Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daily Kos: American Center for School Choice Versus The John Birch Society

First published July 06, 2012 in Daily Kos

The so-called "Parent Trigger" is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) template law written primarily by right-wingers Bill Lucia of EdVoice and Ben Austin of Green Dot School Corporation. DFER Corporate school privatizer Gloria Romero, who signed her name on that bill that was snuck through the California legislature in a desperate attempt to win Race to the Trough bribe dollars, recently took offense to the fact that many people are starting to learn the reactionary origins of charter trigger laws. Romero recently penned a ridiculous attack on the distinguished Professor Diane Ravitch. Since Romero is a pariah even in her own political party, the only place that would publish her work is the American Center for School Choice (ACSC). My recent polemic and comments against Romero and the ACSC seemingly offended ACSC's Doug Tuthill, who accused me of "name calling, ad hominem arguments or false assertions." The following open letter is my response to Mr. Tuthill.

Mr. Tuthill:

I rather appreciate your call for "civility and accuracy." In the interest of the latter, let's examine the issue. Nowhere did I say Mr. Coons was a member of the John Birch Society. What I said, and you quote it, is that your organization is headed up by "John Birch Society types" like Coons. I'm using the word "type" as in the widely accepted definition "a person or thing symbolizing or exemplifying the ideal or defining characteristics of something."

Let's put my assertion to the test. I posit that both Mr. Coons and your organization espouse ideals in the realm of education policy that are central to those the John Birch Society. I won't waste time compiling too many examples, but here are a few quotations that are seemingly identical:

"parental authority forms the foundation for broadening the support for choice in education." John E. Coons

"for this reason we support choice of education in both curriculum and methods of funding with all matters being addressed by parents" John Birch Society

"Parental authority is precisely that legal attribute lodged in the adult person who, together with the child – and generally others" John E. Coons

"We must protect the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children." Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) quoted on John Birch Society site.

An exhaustive comparison would yield dozens and dozens of nearly identical quotes. However, given that the American Center for School Choice is a small fringe-right-wing group itself, it isn't surprising that the examples are bountiful.

Your turn Mr. Tuthill. In the interest of accuracy can you show me any substantive differences on education policies between The American Center for School Choice (ACSC) and the John Birch Society (JBS)? Please correct me if I'm wrong on any of these points.

  • Both ACSC and JBS support charter schools
  • Both ACSC and JBS support vouchers (sometimes cynically called opportunity scholarships)
  • Both ACSC and JBS support public funds being used for religious schools
  • Both ACSC and JBS support homeschooling
  • Both ACSC and JBS support a form of school choice that includes institutions without publicly elected schoolboards
  • Both ACSC and JBS support absolute parental authority
  • Both ACSC and JBS support and extol the "qualities" of market based education "solutions"

You state Mr. Coons was a "leading liberal" (whatever that means) for several decades. Yet the ACSC site biography cites Coons as having "championed the cause of school choice for four decades." Given that school choice, the clarion call of the segregationists during the height of Jim Crow, is anathema to progressive ideals, it would seem that Mr. Coons holds many views that are the antithesis of those held by progressives and leftists.

More to the point, let's leave the JBS out of the picture entirely. How does ACSC or Mr. Coons' views differ on education from any of the extreme reactionary think tanks like The Heritage Foundation, The Manhattan Institute, The Cato Institute, The Heartland Institute, The Hoover Institution, The Koret Foundation, or any others?

I think I've made a cogent and ironclad case that I am not engaging in "name calling, ad hominem arguments or false assertions," but rather speaking some very uncomfortable truths to one of the bulwarks of oppression.

Advocating public education and social justice

Robert D. Skeels