Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Indoctrination Education

High school teachers in New Jersey and Colorado have used public classrooms as a forum for expressing their political views. Those who agree with their viewpoints applaud their teaching and those who disagree state that a classroom is not the proper forum to express political opinions.

The New Jersey high school teacher, Joseph Kyle, decided to hold a war crimes trial in which President Bush was the defendant. John Gibson, a Fox News commentator, noted that such a trial assumes that war crimes have been committed and that President Bush is a likely suspect. Meanwhile, Kyle had the support of local school officials and the school principal, who believed that there was nothing improper about the mock trial.

Many of Kyle's supporters think his idea for a mock trial of Bush for war crimes is ingenius, although I might note that it is certainly not original. Aljazeera had already reported about a mock trial of President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for war crimes back in January of this year, stating that "International activists and lawyers involved in the defence of Saddam Hussein say they will hold a mock trial of George Bush, the US president, and the British and Israeli prime ministers for alleged war crimes committed in Iraq and the Palestinian territories."

The debate has focused on whether the teacher's actions are appropriate in the public classroom setting. This is certainly the wrong focus. Can we ever expect unanimity on what topics should be approached, how subjects should be taught, or how rules should be enforced? Any reasonable person would have to admit that short of teaching absolutely nothing at all, such unanimity is unattainable. Regardless of which side is taught, parents and students will scream 'indoctrination!' This is why parents should be free to choose the type of education that is suitable for their children. This is why the costs of education should be borne solely by those who choose it, so that they can rank their preferences in order of importance and pay for the quality and kind of education they deem appropriate. Trying to create a one-size-fits-all public education system inevitably becomes a struggle to provide an education that no one absolutely hates, rather than an education that people truly love. In the end, we've created a public school system that fits no one.

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