Because Freedom Isn't Free


A local campus chapter of the High School Conservative Clubs of America was ordered by Massachusetts' Hudson High to take down its promotional posters around school, because they included a link to the national organization's website, which in turn contained links to video of beheadings in Iraq. The punchline? Hudson is a "First Amendment School."

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  1. Trying to get beyond the knee-jerk reaction here, and after people fall into one camp or another, remember how the beheading of Mr. Nicholas Berg was described (“slowly sawed off”), or how people used that frightening event to prove their stance on Abu Ghraib, it is easy to imagine breaking this out into those groups, giving them purses, and having them re-enact the battle of pearl harbor.

    So: if the club uses the beheading to say “kill the towelheads” or if the club uses the beheading to “prove” that the US is wrong – would that change the school’s stance on the web site? Would that change any opinions on whether the ruling is appropriate?


    Comment by: drf at August 17, 2005 11:20 AM

    Ok lets be pragmatic about it. This is why we’re the laughing stock of the political world. The question is what can we do to incrementally bring this about without getting stuck with unintended consequences that are completely counter to what we want to achieve?

    Case in point: I kinda sorta used to be behind the whole voucher thing until I started seeing how parochial schools were starting to make use of vouchers to basically get the general population to subsidize private education. So now we have even more private welfare whereas our intentions were to promote private schooling and less reliance on government schooling. As a result we’ve got the churches here pushing for more voucher programs because they have the best of both worlds – profit from the enterprise while the government via our pocketbook funds it. Kinda like public funded sports stadiums.

    Where do we go from here?

  3. I completely agree. But I think we need to go further. I have some rich friends who went to some pretty crazy private schools. Their parents used money — issued by the U.S. government! — to finance their schooling. Talk about the public enabling private education.

  4. metalgrid and Ammonium,

    The money going to the private schools is money that would have gone to public schools had the child gone to one. Vouchers do not take money out of anyone’s pocketbook.

  5. The website claims that the school also stated they were taking down the posters because the website is anti-gay, because the group opposes gay marriage.

    Now, I am extremely pro-gay, but even I recognize that the anti-gay-marriage position right now is either the majority position, or at least a pretty mainstream position, considering the fact that the governing party nationally opposes gay marriage as part of its platform. Are these school administrators really trying to claim that the political positions of the majority [or a pretty sizable plurality] are so extreme that they have to be kept out of schools? Exactly what kind of first amendment advocacy is it that would even prevent students from reading the platform of the governing party?

  6. I’m with Uncle Miltie on this one. Making sure that our young are given the opportunity to partake in an education has highly desireable social consequences. Thus, I support the public funding of education. The public operation of education is another matter entirely.

  7. …well, besides the public schools pocketbooks, but I don’t think they have many sympathizers here…

  8. A “First Amendment School” is a joke. Show me a “Second Amendment School,” and you’ll have something worth talking about.

  9. The money going to the private schools is money that would have gone to public schools had the child gone to one. Vouchers do not take money out of anyone’s pocketbook.
    Comment by: crimethink at August 17, 2005 11:47 AM

    Kinda like the public money that goes to build stadiums for private teams would get spent somewhere else by the government anyway. At least this way, it gets spent on a private enterprise?

    I think there’s a word for it – crony capitalism.

  10. Kinda like the public money that goes to build stadiums for private teams would get spent somewhere else by the government anyway. At least this way, it gets spent on a private enterprise?

    That is not a valid comparison. Voucher money is spent on multiple providers of the same service (education).

  11. That is not a valid comparison. Voucher money is spent on multiple providers of the same service (education).
    Comment by: MP at August 17, 2005 12:27 PM

    The issue is that the cost to the private enterprise for educating 1 child is less than how much they get paid for it. Hence they are making a profit off tax dollars.

    The real kicker now is the fact that private schools have gotten a whiff of the money to be made from voucher programs and now have their own lobby and interest groups to push for more voucher programs. Now what we’ve doomed ourselves with is a powerful lobby group that will never let go of their profit source by allowing us to go beyond vouchers to phase out public funding of education.

