Battle Map!

Where have Americans fought over public schooling?

The libertarian Cato Institute has put together a clickable Battle Map to help readers locate educational controversies.  Readers can search by state, by year, or by the type of conflict.  The Cato folks broke down school battles into such categories as curriculum, freedom of expression, gender equity, human origins, moral values, racial/ethnic diversity, reading material, religion, and sexual diversity.

Of course, the folks at Cato aren’t just providing a nerdy public service for those of us interested in studying cultural controversies.  The point of this exercise, from Cato’s perspective, is to prove that public education “divides [people], forcing them into conflict over whose values and histories will be taught, and whose basic rights will be upheld . . . or trampled.”

To this outsider, Cato’s argument seems a little strained.  After all, just because many family dinners turn into shouting matches, does that prove that dinner is a bad thing?


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1 Comment

  1. Agellius

     /  November 21, 2013

    It seems to me that Cato’s point — actually I don’t know what its point is, but the way I make sense of the argument — is that granting that the government *should* provide education to all citizens, it can do so either by running its own school system, or by funding private schools (i.e. vouchers).

    Running its own system puts the government in the position of having to decide what the people need to know and what’s not important for them to know. But in a democracy, is it the government’s role to tell people what to think? Or to simply listen to what the people themselves think, as expressed in their votes? If it’s the former, then of course you will have people (on both sides) fighting desperately over what, exactly, the government should be mandating be taught (and not taught) to our children.

    By funding private schools instead of running its own system, the government would take itself out of the business of forming people’s minds, so to speak, and let the people “educate themselves”, i.e. in the way they think best. In other words, the people should be telling the government what to think and what to do, and not the other way around. And if everyone is allowed to do that, we can have a live-and-let-live policy towards people we disagree with, rather than having to fight with them over what’s right and wrong, essential and nonessential, etc., at least in the area of education.


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