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Church and School: Why a Distinction Needs to be Made

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As a moderate Republican I hold myself personally responsible to look at issues from both sides before I come to a conclusion. I like logic. So, I asked myself: why do conservative thinkers support school vouchers? How have they tried to make the education system better? What is their motive?

It is easy to demonstrate the failures in our school system, as my colleague Kokayi Nosakhere has reported. We live in one of the greatest nations God has ever created and this is how we set up our children for the future? How will America continue to be a great force for good without supporting ingenuity in technology and science and teaching future business leaders to profit and create jobs in our capitalist system?

The Talking Points are so well used by the paid-for pundits that we can recite them by heart. This is how they sound:

  • Public schools will do better if they have “competition” from other alternatives, whether those alternatives be  religious, private, or home schools. (This has worked so well for prisons.)
  • “Big Government” is always to blame when things are not perfect. The private sector can do a much better job, if the government will fund it. (Again. our prison system.)
  • There are no issues with Government funding religious schools since there really is no such thing as a separation of church and state. That is completely a lie perpetuated by the liberal media and Thomas Jefferson.
  • It will be easier to make America a Christian nation if we can funnel money to our small church schools. We can influence our children much more. They won’t turn into progressives, homosexuals, Prius drivers or (God forbid) PETA members if we can teach them our own ways.
  • We won’t offer any solutions to improve the current system that we have. We will stifle any funding to schools and vote in ultra-conservatives into school boards to break down a system that was once great and efficient.
  • Students deserve to be taught Creationism in schools. We need to get Darwinism out of our schools. My pastor doesn’t support teaching his flock anything that might contradict what he says the Bible says.
  • Technology, science and jobs won’t matter because the true Lord and Savior, our Shepherd, Jesus Christ will return on May 19, 2015. (Some kooky old guy told me.)

Maybe the conversation should be less about vouchers – and methods of taking money out of public schooling – and more about how we need to invigorate the school system. Not necessarily with more money, but with smarter funding.

My fear with funding through a voucher system is that you are essentially subsidizing middle class (and higher) children to go to their school of choice, while low-income children still might struggle if forced to enter a private education system that caters to their more privileged counterparts.

For all of America’s children, the best option would be to create a public education system that is supportive of people from all economic classes. We should diversify the curriculum by strengthening courses in music, sports, science, advanced thinking, and myriad other life changing programs. Give them a good reason to go to school and make learning fun and exciting. In the era of “No Child Left Behind,” we sure seem to be doing just that.

In an ideal world, schools would nurture children’s intellect, develop them into driven young adults, and give them the proper social and life skills to succeed. Ideally, critical thinking skills would supercede the value of test scores.

We can do that by supporting more charter schools, hiring new teachers to reduce class sizes, offer the newest technology for teachers and students, alike.

Until recently, I had planned to return to college to finish my Bachelors degree in Business and then go for a Masters in Education. Unfortunately, it is not financially smart for me to do so. It is unfortunate that education, to me and many like me, has become a choice between an advanced degree and a mortgage payment.

I’ve managed restaurants without a college degree. As much as managing a restaurant is an important job, it is very sad that we do not pay the people, who have so much influence on our future, properly or competitively. And we have so many young people with degrees, and qualifications to be teachers, who cannot find a job in Anchorage. In the last two weeks I have meet at least four that fit this profile. This while we have class sizes of 30-plus.

There are people willing and ready to work to improve our education system and we aren’t allowing them to do so because of the fears of some conservatives. Notice I said some. One fear is that if we get into a voucher system the government will use it as a justification to tell religious schools what they must teach in order to get funding. As I understand it from a man named Thomas Jefferson there shall be a “wall of separation from church and state.”

Vouchers are not the solution to our problem. The problem is the way we are thinking about education. It isn’t all about test scores and text books. It should be about children’s lives and our future.

This great nation called the United States of America has all the resources necessary to fully fund a balanced educational system. Let’s gather the very best educators – and actually listen to them – give them the best facilities possible and task them to improve our students. This won’t be done by standardized testing.

If you look at our ranking in the world on education, it is clear that changes must be made. I believe we can improve our children’s ranking with some good old fashioned American ingenuity. It won’t be easy and the solution will not fit on a bumper sticker or even a politicians speech. It is going to take hard work and determination, and we need to start having the discussion – openly and honestly. I know we can do it and I will be a cheer leader and advocate for a GREAT education system.