Clint Bolick, President of the Alliance for School Choice, and Laura Underkuffler, Professor at Duke Law School, debated school vouchers earlier this month for Legal Affairs.

On Tuesday, June 14th, Bolick wrote,

At the post-secondary level, students are free to use their aid at public, private, or religious schools. Your school, Duke University, probably couldn't survive if students could not use Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other public funds to attend. I'll bet if we looked over Duke's course catalogs over the years, we'd find some courses that would not win any societal popularity contests. That's fine: the point is that it's the students who choose where to spend the aid. Society has decreed in enacting such aid programs that any education is better than no education, and that individual autonomy over where to spend the money is better than government compulsion.

Underkuffler did not address this point.

On Wednesday, June 15th, Bolick wrote,

Likewise, you fail to address the much larger choice system in higher education. Students may use Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other forms of college aid at virtually any school. Overtly racist schools like Bob Jones University are excluded. But every other type of religious school is included, even if they teach things that offend some people, whether it is the sins of capitalism or the sins of homosexuality. Amazingly, still no rioting in the streets. That is because America is a pluralistic society that values the rich diversity of religious beliefs (or lack thereof). And a key feature of that pluralism and tolerance is individual choice: government is not subsidizing religious institutions; rather, it is placing resources at the disposal of individuals who may direct them as they see fit. Because everyone has that right, few object to how others exercise that freedom.

Underkuffler did not address this point.

On Thursday, June 16th, Bolick wrote,

I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record, but you have refused to engage my point that the millions of dollars in K-12 school choice funds pale in comparison to the billions of dollars in post-secondary school choice funds. Most private and religious universities like Duke would have to close their doors if they were excluded from Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other voucher-style funds. Is your salary as a Duke law professor the result of money laundering? Lest you experience on onrush of guilt, I assure you I don't see it that way. Because, once again, the use of such public funds at Duke University, or at Brigham Young University, or at Bruce Guadaloupe School in Milwaukee, is the result of private, genuinely independent choices. Food stamps, Medicare, charitable tax deductions, subsidized mortgages—it's all the same type of neutral aid, and in our free society we let individuals choose where to use it, even in religious institutions. Everywhere, that is, except in K-12 education.

Underkuffler did not address this point. On Friday, June 16th, Bolick wrote,

I await your final submission with baited breath to see if you can go an entire week without responding to my repeated challenge about how we can have a postsecondary education system characterized by transportable student aid and a flourishing private and public sector, while the same system in K-12 education would result in religious jihads and the demise of public schools.

In her final submission, Underkuffler did not address this point.

Since Underkuffler's entire argument centered around her belief that public funding of private educational organizations would lead to mass social conflict over religious and ethnic disputes, and since Bolick's counterexample -- to which Underkuffler repeatedly failed to respond -- disproves Underkuffler's claim, I think it is pretty clear who won the debate.

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Why is that those against

Why is that those against school choice are usually involved in the education industry themselves, and have no problem voicing an elitist disdain for the parents' abilities to make decisions?

I love this quote from the exchange:

"Underkuffler: 6/14/05, 05:29 PM
The heart of your remarks is the idea that we should just forget about all of the "hypothetical" dangers and divisiveness that public funding of private (particularly private religious) schools creates and simply put our faith in parental choice."

Oh horror of horrors. Put faith in parental choice!

And again with the elitist disdain for the individual decision making of regular old parents:

" The public should [not] simply abdicate responsibility on the question of funding religious schools, or values, or what-have-you, and leave decisions about the kinds of schools funded and the values taught in those schools to parental choice. "

God forbid (no pun intended) that we leave decisions in the hands of parents. This is the core of her opposition, that parents cannot be trusted with teaching children "values" and the state should enforce the decisions for them. Her arguments do not in any way address the quality of schools, nor the goal of actually teaching children skills and learning. It centers entirely around indoctrinating the nation's children with her own values.

She comes out even more explicitly in favor of central indoctrination in her final comments:

"I believe that our efforts to create universal public education, which includes inculcation of our nation's values, have done more to create the unity and strength of our nation today than any other single factor. "

Never mind that her central argument is that some parents my choose to inculcate values she doesn't like, but it's ok for her to support inculcating *her* values over the wishes of these parents.

She even resorts to attacking the imagined motives of voucher proponents rather than teh proposals themselves:

"Most often, this is not—in any event—what voucher proponents have in mind. Although they spend a lot of time talking about low-income students, their proposals are almost always rooted in visions that are far broader and deeper than this. Low-income children in failing public schools are, for them, just the first step in a larger program. In the end, their visions mandate the complete dismantling of the idea of public education, to be replaced by a market in vouchers. "

Yes, voucher proponents have evil designs to eliminate public schools (although maintain funding via vouchers). Ah no we must have public-run schools. because... because.....

But Bolicks' response to that nonsense is blistering and irrefutable:

"Schools are a means to the end, not an end in themselves. The focus of public education should be the children, not the "system." ... The goals of public education are met if a child learns to read and write, even if the educational setting happens to be a private school, a religious school, or a home school. They are not met if a child is unsafe or illiterate, even if the setting happens to be a public school."

Exactly what Underkuffler fails to understand.

Excellent link, thanks for the great read. My impression is that Bolick took her to the woodshed on this one. She comes out looking like a prattling idiot.


Heh. "The public should

Heh. "The public should [not] simply abdicate responsibility" by leaving important decisions to be made by members of the public!