  12. fluffy –

    Perhaps you’re overlooking the fact that MA has legalized gay marriage. This is a MA school. Locally, a majority does support gay marriage.

  13. The issue is that the cost to the private enterprise for educating 1 child is less than how much they get paid for it. Hence they are making a profit off tax dollars.

    So what? If they weren’t making a profit, they wouldn’t even be providing the service. Furthermore, you are confusing marginal cost with average cost. A private education provider is not making a profit until they are educating at least N students.

  14. metalgrid,

    Come on! Yes, vouchers are paid for by taxpayers (just like funding for public schools now). But the majority of libertarians will accept that the government has certain roles and responsibilities (i.e defedning the nation with a standing military force). I would say that free K-12 education is also one of these responsibilities. However, vouchers do introduce competition into a monopolistic system. Thus, they are a huge step in the right direction.

  15. Swede, that’s where the stadium analogy comes into play. If it’s ok for tax dollars to fund private education, why isn’t it ok for tax dollars to fund other private enterprises? how about private healthcare?

  16. I would oppose mass public education by government even if taxation were not an issue, because I think that state schools are not that much less pernicious than state churches, when you get right down to it. So for me the funding mechanism of public education is less objectionable than its existence in general.

    But I think we have to realize that there is no magic bullet we can fire in the forseeable future that will make the public abandon the concept of public education. It’s been successfully marketed to them for a couple hundred years. They’re not just going to drop it because we argue with them.

    That being the case, the voucher system at least undermines the state education system, even if it uses tax dollars to do it. If I had my choice, I would get rid of public education AND the system of taxation and transfer payments that support it – but I don’t have my choice. Vouchers are a policy that has a reasonable chance of actually being enacted – even if they only get half the job done, that’s better than nothing.

  17. “(i.e defedning the nation with a standing military force)”

    interestingly, some proto-libertarians felt very differently, and included a provision in an important document to try to guard AGAINST having standing militaries…

    “However, vouchers do introduce competition into a monopolistic system”

    An artificial competition, yes. True competition? No. It’s the flip side of the issue about non-government created monopolies. Absent government coercion, and arguably outside limited natural resource necessities like water, there can’t be a true monopoly, as consumers are always free to choose to not purchase the product at all. By steali…er taxing people and creating vouchers, you’ve eliminated this form of competition, and in fact, will drive up the price of education. An example of this in action in a more benign, complicated manner is government subsidized student loans. Think there is any relation between their institution and the nearly simultaneous incidence of college tuition rising faster than inflation?

    True competition requires the option for consumers to refuse to enter the market for that product at all. Only then will an accurate market price for the product be possible.

  18. Perhaps someone on this board can set me straight with this whole voucher thing. I’d really like to believe that forcing competition between schools would make them all better. But I’m just not convinced that this would happen in the real world.

    The analogy I draw is this: Whole Foods and Aldi are both in the business of selling food. But both satisfy a particular niche in the market. One caters to a customer willing and capable of paying for “higher quality” food while the other caters to those who are incapable or unwilling to pay for such foods, or would rather settle for more generic and lower quality foods.

    I guess what I’m getting at is this: instead of competition driving every school to be better and provide a great education, what would keep the education market from fragmenting into niches where some schools offer a lower quality education at a cheaper price because that’s all the parents can afford. Won’t there be an “Aldi” high school and a “Whole Foods” high school with one providing a superior education to the other?

    Don’t misunderstand me, i’m not saying that I’m against private education. There are just some issues that I cannot seem to square.

    I’m open to further enlightenment.

  19. “Won’t there be an “Aldi” high school and a “Whole Foods” high school with one providing a superior education to the other? ”

    We already have that in Philadelphia: “Aldi” high schools are the neighborhood public schools, and “Whole Foods” schools are the public magnet schools and private schools.

    So I’m not so sure that you can avoid market segregation – the issue is making sure that the “Aldi” schools are providing something worth paying for. And the Philly neighborhood public schools aren’t – that much I can assure you.

