
recent articles

Big news from the United States Supreme Court this week.

No, not that news. Rather, the decision in Carson v. Makin that struck down Blaine Amendments and their progeny as violations of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Though the three leftist judges dissented, this decision, which will enhance school-choice opportunities, is great news for anyone who genuinely seeks increased workplace diversity by legal and nondiscriminatory means.

The Carson case came condignly out of Maine, whence too sprang James G. Blaine, author of the failed federal Blaine Amendment and the spiritual father of state constitutional amendments and legislation of the same ilk. Deprecating the flood of Catholics into the country – and especially the northeast – in the 19th century, Blaine introduced while Speaker of the U.S. House statutory language declaring that “no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.”

The legislation passed in the House, but died in the Senate. Many states, though, including Maine, carried the idea forward, so that even until Tuesday Maine restricted any school-choice funding from being spent on schools sponsored by religious establishments.

The original purpose of these amendments was patently bigoted. Most Catholic immigrants were poor, and were taxed like the rest of the public for sectarian public schools. By denying any public funds to religiously guided schools, Blaine Amendments restricted parents’ ability to educate their children as they wished, instead pushing them into government-approved schools teaching government-approved curricula. Where Blaine Amendments passed, fired by antipapist prejudice, those approved curricula were hardly likely to show much respect for the parents’ preferences or for the families’ culture and traditions.

The retention of Blaine Amendments has not been motivated primarily by lingering anti-Catholic animus, except insofar as it is subsumed in a thoroughgoing bigotry against all traditional Western religions. (Those, after all, get in the way of full adherence to the modern religions of Gaia worship and the Church for the Suppression of the White Devil.) Primarily it has been the tool of left-wing politicians and the government teachers’ unions (but to a significant extent I repeat myself) to keep as much money as possible in the public schools and away from parents.

This is because in many, many smaller towns the only private alternative to public schooling has been religious schools – and in particular, in most parts of the country, the local Catholic school. And even in bigger cities the religious schools are often the most prevalent – and accessible – private-school alternative. Government-school officials and teachers know that if there were real competition in the K-12 education market, with education money following the child rather than flowing to monopoly schools, the government schools would shrink radically. (And then so would the government-teachers’ unions, and then so would the donations to lefty politicians.)

The reasons for this dynamic are clear. Government is virtually never an efficient supplier of anything. Layers of pointless and counterproductive bureaucracy cost a lot of money.

Government monopolies are particularly prone to inefficiency because competition drives down costs. And government education monopolies are perhaps more prone to inefficiency than anything in the modern era for two reasons.  

First, teachers’ unions are immensely powerful, and in many states have in recent decades gained massive concessions in pay, pensions and other benefits from pliable governments whose campaigns they largely fund.

Second, those teachers’ unions are controlled by, and their ranks filled with, people who have gone through the process of left-wing indoctrination that is study for a B.A. in education, with the result that when they are teaching children live in the classroom (a rarity over the past few years that has caused untold damage to this generation of students), what they’re teaching them is not the three Rs, as the old saw went, or any sensible, neutral, success-oriented curriculum.

Rather, they are embedding “equity” into every lesson and every policy. Yes, that same racist-socialism equity that calls for illegal discrimination now to make up for other discrimination by other people against other people in the past, until race- and sex-based “equality of outcome” is achieved. This means turning every subject-matter lesson into an indoctrination session, thereby at very least diluting the core (subject-matter) learning objective. It means reducing learning opportunities such as honors programs for the highest-achieving students if those highest-achieving students aren’t the same colors, in the same proportions, as the student body. It means reducing rigor in evaluation if rigor results in “inequitable” race and sex outcomes.

It also means “equality of outcome” in discipline, so that if some surface-characteristic categories of students misbehave at a greater rate than other surface-characteristic groups, the misbehaving group member must be punished less than a member of some other group doing the same thing, which of course incentivizes further misbehavior in the already over-misbehaving group, while fostering ever-growing resentment at the race-based unequal treatment (the school-kid version of inequality before the law, which used to be bad) in the already better-behaved group.

This, obviously, is no way to run a schoolhouse, or educate the children of the country, and everyone is noticing. Anyone not fully indoctrinated in the new left-wing religions has no problem understanding why, as even the Washington Post has been forced to admit, “homeschooling [has] exploded among Black, Asian and Latino students, [and] it wasn’t just the pandemic.” More recently it became clear that this trend holds even for the newest of immigrants.

Well of course they are noticing, and responding. Where government officials and teachers’ unions have combined to render in-school learning increasingly worthless, if not actively poisonous, and to forbid any other viable options, homeschooling has been the only way to provide children with rigorous educations not kneecapped by all of the pathologies of equity and woke.

This is why Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision is such a big deal. It will give a significant number of parents a new, competitive, non-government option: religious, and particularly Catholic, schools. In states that offer any kind of school choice, those schools will now be an option, and in many cases a handy and convenient one.

Many Hispanic immigrants are Catholics who will face no difficulty at all in pulling their kids out of Church of Woke schools to ship them to Church of, you, know, the Church ones.

For many other parents of other creeds in smaller or less affluent communities the decision will be: rigorous education in core subjects in classes with proper discipline and healthy atmospheres, plus a little catechism in the morning; or race-hate, sexism and maybe a little core-subject education along the way. That won’t be a difficult choice for many parents.

This is also why anyone who honestly seeks racial and ethnic diversity in business must not only cheer this decision but work tirelessly for complete money-follows-the-child school choice. As has been considered in these pages before, it is wildly illegal for companies to enforce any policies, especially employment policies, that discriminate on the basis of race, sex or orientation, whether that discrimination is wrapped up in the pablum of equity or not. Because workplace racism, sexism and orientation discrimination are illegal, large companies seeking to avoid discrimination lawsuits are left with hiring on merit (or by nepotism or secret handshake, of course, but merit’s the wise way to go).

If we want racially and ethnically diverse workplaces, we have to make sure that students of all races and ethnicities get all of the tools they need in school to compete at the highest levels. Public schools move constantly away from providing either high-level education or classrooms in which real learning of valid and relevant subjects is likely to thrive.

Parents already understand that, including parents of “diverse” students. What they need is a way to access proper, rigorous education for their children. That way is facilitated by an education system that gives parents money to spend on any schooling they wish, be it homeschooling or private schooling or – if they live in districts with unruined schools – government schooling.

Government schools are not designed to teach kids to succeed, not anymore. Getting children of all races, ethnicities, classes, backgrounds and talent levels out of those schools is the way for them – and for all of us – to succeed.

Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Director of its Free Enterprise Project.

Show comments Hide Comments