Politics & Policy

Fixing American Education

Vaccines may be a way around the teachers’ unions.

School choice should be the country’s number-one civil-rights issue. Parents who can’t afford private education are frequently forced to send their kids to public schools so inept that remedial math and English classes are standard at American colleges. Not many impoverished kids are going to work their ways into the middle and upper classes if they can’t read, write, and do arithmetic. The only reason that parents are denied the right to send their kids to any school they choose, and pay for it with their share of education spending, is — as you all know — the clout of teachers’ unions. Teachers’ unions spent $30,103,884 on the 2014 midterms (including a staggering $211,000 on Republicans). So maybe parents should consider a non-legislative approach to education reform.

Parents’ not getting their kids vaccinated is about the most asinine thing any of us has ever heard. But maybe sane parents can get something out of it. A kid who is vaccinated has — according to the CDC — a chance of between 1 and 5 percent of not developing the intended immunity. So for every million kids who are vaccinated against, say, measles, as many as 50,000 will still be at risk of contracting the disease if exposed to it. Chances of exposure to measles are, obviously, much, much higher if a kid is around kids who aren’t vaccinated. And measles can be fatal.

Public schools probably don’t have the legal authority to refuse to enroll unvaccinated students. On the other hand, states probably don’t have the right to force parents to send their kids to schools where the kids’ chances of contracting a sometimes-fatal disease might jump from near zero to one in 20. Parents who are forced to send their kids to schools where the student body includes voluntarily non-vaccinated children probably have standing to sue for the right to school choice. And so long as no state makes it illegal for parents to choose not to vaccinate their children, non-vaccinated kids will be — or could be — covertly present in any school. So class action would include every vaccinating parent in the country.

A lawsuit along these lines could force states to set up voucher programs — even states run by the leftest of leftists. And that would mean an end to the cycle of teachers’ unions funding liberal lawmakers, who guarantee union monopolies in schools, wherein teachers inculcate students with leftism. Schools would actually have to teach kids the things their parents want them to learn. Like math and history and science and grammar, rather than the current curricula of social inclusion, robber barons, and the evils of the Anglosphere. Parents could take their kids away from teachers who think the only thing that matters is trying, and put them in schools where they learn how to succeed. Impoverished parents could put their kids in private schools, paid for with their tax dollars. Public schools that wanted to stay open would be forced to raise their standard to private-school levels. Every school could replace the fake virtue of “lots of teachers, small class sizes,” with “every class taught by someone competent — damn the class sizes: We exist to teach kids, not employ teachers.”

Kids could graduate having read poetry other than A Midsummer Night’s Dream and great books other than The Great Gatsby. Are kids today too stupid to learn Greek and Latin and Hebrew? Too stupid to memorize Lincoln’s second inaugural address, and Mark Antony’s eulogy for Caesar? Maybe kids could go back to playing football at recess. Maybe even cops and robbers. Maybe we can return to a world where “Try your best” isn’t a euphemism for “Feel free to fail.” Maybe that’s too much to hope for.

Of course, this should be a major campaign issue for Republicans — the skittish Right should remember that the number-one issue for Hispanic voters is education, not immigration. And that education is number one for black voters too. But in the short term, a solution to this country’s ignorance problem might be owed to hippie imbeciles who don’t care if their kids get polio. By way of a class-action lawsuit. Parents: Organize for action.

Josh GelernterJosh Gelernter is a former columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.


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