  20. Downstater,
    I hear your question, and it’s invariably the argument I get into whith my friends who dissagree on vouchers. Of course there would be an “Aldi” high and a “Whole Foods” high, that is unavoidable. Hell, right now there’s public school, then there’s Grotton. The question is wether or not “Aldi” beats public, a net benefit for society when the worst schools are still better than the alternatives. My lefty friends don’t see it this way and want to prevent the higher-end from coming into being so they can come closer to their dream of everyone having the same life.

  21. Beat me to it Quasi, and shorter too.

  22. downstater,

    The education market is already fragmented. There is a constant battle between rich towns and poor towns. The concept of equalized funding at the state level is always tried, but never works in practice. Trying to equalize it is a fool’s errand because people with greater resources will always find ways to use them.

    I’d also refer you to the recent Canadian Supreme Court decision which stated that Canada’s attempt to equalize health care access was a violation of one’s civil rights.

  23. Downstater–

    In the Virginia city where I attended elementary school, the very public schools were divided between Aldi and Whole Foods depending on which neighborhood you lived in–the kids in the wealthier neighborhoods went to schools with air-conditioning, awesome playgrounds, free school supplies, and so forth; my school, by contrast, was so lame that in the fifth grade my teacher actually had ME teach the astronomy course, because I was a little astro-geek who had subscriptions to kiddie science magazines and knew about the latest discoveries, whereas our textbooks were so old they still reported that only Saturn had a ring, and Jupiter had only twelve moons, and so forth. And we weren’t even allowed to write on the mimeographed worksheets we were given–we had to write on our own paper and give the worksheets back so the teacher could re-use them the following year.

    This disparity in the SAME CITY, with the same property taxes throughout.

  24. downstater: If you’re interested in the effects of school choice programs on educational quality for poor students, I suggest some reading on voucher and choice programs in western Europe. The Netherlands and Denmark, for example, have had school choice for about a century each. Most low-income kids in the Netherlands attend private religious schools picked by their parents, and low-income students in private schools there outperform public school kids from the same socioeconomic group. On the other hand, in Chile, most poor kids attend public schools, and poor kids in public school there outperform their private school peers. So while it appears that yes, there are differences in performance among schools under a voucher system, the majority of parents appear to be making the correct choice (in terms of maximizing their children’s school performance) in each of the different systems.

    In nearly all countries that have school choice, children at the lowest income levels outperform most American children, including wealthier American children, on most academic indicators. Gaps in achievement between lowest- and higest-income cohorts in the U.S. are continually growing; in the Netherlands, socioeconomic gaps are rapidly narrowing. While schools may objectively vary in quality, satisfaction among parents with the quality of their children’s education is much, much higher than for parents of U.S. public school students. Basically, the worst voucher schools may be like Aldi’s, but the worst schools in the American public school system are like eating out of a dumpster while you watch rich kids shop at Whole Foods.

    If you’re interested in more about successful school choice programs, I recommend Educating Citizens: International Perspectives on Civic Values and School Choice. It gives some good facts and details about existing universal voucher programs, and compares the risks and benefits of different kinds of education policy programs.

  25. schools might have more money if buffon county buyers would quit buying 18,000 laptops at $1100 each (see recent story in Richmond where the county solds old laptops used in schools for $50). funny thing is some other school system could buy those laptops and they’d be just as usefull to 5-18 years olds as new $1000 ones. Talk about not being able to negotiate a package deal, 18,000 laptops at $1100 each? to do what, show kids how to surf the internet and perform calculus equations? something tells me a 4 year old laptop could do the same thing, but that wouldn’t look as good in the newsletter to parents. public schools get shafted on $ cause the admins are clueless on spending it.

  26. Since the laptops were Macs, it’s likely the districts got them either free or for a vastly reduced price.

    I think all the articles you’re seeing reference the retail price of the item to provide context for the crowd’s crazed behavior.

    What I was surprised about was that the school district didn’t just assign someone the task of selling the laptops used one at a time on Ebay and Amazon. They would get more than $50 each for them. Handing them out the way that they did seems like squandering an asset. I can personally guarantee you, based on my experience with crazed behavior by book dealers at county sales, that most of the people who went berserk in line were Ebay and Amazon sellers looking to buy laptops at $50 and resell them at a higher price online. Darn speculators!

