Monday, May 16, 2016

In Defense Of Public School

It begins with the theoretical: knowledge is a common good, so the wide dissemination of that knowledge is in the purview of the civil authority. That purview or jurisdiction is by no means exclusive, or even primary, but it's real. Therefore, it is not an injustice per se to make the dissemination and acquisition of true knowledge a matter of public concern.

Of course, the problem increasingly is that the public schools are teaching a defective morality or anthropology to the students they serve. That is, from my perspective as a Catholic, the problem is ethical and moral, not ideological. Or, I might say, political, except where those areas by necessity intersect.

There are some people who argue that non-public school options are more successful or efficient, and it's at that point that we need a definition of terms, because "efficiency" (or success) can be understood in purely economic or technocratic terms. If so, that paradigm is as much contrary to Christian ethics as any counterfeit sexual ethics. In fact, more intelligent people than me have argued that the errors economic and sexual have the same source.

What is our ultimate end as human beings? The authority and legitimate jurisdiction of the government in this sphere of activity (however limited) depends on it acting in accordance with the moral law, which establishes that legitimate authority in the first place.

I do not accept the premise that democratic consensus alone establishes the justice of a law. We are infected with this insidious legal positivism at the present time. As long as we accept that premise, any advocacy for traditional morality, and the individual freedom to choose will be ineffective.


Mark Baker said...

Even ignoring morality and looking entirely at efficiency and level of success, it is immediately clear that public schools are less efficient than both fully private and charter schools. Though, I agree that public schools, as an idea, are a good.

Jason said...

I think we pretty much agree. I'm only intending to say that poverty should not be an insurmountable barrier to some baseline level of access to knowledge, on account of commoditizing every aspect of its delivery. Besides, I'm sure the law of diminishing returns has to kick in somewhere, even for those who want the best education money can buy.