American Jewish Committee Endorses Abolishing Public Schools?

 

shutterstock_345233993In response to calls at the Republican National Convention for more school choice, the American Jewish Committee’s spokesperson announced that not only do they oppose the taxpayer subsidy of private schools, but they even oppose public schools. See for yourself:

For more than 50 years, school choice has been a contentious issue for American Jews. Decades ago, mainstream Jewish organizations were vociferous in defending the separation of church-and-state, worried that if the government got involved in funding religious schools in any way, it could lead to infringement on Jewish religious freedom. Those fears, according to American Jewish Committee associate general counsel Marc Stern, remain today.

“The Jewish community has long been concerned that government not be in the business of supporting private education,” Stern said. “Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own without government support. People shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with.”

Okay, so he didn’t say it explicitly, but Stern is intelligent and knowledgeable enough to know that lots of Americans object to what is taught in public schools, so this was a clear endorsement by the AJC for the complete abolition of public schooling.

Heck, this “people shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with” principle is something that my colleagues at the Cato Institute could really get behind. I’m sure that by the time the sun sets today, we could assemble a very long list of government programs to which many Americans object and we welcome the AJC’s support in abolishing them as well.

Then again, it’s always possible that the AJC’s attorney misspoke. Perhaps they’re not really in favor of abolishing the public school system and hundreds of other government programs, and the attorney just didn’t think through the logic of what he was saying. But if the AJC isn’t embracing anarcho-capitalism, then their “people shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with” objection has no force or consistency. What they really mean is “we don’t think people should be taxed to pay for things we don’t like, but they should be taxed to pay for things that we do like,” which is not really a principle so much as an expression of political will, a political will that is fundamentally anti-pluralist, as I’ve explained previously:

Let’s consider an imaginary “public” school district where there are three groups of people: Hobbits, Ewoks, and Terrans. Each groups has very different and passionately held views about what should be taught in school and how it should be taught. All three groups are required to pay taxes to support the district school, which is ostensibly nonpartisan, nondenominational, and open to all. However, the majority of the district is Terran so the school reflects the Terran preferences. When the Hobbits and Ewoks open their own schools and seek equal per-pupil support from the local government, the indignant Terrans respond that the district school is meant for everyone. “It’s your right to open your own schools,” explain the Terrans, “but it’s your responsibility to pay for them.” Thus the majority brazenly forces minority groups either to abandon their values or to pay for two school systems. And lower-income minorities may have no choice at all.

Fortunately, other Jewish groups understand this and are willing to advocate for the greater freedom and pluralism that school choice programs deliver:

The Orthodox Union and the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America have both successfully lobbied for New York City and New York State to fund programs like security and special education for private schools. According to Maury Litwack, the OU Advocacy Center’s director of state political affairs, more than 100,000 students attend Jewish day school in New York City.

“For parents who send their kids to Jewish day school, tuition is prohibitively high,” Litwack said. “They pay property taxes and a variety of other taxes. In American education there’s too often a one-size-fits-all approach to education. There should be more options.”

Republicans agree. A section of the party’s 2015 platform, titled “Choice in Education,” says, “Empowering families to access the learning environments that will best help their children to realize their full potential is one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our time. A young person’s ability to succeed in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, ZIP code, or economic status.”

The AJC is an organization that claims to be committed to the principle of pluralism. I look forward to a day when they fully embrace the ideal of pluralism in education.

There are 14 comments.

  1. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Jason Bedrick:

    “The Jewish community has long been concerned that government not be in the business of supporting private education,” Stern said. “Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own without government support. People shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with.”

    I assume this is why Brandeis University accepts no public funding, right? Oh, wait

    • #1
    • July 21, 2016, at 7:10 AM PDT
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  2. David Carroll Thatcher

    Words mean something, In fact, what we have are government schools. Thusly understood, a call to abolish them makes more sense.

    • #2
    • July 21, 2016, at 7:24 AM PDT
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  3. Owen Findy Member

    Then again, it’s always possible that the AJC’s attorney misspoke. Perhaps they’re not really in favor of abolishing the public school system and hundreds of other government programs, and the attorney just didn’t think through the logic of what he was saying. But if the AJC isn’t embracing anarcho-capitalism, then their “people shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with” objection has no force or consistency.

    I have found this to be ubiquitous. I’ve come to believe that 99% of the human race does this and thinks nothing of it. It’s very tiresome and very frustrating.

    • #3
    • July 21, 2016, at 7:34 AM PDT
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  4. Jason Bedrick Member
    Jason Bedrick Post author

    David Carroll:Words mean something, In fact, what we have are government schools. Thusly understood, a call to abolish them makes more sense.

    Indeed. I occasionally still use the term “public school” because that is still the common parlance, but as I have argued previously, there really is no such thing as a “public” school:

    http://www.cato.org/blog/theres-no-such-thing-public-school

    • #4
    • July 21, 2016, at 7:39 AM PDT
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  5. Richard Fulmer Member

    Ending government schools would both improve education and remove the source of a lot of conflict in the nation.

