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Hudson and Fournier: Catholic Countdown to Election 2012. True Educational Reform Passes Through School Choice
By Deal W Hudson and Keith A Fournier
October 31st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The current approach to education is failing miserably and our children are suffering. Statistics and experience confirm the obvious. It is time for a change and school choice is that change. It means affirming again, as a matter of public policy and legislation, that Parents are the ones who should be able to make the choice of how to best extend their own teaching mission outside of the home for their children.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic online) - We are five days away from what we claim is one of the most important Presidential elections in US History. We have tried to help fellow Catholic citizens understand their vital role in shaping the future of this Nation we love through exercising their faithful citizenship.
We have exposed the errant positions of some Catholics in public life and said, without hesitation, that one simply cannot be a faithful Catholic and hold what is euphemistically called a "pro-choice" position on abortion - or fail to defend true marriage and the family and society founded upon it.
We have discussed the difference between non-negotiable matters which concern intrinsic evils - and those areas which allow for the exercise of prudential jugment. Given their numbers, U.S. Catholics can determine the outcome of this election.
That requires us to act in a manner which is, to use words of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "morally coherent". That phrase was used in an instruction released in 2002 entitled a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life".
On this fifth day before the election we address another public policy position where the two candidates have profoundly divergent views - the path to educational reform. The current overly federalized approach to the provision of education in the United States is failing miserably and our children are suffering.
On May 23, 3012, Mitt Romney outlined his educational policy in a speech he gave in Washington, DC to the Latino Coalition. The speech was based upon a larger policy statement contained in a white paper which explains the reforms entitled "A Chance for Every Child" which can be read in its entirety here.
Romney told the leaders "I'll be blunt, I don't like the direction of American education and, as president, I will do everything in my power to get education on track for the kids in this great land." He said bluntly that many students in the United States receive a "third world education" and that "minority children suffer the most."
"For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted. And I will make that choice meaningful by ensuring there are sufficient options to exercise it."
President Obama has not endorsed school choice. Though he reversed his earlier position opposing the Opportunity Scholarship program in Washington, DC, he has proposed an increased role for the Federal government as the path to educational reform. We disagree.
Those who oppose school choice, such as the President and some leaders of the teachers union, call it an effort to "privatize" education. In fact, it is an effort to "Parentize" education. It affirms that that the family is the first school and first government. It insists that parents should make the choices concerning the education of their children outside of the first school of the home.
Those who support school choice call for enabling legislation which makes it possible for all parents, no matter what their socio-economic situation, to choose where to send their children to school. This choice would be available from among a full array of options including public, private, parochial, virtual, charter and home schools.
This can be accomplished in a constitutionally sound way by empowering parents to make this vital choice through properly drafted legislation, tax credits, or opportunity scholarships. Governor Romneys position on education follows the child and is made by the parents and not the Federal Government.
Those who oppose school choice, including President Obama, resort to scare tactics in their opposition. They argue that it will detrimentally affect the public school system and that supporters of school choice are against public schools. That are wrong on both claims.
They propose that the overly federalized bloated bureaucracy called the Public School system should continue down the path which has led to failure. They make it sound as though the current approach to public education has always existed in American history. In reality, nothing could be further from our true history.
Public schools were first local, community schools. School choice will return the leadership of our educational approach to parents and the local community, empowered and assisted by the Federal government. It would improve the public school system as well as ensure that parents can choose the schools they want for their children. Competition in the delivery of goods and services has amazing results.
School Choice is not a threat to the Federal Government. Rather, it recognizes that all government begins in the home and applies the social ordering principle of subsidiarity. The term is derived from the Latin word "subsidium" which means help or assistance.
Subsidiarity is a social ordering principle which says that governing should begin at the smallest level first. The first government is the family. All other government should provide assistance or help to that first government - and not usurp its primary role. It favors a bottom up approach to governing and affirms the family as the first government and first school.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the right of parents to choose a school for their children, "As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions."
The Federal Government should recognize that the family is the first government. All other government must first be at its service. In "The Role of the Christian family in the Modern World" Blessed John Paul II called for the development of a "family politics". School choice is an example of such a "family politics".
Support for school choice affirms the right of all parents to choose where their children go to school. That choice should include the full array of options, public, private, parochial, charter and home schools, no matter what the economic status of the family. It is better for the children, better for society and more economically efficient. It is also clearly embraced in catholic teaching.
In an Apostolic Exhortation on the "Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World "Blessed John Paul II wrote, "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others."
In his "Letter to Families", he wrote: "Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State."
"But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the Principle of Subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit."
"For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children; especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization."
School Choice is a matter of true social justice - not sometimes masquerades as social justice. The opposition by some in the leadership of the teachers unions shows how far some of these mediating associations have strayed from their proper social role. School choice is right for our children, right for our parents and right for our Nation.
Will school choice in the United States improve the current state of our Catholic School system in the United States? Yes, it will. It will open up our schools as one of the many options for parents to choose from for their own children. We should welcome that both as Catholics and as good citizens.
We are five days away from one of the most important Presidential elections in decades. It is time for a new politics, a family politics.True Educational Reform passes through School Choice.
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