This work makes a richly humanitarian case for parental school choice, seeking to advance social justice and respect the dignity of parents—especially those on the margins.
For decades, arguments in favor of school choice have largely been advanced on the basis of utility or outcome rather than social justice and human dignity. The Case for Parental Choice: God, Family, and Educational Liberty offers a compelling and humanitarian alternative. This volume contains an edited collection of essays by John E. Coons, a visionary legal scholar and ardent supporter of what is perhaps best described as a social justice case for parental school choice. Few have written more prodigiously or prophetically about the need to give parents—particularly poor parents—power over their children’s schooling. Coons has been an advocate of school choice for over sixty years, and indeed remains one of the most articulate proponents of a case for school choice that promotes both low-income parents and civic engagement, as opposed to mere efficiency or achievement. His is a distinctively Catholic voice that brings powerful normative arguments to debates that far too often get bogged down in disputes about cost savings and test scores.
The essays collected herein treat a wide variety of topics, including the relationship between school choice and individual autonomy; the implications of American educational policy for social justice, equality, and community; the impact of public schooling on low-income families; and the religious implications of school choice. Together, these pieces make for a wide-ranging and morally compelling case for parental choice in children’s schooling.
Foreword by the Editors
Foreword by Jesse Choper
Preface by John E. Coons
Part 1. Religion, Liberty, and Education
1. Intellectual Liberty and the Schools
2. Making Schools Public
3. School Choice as Simple Justice
4. Education: Intimations of a Populist Rescue
5. Orphans of the Enlightenment: Belief and the Academy
Part 2. Education and Community
6. Can Education Create Community?
7. Education: Nature, Nurture, and Gnosis
8. Magna Charter
Part 3. Religion, Family, and Schools
9. Luck, Obedience, and the Vocation of the Childhood
10. The Religious Rights of Children
11. The Sovereign Parent
Conclusion: Exit, with Spirit
Soldiers and School Choice
It Takes a Village? No, When It Comes to Schooling, It Takes Parents
Public Schools and the Bingo Curriculum
School Choice Restores Parental Responsibility
MLK and God’s Schools
Faith, School Choice, and Moral Foundations
Of Civics and “Sects”: Debunking Another School Choice Myth
Fear of Words Unspoken
Equality, “Created Equality,” and the Case for School Choice
A Tale of Two Turkeys
On Teaching Human Equality
School, Such a Trip
John E. Coons is the Robert L. Bridges Professor of Law (Emeritus) at Berkeley Law, University of California, Berkeley.
Nicole Stelle Garnett is the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at the Law School, University of Notre Dame.
Richard W. Garnett is the Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law, concurrent professor of political science, and the director of the Program on Church, State, and Society at the Law School, University of Notre Dame.
Ernest Morrell is the Coyle Professor in Literary Education, professor of English, professor of Africana studies, and director of the Notre Dame Center for Literary Education at the University of Notre Dame.
“Few, if any, scholars possess more insights about parental school choice than John Coons. Beyond the philosophical, legal, and moral concerns surrounding choice, which Coons analyzes cogently, he also draws upon common-sense practicalities to cinch his many compelling arguments.” —Patrick J. Wolf, co-author of The School Choice Journey
"Those looking for a better way to resolve differences, to transcend partisan narratives, and to promote a robust and pluralistic school system that engenders greater trust would be wise to consult Coons’s extensive scholarship. The Case for Parental Choice makes an elegant and accessible reintroduction to his work." —City Journal
[Original Blog Post]
In The Case for Parental Choice: God, Family, and Educational Liberty, I focus attention upon the role of the parent in the selection, and relation to, the child’s school. Roughly half of America’s parents, since the mid-19th century, have been able to exercise a significant degree of choice among “public” schools by taking residence in the attendance zone of their favorite, or by going private. Obviously, as the family wealth per-child declines, so does the universe of neighborhoods that mothers and fathers can afford to inhabit or the tuition that they can afford to pay. In spite of the constitutional right of parents to choose, their access within both our systems is determined principally by money. America’s wealthy choose; the rest get chosen for by the impersonal command of government. Webster would have the word “public” mean “open to all”; this collection asks: Does our government school system even qualify as “public”?
These writings can be understood as a plea to today’s Democrats to face the mirror and ask: Is our policy of no-choice-for-the-poor designed to recognize and bolster the dignity and civic responsibility of the parental role? And, is that role experienced by the child of the choiceless family as something of unique importance? Or does little Alice see her parents’ impotence as a declaration by our society that these lower-income types are simply unqualified for that basic civic role so dear to parents who can afford to choose–We can trust them.
My late wife, Marylyn, and I were parents of five. The involvement in the process of selection increased with age, but we always retained the veto. Only recently did I realize that half our picks were “public” schools. I note this here lest the reader infer my hostility to our fifty state governments’ maintaining their own schools in a choice-based market system. It is my guess that most of the schools we call “public” will continue to flourish in a free market.
Again, this collection of my published views–basically unchanged over sixty-plus years–continue to be a warning to Democrats to cease protecting the status quo of our inner-city schools and their union squads by conscripting and sequestering the child of the poor. The party has ever flaunted its devotion to the needy. Let’s start meaning it.