    • #5
    • July 21, 2016, at 8:01 AM PDT
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  6. Mate De Inactive

    I can dig it

    • #6
    • July 21, 2016, at 8:05 AM PDT
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  7. I Walton Member

    They are probably right. We know freedom and markets work. Public schools worked for a while, but all things government eventually rot. We need workers who know how to work and how to learn on the job. Do away with public schools, minimum wages, the payroll tax and business will train our work force beyond basic math and literacy skills which are easy and cheap. Those who want more education will get it. Some won’t that’s how markets and human culture works, but the government eventually always fails for most and works only for those who can capture it. First step? get the Feds out of education entirely. Then the states can experiment, then get the States out as well. With time some states and communities will get it right and, because of the nature of a modern economy and markets, others will follow and make improvements. Freedom and human evolution is an iterative process. Top down is how civilizations end. Public education was a good idea and it was run by teachers and parents and paid for by the same peers. That ended long ago. It’s easier and less painful to just kill the beast and start from scratch, in thousands of different places and with thousands of different approaches. Vouchers(absolutely not Federal vouchers) may be the way to get there. But ultimately we want the government out.

    • #7
    • July 21, 2016, at 8:50 AM PDT
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  8. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    One can dream.

    • #8
    • July 21, 2016, at 9:06 AM PDT
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  9. Nick Stuart Inactive

    The problem with government schools today is that while they ostensibly serve Terrans, Ewoks and Hobbits, they’re run for the benefit of Orcs and Nazgul organized into the Mordor Education Association and Gollum Employees International.

    Any parent who is at all concerned about the education and safety of their children need to get them out of the government schools. Any parent whether straight or gay; black, white, brown, red, yellow, pink, or purple; religious or irreligious; poor or middle-class (the rich have already opted out); etc.

    Even if the local government school does a reasonably proficient job of graduating students who can read their own diplomas and perform basic addition and subtraction (which many do not) do you want your daughter sharing a locker room and competing in sports with biologically intact males? Do you want your first grader at risk of being branded a sex offender for patting a classmate bottom? Do you want your child suspended for munching a pop-tart into the shape of a gun? If not you need to get your child out.

    How it would be funded I don’t know. With government money comes government control. Private and home school families are better off without it (don’t covet the leeks and onions of Egypt, don’t take a longing look back at Sodom, even if you’re not religious you hopefully can appreciate the metaphor). Giving families a refund of the portion of their taxes they pay that go to schools may be a way. Refusing to raise school taxes for any reason whatsoever is certainly a way to at least begin to starve the beast.

    • #9
    • July 21, 2016, at 10:01 AM PDT
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  10. Wiley Inactive

    The pro-public school argument is based on the faulty premise that knowledge can be delivered “value-free.” It can not. Since the nation no longer has a shared value system, then a shared education system no longer works.

    • #10
    • July 21, 2016, at 10:34 AM PDT
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  11. John Seymour Inactive

    Richard Fulmer:Ending government schools would both improve education and remove the source of a lot of conflict in the nation.

    Amen. . . . sorry, am I allowed to say that?

    • #11
    • July 21, 2016, at 1:04 PM PDT
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  12. John Seymour Inactive

    Nick Stuart: The problem with government schools today is that while they ostensibly serve Terrans, Ewoks and Hobbits, they’re run for the benefit of Orcs and Nazgul organized into the Mordor Education Association and Gollum Employees International.

    Brilliant.

    • #12
    • July 21, 2016, at 1:05 PM PDT
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  13. Ontheleftcoast Inactive

    Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own without government support. People shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with.

    I believe Mr. Stern’s remarks should be construed:

    “Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own”– they should pay the taxes which support public schools, and they need to pay for the religious schools they want out of their own pockets “without government support.”

    This is consistent with his record. Mr. Stern and the AJC fought against education vouchers, on the grounds that they tax people to support things they don’t agree with and by mixing church and state, sully religion.

    He received the First Freedom award; other honorees include:

    • #13
    • July 21, 2016, at 1:16 PM PDT
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  14. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Ontheleftcoast:

    Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own without government support. People shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with.

    I believe Mr. Stern’s remarks should be construed:

    “Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own”– they should pay the taxes which support public schools, and they need to pay for the religious schools they want out of their own pockets “without government support.”

    This is consistent with his record. Mr. Stern and the AJC fought against education vouchers, on the grounds that they tax people to support things they don’t agree with and by mixing church and state, sully religion.

    He received the First Freedom award; other honorees include:

    Not exactly a stirring encomium for Mr. Stern although I may be reading it wrong (and no doubt some folks would think it is).

    • #14
    • July 21, 2016, at 3:05 PM PDT
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