Logo for Joe Sobran's newsletter: Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 The Trouble with Vouchers 

January 2, 2007 
[Originally published by the Universal Press Syndicate, September 11, 1997]
Vouchers“The main fact about education,” G.K. Chesterton observed, “is that there is no such thing.” He meant that we tend to speak of teaching Today's column is "The Trouble with 
Vouchers" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.in the abstract, without reference to what is actually being taught.

VouchersChesterton’s words are timely now, when so many people want to break up the government monopoly of education. Not only do many public schools fail on their own terms; even if they were successful, they are, in essence if not always in practice, totalitarian. They are based on the assumption that it’s the state’s business to decide what children should know.

VouchersOne popular — or seductive — current alternative to the public education monopoly is of course the voucher, a tax grant to parents that would be used for tuition at the schools of their choice. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver argues for this approach in the Wall Street Journal in the name of “diversity” and “choice.” And he argues that Catholic schools could achieve the goals of public schools, if only they were enabled by vouchers to do so. They have high minority enrollment and produce high achievers at comparatively low cost per student.

Vouchers“My point here is not that Catholic schools should replace government-run ones,” Archbishop Chaput writes. “They aren’t designed to.... However, Catholic schools already do an outstanding job of serving the poor and minorities, and they’re eager to do more.”

VouchersBut the primary purpose of Catholic schools is to teach Catholicism, isn’t it? And isn’t all the rest a byproduct? The idea behind Catholic education is that the Catholic faith is true and that it must be inculcated in children. Education is instrumental to salvation. This means that religion is the central subject, and other subjects, whatever their secular value, must be taught in the light of Catholic truth.

VouchersIn other words, the main criterion of a good Catholic school is not whether it does what the public schools do, only better; it’s whether it conduces to the salvation of children’s souls by teaching them such habits as adoring Christ, praying to the Virgin Mary, and obeying the Church.

[Breaker quote for The Trouble with Vouchers: Dispersing thought control]VouchersThis is a far cry from the secularist, divinity-free education whose success is measured in SAT scores. It’s hard to find a useful common denominator between two kinds of teaching whose purposes and contents are so radically different. Nothing in the concept of education can tell you which kind your child should receive.

VouchersWhat does the government think of all this? That shouldn’t even be an issue. The state has no authority in religion and should have none in education, which is inseparable from religion — not to mention the danger of having the state in the general business of thought control.

VouchersEducation, after all, is largely thought control. Unthinking people who merely repeat clichés will tell you they are all in favor of the one and absolutely opposed to the other. But it’s precisely because schools do control what children and adolescents think that the power of doing so, like most forms of power, should be dispersed in private hands rather than concentrated in the state.

VouchersThe trouble with a voucher plan is that it would leave the state in charge of all schools, which would need its approval in order to qualify for vouchers. The correct approach is to get government out of the education business altogether. Education isn’t free unless schools can define success on their own terms rather than the state’s.

VouchersThe virtue of truly Catholic schools, for instance, is not that they teach what state schools teach, only better, but that they teach what state schools — and other schools — don’t teach at all. Yet we see Archbishop Chaput edging away from this obvious fact. He wants to justify Catholic schools in secular terms, suggesting that they beneficially duplicate the efforts of the public schools.

VouchersIf Catholic educators really think that way, it’s likely that vouchers would subtly lead them to filter anything distinctively Catholic out of their schools — which already happens too often even without vouchers. The only sound approach is the total separation of school and state.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

small Griffin logo
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address:

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive
 WebLinks | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas
Back to the home page 


SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

Reprinted with permission
This page is copyright © 2007 by The Vere Company
and may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of The Vere Company.