  27. Thanks for the resources. This is an interesting subject to me. My wife is a public high school teacher in a solidly middle to upper middle class area (we don’t live in the “upper” area). Most kids there go to college, ivy league, high test scores, all that stuff. So when I hear about how crappy public schools are, I can only agree to a certain extent and then on an ad hoc basis. City schools here in St. Louis certainly suck, but I have a hard time extrapolating that to apply to public education in general.

    (i am also only speaking to the quality of education, teacher qualifications, etc. I’m fully aware of all the b.s. that public schools must deal with because of the fact that they are public.)

    anyway, thanks for pointing me to some info.

  28. The funny thing is, teachers will generally compete to teach in areas where they’d like to live, which is alot of the times in the wealthier suburbs. Its like that in Houston, where HISD is a failing school system while the suburbian schools continue to thrive despite less money because its mostly residential propery taxes they depend on to fund the schools, which are much less than commercial and industrial property taxes. Vouchers will not change the demographic about where teachers want to live (and therefore the distribution of “good” teachers)

    At best, vouchers will allow the creation of private schools which could entice better teachers with more money, but they still have to compete with other factors, like desirability of the inner city vs. suburbs. Of course parochial schools will gain ground because inner city parents will believe their child is safer at a church than a public school. Also, better teachers might be available at parochial schools because the teachers are appointed to schools as opposed to choosing. The public system in the inner city will be worse off.

    In the suburbs however, competition would probably lead to much better public and private schools and those that can afford to live there will get a much better quality of education.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but that’s the problem as I see it.

  29. LIT,

    You’re right about teachers preferring to teach in the suburbs regardless of money. But I think the solution is straightforward: inner-city kids ‘commuting’ to private schools in the suburbs.

  30. it seems to me that private schools can absorb these inner-city kids individually. But I don’t think that tuition alone covers the cost of educating students at private schools. Most private schools are affiliated with a church or are funded through an endowment, etc. If these resources are not limitless, then at what point do the private schools cap enrollments because they cannot take in any more students? They could raise tuitions to cover the costs but that would consequently require ever larger vouchers to attend the school. Until tuition = full cost of education, it seems that commuting students will pose a significant burden on the private schools over the long haul which they could not sustain indefinitely. And if tuition did equal the full cost of education, there would be a lot of current private school students who could no longer afford to attend.

    again, i’m not trying to pick on vouchers, i’m just airing some issues that i would need answers for before i could get behind them totally.

  31. downstater,

    The basic voucher theory is that the per pupil expenditure, currently being collected via tax dollars and distributed top-down through educrats, would be redistributed in full directly to parents who would then make the choice regarding where to put the dollars. There are many particulars to be addressed when you get down to the details, but the concept is clear. It is simply a matter to further empowering parents.

  32. “The Netherlands and Denmark, for example, have had school choice for about a century each.”

    Amy, at least in Denmark, you’re not making an appropriate comparison. Oftentimes in Denmark, private schools aren’t there for quality, rather for styles of teaching. You’re not looking for quality of schools. The motivation for going private is different.

    Zahles, the shi-shi private school in copenhagen has taken students from schools who have had problems (Holte, a relatively plush suburb had to close its school for part of a school year back in 1998, and kids were distributed around the area). Since there is no need for college counciling, you don’t get those perks at a private school. What, you’re at Noerreport train station, so that’s a perk, but how we understand “public school” and “private school” does not apply to denmark, nor can a meaningful comparison be made.

    There is uniform education there – you cannot, for example, take math beyond what the high schools teach. the history offering is limited and fixed – usually vietnam is “taught”. It is the ultimate government run educational system. And the costs of a year at Zahles seems nominal to us.

    Bertel Haarder, the long time minister of education (he’s a mega euro fascist, too) was proud of how uniform schools in denmark are. He spent some time at Wesleyian Univ. in Ct, and marveled at how a society could “allow” such a difference in education of its people. he is a tool.

    As there is a uniform system, there is no big variance (variance is minimized) in the quality of the schools or the grading. a grade of “11” should be consistent across schools.

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