Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Taxpayers Paying For Islamic School?

I'm not one of those teachers who believes public schools are sacred. Universal public education is sacred, but not public schools. I've always been a fan of vouchers.

If vouchers came into being, though, how would we stop this from happening?

Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.

Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

I'm a big fan of accountability for taxpayer dollars. If you get taxpayer money, you have to accept some responsibility for results--I support standardized testing. I don't have a problem with religious schools, as long as they teach the academic content they're supposed to. I also don't think the state should fund the religious instruction--and I'll let legislatures figure out how to do that.

In the story above it appears that Minnesota is not following its own rules. Perhaps the citizens of Minnesota will hold their legislators, or at least the Department of Education, accountable....


Ellen K said...

This is exactly why I have consistently opposed vouchers. People like to make as if we are keeping kids from the local Catholic school, but private schools come in lots of different shapes and sizes. I wouldn't appreciate having my taxes pay for a madrassa any more than I would like some other fundamentalist Christian school using my money to indoctrinate their kid. It's fine if you want to send your kid on your dollar, but most of the people who gripe about public education are the people who expect the schools to do far more than for what they were designed. I have also seen parents move kids to a poorer district to insure a Top Ten graduation rate or to make sure their kid made varsity. In one neighboring district that allows open enrollment one high school is the "music" high school and the other one is the "football" high school. Each campus moderates and gravitates their schedules toward those goals. And that is why open enrollment is such a joke.

Anonymous said...

Trouble is, it's not a matter of indoctrinating or not indoctrinating. It's a matter of who gets to do the indoctrinating.

Used to be it was a distinctly patriotic, "I pledge allegiance" type of indoctrinating. I'm not entirely comfortable with that but I guess if you're going to indoctrinate that's one of the less offensive dictums to force on kids and let's face it, public education, to a greater or lesser extent has always been a conduit for indoctrination.

I'm not even all that upset with the notion of a madrassah, a publicly-funded madrassah, here in the U.S. as long as it's a charter.

One of the things I've noticed about religion here in the U.S. is that it seems to lose its starch. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants may not want to hang out together but they don't set off bombs in each other's neighborhoods. Antisemitism had its moment in the sun, and you can still find anti-semites, but the days of "Gentleman's Agreement" are largely behind us.

It's not just a cliche that there's a New York cab jointly owned by an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Arab. It's a fact and whether it's something in the water or something in the law, the old enmities just don't seem to have much momentum when they're transplanted to the U.S.

I don't see all that much that's different in Islam that it'll breast that tide.

Sure there'll be some red-hot warriors for Allah and a very few of them will decide to do something stupid. But the majority of parents who send their kids to school won't do so so they can some day admire their pre-martyrdom portraits. They'll have plans for their kids that don't involve splattering them across a neighborhood and if that's what the school has to offer then I doubt they'll get many takers.

That's why I've never given much weight to the concerns about various fringe groups using public money to open charters or accept vouchers. You'll certainly get the occasional White Supremacy Academy if local conditions are favorable but sooner or later the little Adolphes have to go out into the big, wide world and out here being conversant with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion won't net you very much.

Anonymous said...

So, you have no problem with the existence of the school and its practices, just with the rules that it is breaking?

Darren said...

I don't even have a problem with the rule they're breaking--just that they're breaking the rule.

Unknown said...

I personally have been against vouchers because I think that with federal and state standards all groups concerned with education should be able to come up with reasonable expectations and opportunities at public schools. Private schools only seem to be concerned with the non-educational aspects of school such as religious teachings and moral standards. If a parent wants something outside of the broad and general teachings of a public school they should find a private school and pay that private school to teach their children what they want taught, not expect the government to pick up the tab. With AP classes and high school students taking community college courses, at least in California I can't find any true educational reason to need private schools, much less use my tax dollars to pay for them.

Darren said...

Ron, there are people who can come up with plenty of reasons why taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on the so-called debacle that is the public school system. Lots of different viewpoints there!

As I said, I view universal public education as a good thing, but not necessarily public schools.

Anonymous said...

My primary beef with the school is the differential, and deferential, handling it's been receiving. I have no doubt that were the religious practice being espoused based on Christianity the American Civil Liberties Union would have been on them the instant a whiff of religion was in the air.

But the same people who launch a legal attack on a Christmas chreche scene in front of the local city hall, or are intolerant of a cross in a city seal, are noticeably less vigorous when analogous transgressions are committed by non-Christian religions.

The bigger point though is that there's no getting away from the fact that public education is a great way to indoctrinate kids and that's a significant part of the reason public came into existence. The advantage of indoctrinating kids in the public education system hasn't gone unnoticed so the fight to decide who does the indoctrinating is inevitable. Rather then fight the phenomenon, an impossibility since education and indoctrination aren't so easily distinguished, the solution is to dismantle the monolithic nature of public education.

It's the big political win that politicizes public educations. Win one election and you may be able to influence the education of thousand, prehaps millions, of kids. What ideologue could resist?

The solution's not to create more and more rules with which to hamper the ideologues but to limit the size of their wins.

If a group of radical Muslims manage to fight their way to control of a single school they'll have exactly the same task ahead of them to gain control of a second school. Since the choice of school would be in the hands of the parents those radicals had better be selling what the parents are buying for their kids because it's the parents who'll decide how long the school continues to exist.

Local conditions may favor such a takeover but in the larger world, they won't. Once the radicals have managed their takeover they'll have an ongoing fight to keep their school alive since, almost by definition, their views aren't widely supported. Parents who disagree with the direction of the school can't be coerced to stay so they'll go and with it the value of the control of the school.

Ellen K said...

So, taking this argument to the next level, who decides which school is a valid recipient of taxpayer largesse? Seeing things like the very scary FLDS church in Eldorado TX makes me wonder if they had gone to the trouble to set up Charter schools and gotten funding for their indoctrination of their children? We can't really have separation of church and state if we allow church run schools to receive taxpayer money. And that makes the idea of deciding one that would tie up the Supreme Court for years. Like it or not, it is simply a legal quagmire and would just bleed school funding dry. If the taxpayers really wanted more bang for their buck they would demand fiscal transparency on budgets and move extracurricular activities-unheard of as classes in other nations-outside the realm of school. That means if you want your kid to play sports, you pay for it not the taxpayer. If you want your kid to be a musician,you pay for it, not the taxpayer. How about we all get back to the center core of education?