I’m an atheist. I believe
that most religious/spiritual beliefs are superstitions, totally
unfounded and indicative of a less questioning mind. I generally
believe that, at least in the US, religion is “mostly harmless”. (The
exception is things like intelligent design, but that regularly gets
trounced in court.)
I am also a strong believer in
individuality. I do not believe that any person has the right to tell
any other person what to do, nor do I believe that the government has
that right. I may think that believing in transubstantiation is silly,
but I don’t think I have the right to tell others not to believe in it.
Therefore I find myself in the bizarre position of considering
writing a paper arguing in favor of religious charter schools. Here is
– Religion/spirituality is a form of culture.
When you look outside christianity (for example at native american
cultures) you find that the spiritual aspects are deeply embedded in
the culture and language.
– Culturally-relevant schooling improves
academic achievement in students, which (particularly for marginalized
populations) improves their economic future
– The supreme court has
ruled (Zelman) that if the parent chooses to spend a school voucher on
sending their child to a religious private school, this is NOT the
government supporting a particular religion. The parental choice
mitigates the establishment clause.
– No child is ASSIGNED to a charter school. Parents choose the school.
Therefore religious charter schools should be permitted, as long as
they are permitted for ALL religions/spiritual traditions who wish to
open/run one as a way to improve the long-term outcomes for students.
Objections could include:
– How do you ensure that charter authorizers authorize all schools
equally, regardless of religion? It doesn’t take much to imagine
Kansas approving charters from judeo-christian and native american
traditions but turning down a muslim or hindu school.
– What does
this do to multiculturalism as an american value? Is multiculturalism
ACTUALLY an american value or do we just give it lip service but not
really believe in it? We segregate in almost every facet of our life,
even after going through the somewhat forced-integration of schooling.
Is multiculturalism really just a value of the academic left?
– What if this leads to schools that teach creationism or alternative
histories that conflict with testing standards or even common beliefs?
Will we REALLY help students economic outcomes if they learn that the
earth was created 6 days only a few thousand years ago? Yet isn’t this
already happening in private schools, homeschools and churches? Is it
somehow made more valid if taught in a school-school? What about
teaching health or modern biology in a christian scientist school?
Would it happen and would students truly be better off?
I’d love any comments/criticisms of my thinking here, before I put this into a paper and make a fool of myself…