Tuesday, February 7, 2017

School Choice and the Just Third Way


In the early 1960s, as a young government attorney fresh out of the University of Chicago Law School, Norman G. Kurland, now president of the interfaith think tank, the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) in Arlington, Virginia, was given the assignment to build the case supporting newly elected President John F. Kennedy’s election pledge that there would be no government aid to church schools.
Pope John Paul II and Dr. Norman G. Kurland
Although he agreed with Kennedy’s position, Kurland was a conscientious advocate, and a good advocate has to understand the opposing side if he or she wants to build a sound case.  After all, if you don’t know or understand what the opposition is saying, your case against them is necessarily going to be unfair.  It will be based on unproved assertion that — even if it ultimately turns out to be true — is opinion, not knowledge, and remains such until it is proved.
So Kurland investigated the other side’s case, reading The Catholic Lawyer and other materials presenting the arguments.  While not a Christian, Kurland found the arguments compelling, and reversed himself.
Parents do have the right to determine within broad limits how their children are educated, and the money collected by the State for education should ethically be spent as the parents decide.  Also, coming from the University of Chicago — home of the Chicago School of economics, Kurland knew that all monopolies are dangerous . . . and none more so than monopolies over money and education.
Kurland wrote his report accordingly, and submitted it.  It was filed, and (as far as can be determined) is in a crate in a government storage facility two stacks down from the Ark of the Covenant.
Fr. William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., CESJ co-founder
After his brief government career, Kurland became acquainted with the economic justice ideas of Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler, and the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI as analyzed by Father William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., who with Kurland and some others founded CESJ in 1984.
One of the fundamental principles of the Just Third Way is the sovereignty of the individual and the integrity of the family, the basic unit of society.  Without secure individual rights and solid families on which to secure social stability, the social order will eventually dissolve in chaos.
One of the most important roles filled by the family is the rearing and education of children.  As a discrete society of its own — “Domestic Society” — the family must be secure from unwarranted intrusion by the State.  As long as the rights of family members are not violated, the State has no business interfering in the raising of children or undermining the authority of parents.
Thus, children have the right to be educated, and parents have the duty to do so.  The State may set minimum standards for education, but has no further duty or right, unless by the common consent of the parents.  That is why, since most parents cannot afford the time or the money to educate their children themselves, they delegate that duty to the State for the sake of expedience.
This causes a problem.  State education tends to give the impression that education is a civil right, and thus legitimately under the full control of the State, and not a domestic right, and under the control of parents.  Inevitably it seems as if people come to believe that the State has the sole right to educate children, and determine how and what they are taught, instead of merely set minimum acceptable standards.
As parents lose economic power by not owning capital, they lose political power and, ultimately, their authority as parents.  Children become “mere creatures of the State.”
Hobson's Choice: Free to take it or take it.
The Just Third Way approach covering the education issue derives from its basic principle of individual sovereignty and domestic integrity, combined with its anti-monopoly orientation.  Parents have the natural right to educate their children as they see fit, and it should not be a monopolistic “Hobson’s Choice,” i.e., parents can select any school for their children they want, as long as it’s the one the government selects for them.
The problem then becomes how to pay for the parents’ preferences in education.  Freedom isn’t free, and sometimes carries a price tag in money as well as in lives and sacred honor.
That is why Capital Homesteading includes a drastic reform of the tax system — including the provisions supporting education.  Tax money collected for education should be given back to parents in the form of vouchers, which can be used at any qualified educational institution or system, public, private, or domestic (yes, home schooling should remain a viable option).  Any additional cost in excess of the voucher should be made up by the parents out of other resources.  Those whose income falls below a certain threshold can be given educational grants to make up the difference.
This, of course, is the barest outline, and will need to be fleshed out once the specific legislation for a Capital Homestead Act is drafted.  The main point we want to make is that the Just Third Way would provide for ways to meet the rising — and crippling — cost of education these days, but without adding injustice to the system.
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