An unorthodox way to lower class sizes

LOWERING CLASS SIZES….Syndicated conservative columnist Cal Thomas may not agree with a federal court ruling that struck down intelligent-design creationism in a Pennsylvania school district’s science classes, but in a principled way, he welcomed the development. As Thomas hopes, the decision should prompt parents to abandon public schools altogether.

[The court ruling] should awaken religious conservatives to the futility of trying to make a secular state reflect their beliefs…. Religious parents should exercise the opportunity that has always been theirs. They should remove their children from state schools with their “instruction manuals” for turning them into secular liberals, and place them in private schools — or home school them — where they will be taught the truth, according to their parents’ beliefs. […]

Too many parents who would never send their children to a church on Sunday that taught doctrines they believed to be wrong, have had no problem placing them in state schools five days a week where they are taught conflicting doctrines and ideas.

I disagree with Thomas on practically every political issue I can think of, but he raises a legitimate point. Most public schools will expose students to history that sometimes paints the U.S. in an unflattering light, science that contradicts biblical literalism, and literature that may be at odds with a rigid conservative worldview. Thomas thinks there’s no point in evangelicals working to change this system — and I can think of a lot of school districts that would welcome the end of some of these culture wars.

In fact, Thomas doesn’t mention it, but there’s a significant schism among many social conservatives about just what to do with the public schools. In many far-right political circles, the emphasis is on shaping curricula to match their ideology on issues like abstinence, evolution, school libraries, etc. But it’s worth remembering that a sizable segment of the far-right wants to completely give up on the public school system.

In 2002, Focus on the Family head James Dobson seemed to get the ball rolling when he encouraged California parents to abandon public schools because, as he saw it, “homosexual propaganda” was harming students. Two years later, the Southern Baptist Convention took up a resolution urging all Southern Baptist families to “remove their children from all government schools and see to it they receive a thoroughly Christian education.”

At a minimum, it’s an unorthodox way to lower class sizes.