Blogs > Liberty and Power > And maybe the minimum wage doesn't lead to unemployment . . .

May 23, 2005 9:31 am

And maybe the minimum wage doesn't lead to unemployment . . .

I sent this letter to the editor of my local newspaper, the Tuscaloosa News. They won’t print it, of course, so I thought I would post it here. Their editorial was in response to an article in the Phi Delta Kappan claiming that private schools do not necessarily do a better job teaching math and science to kids than do public schools.

One might call this, adapting Steven Pinker's phrase, the moralistic fallacy: since my moral scruples tell me it should be true, therefore it is true.

Dear Editor:

Your editorial “Private schools are not the solution for public school problems” (May 11, 2005) is grotesquely misleading. You cite a study that you claim shows that “students are just as likely to succeed in public schools as in private schools.” Please.
That study appears in a non-peer-reviewed magazine published by an advocacy group whose stated mission is, according to its website, “To promote high-quality education, in particular publicly supported education” (my emphasis). Little surprise, then, that its articles downplay the superior performance of private schools over public schools.

Contrary to your fanciful claim, a mountain of studies—published in actual peer-reviewed journals—has shown that students at private schools consistently outperform those at public schools, even controlling for variables like socioeconomic status. Indeed, it is among the poorest students where the gap between private and public schools is greatest. Students in the Catholic schooling system, for example, have higher average standardized test scores, higher graduation rates, higher college-acceptance rates, and they do better on average in college—again, even controlling for their parents’ socioeconomic status. Catholic schools do this, moreover, while costing on average 35% less than public schools. This information is easy to find, if you just look for it.

From one special-interest advocacy piece, however, you drew this sweeping conclusion: “The significant point is that private schools are not a solution for what ails public schools. Unless policymakers can show private schools are better, particularly with poorly performing students, programs like vouchers don’t make sense.” How absurd! That’s like finding an article on the Post Office’s own website touting itself and then saying, “See! We don’t really need UPS or FedEx! Let’s outlaw them.”

Here’s a solution. Let’s continue to allow you and others who support and believe in public schools to send their children to them, to fund them with their taxes, etc., but for those who wish to seek other alternatives for their own children—whether for religious, moral, or educational reasons—let them do so without being forced to also pay for the public schools. That way nobody forces anybody to do anything against their will, and we can all amicably agree to disagree.

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Max Swing - 5/24/2005

I'd like to know whether Catholic schools, which you show as being cheaper compared to public schools, are also supported by the catholic church. If this is true, then you have to take this into the cost-calculation, too, because the money from the church also comes from someone (it's the same idea as behind public schools).