Minority Schools

Ought religious and cultural minorities have their own schools?

It seems a sticky question. Public schools have a lot of functions. Some (readin’ ‘rittin’ and 'rithmatic) can be done by local minority groups. Others, like creating a national identity probably cannot be.

It seems nice that the Amish (in the US) are allowed to use their taxes to educate their own children. Maybe religious Jews ought to have the same privilege. How about Catholics or some group that is unpopular? How about ethnic groups? If it is OK for Jews to raise their kids to be Jews before they are part of the larger community, how about Mexicans? Where do we draw the line?

Some groups (here I am thinking about New York City Jews) do not seem to learn English in their own schools and are educated for never becoming a part of the national life. Instead they are destined to live in their own neighborhoods, with their own language and their own identity.

The Israeli papers are upset some new Swedish law seems to prohibit all non-public schools. Is that a good idea or a bad one?

I am afraid I can see both sides of the issue. My desire to have a simple, clear public policy would lead me to banning all private schools, including home schools and religious ones.

What do you think?

They are? They are allowed to teach their religion in tax funded schools, or they are allowed to run their own schools as long they keep religion out of the curriculum?

As for the OP, I think schools should be run as locally as possible, but a public school should be accessible to anyone in the district. Segregating by ethnicity or religion cannot be allowed [in the US under the US constitution].

I see no reason to disallow private schools of any nature so long as they meet minimal educational requirements.

Paul, why would you want to ban private schools? The only public interest is that children should have the opportunity for a basic education. Kids in public schools can have stupid parents that deny them the opportunity for a better education or to waste the opportunity have. It doesn’t take a private school to do that.

Just to be clear, I was talking about public schools in my post. Got a private school? Accept whomever you want.

Here in the United States, many public schools deliver an utterly awful education. Some are even physically unsafe. Private schools are much better in those regards. That alone is adequate reason why we should not only allow private schools and homeschooling, but should do what we can to promote those options.

However, even if the public schools were safe and provided a decent education, I’m not convinced by your argument. The purpose of our government is to secure our rights, according to the Declaration of Independence. It is not to create a national identity. Having the government create a national identity sounds suspiciously like enforcing conformity of thought. I’m all for a national identity arising naturally from the choices of the people, as the national identity of the United States did. When governments decide what the national identity should be, things tend to go wrong in a hurry.

Does a religious or other minority (Mennonites, Jews, Hispanics) have a right to their own schools? Ought not society to insist on some minimal level of integration into the greater national identity? Preservation of minorities that do not share the national identity seems to be a Bad Thing.

On the other hand, we (Americans) seem to think the raising up of a child is a responsibility that falls almost exclusively on the parents. A minority school can be a labor of love of a tight-knit group that wants the best for their children.

I think I am coming down on the side of public schools for all.

Catholic private schools are very common in the US. They DON’T get any of your or anyone else’s tax dollars (I understand that Catholic schools in some countries DO get government subsidies). There’s one down the road. There is an old-fashioned, old money-esque Episcopalian (US form of the Church of England) boarding school too, for those who dig that.

That’s the wrong question. Does the state have a compelling interest in preventing private institutions (religious or otherwise) from operating schools?

Answer: No.

Caveat: I see no reason the state can’t require minimum standards be met for any non-public school. I see plenty of reason why the state can’t require religion (or language or culture) not be taught in such school.

Forcing people to lose their ethnic identities is worse. Witness what was done to Native Americans in the late 19th century and early 20th.

I’d like a solid answer to the tax question. I have fixed feelings on schools like this for small minority groups - it can be supportive but also self-ghettoizing - but that’s an argument against starting them or sending one’s own kids there, not an argument they should be outlawed.

Sure they do. They just get those dollars indirectly, and don’t get as many of them as private schools: school voucher programs, state legislation providing free or low-cost textbooks to all schools, and so on.

What “mininum level of integration into the greater national identity” would you suggest that does not already exist simply by living here? Should we suppress all Amish, Mennonite, and Quaker schools on the grounds that pacifism is not part of the national identity? Is there an “American” perspective on algebra?

I have no problem with the state or local community setting minimum standards for curricula that any school must meet, but who gets to decide what part of curricula represents “national identity”? If they got the votes, would it be acceptable for the Religious Right to insist that Creationism be taught in biology since the latest polls show a slim majority of Creationists among the populace? Would it be OK, as a Florida legislator proposed a few years ago, to insert claims into the history and social studies programs that the U.S. is the “best” in all things and “most free” nation on earth–a point that is problematic, at best, and demonstrably wrong at worst.

It also appears to be a solution in search of a problem. There are fewer than 300,000 Amish in the U.S. and the number of Hassidic Jews is only about two thirds of that. Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, and Episcopalian schools have pretty much always been “Americanized” either because they they drew their populations from “real Americans” or because they were immigrants who wished to “become Americans.” So we are talking about a 0**.**17% of the population in terms of total numbers, (not school children), and making the odd assumption that they are all not already being integrated into the “national identity.” (Having lived among the Amish, I am already aware that they are quite American in their identity. I can’t speak to the Hassidic communities, but I suspect that they also share in the national identity.)

What’s with the BS that people who choose private education are some how duping their kids out of a real one? What about mixed-race private schools? They’re certainly not part of the ‘American Pie’, in say, Detroit. Does it matter? Does every kid need to have the exact same experience?

The idea that the kids who go to Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or whatever schools aren’t really American enough is so backwards I can’t even find the proper words. And if public education in the US was largely Christian-based in the first place, I really don’t have words.

The facts that many public schools offer shitty education and are unsafe are the reason private schooling can be bad. Anyone who can afford it gets out of the system. The poor and disadvantaged are abandoned. If everyone was forced to attend public schools, it would provide incentive to actually improve them. However, I wouldn’t go so far as making private schools illegal.

Having grown up in Amish country and having a friend who taught in an Amish school in Indiana, I can assure you that they are not publically funded. They (in IN) are treated like any other private school. As far as where the money comes from to run them, generally, a church member will donate the land, members of the congregation will build the school, with building materials supplied by donation and the operating expenses (including the teacher’s salary) divided among the families who have children attending. Pretty low budget, but following the state rules.

ETA: Some Amish attend public schools as well.

No, because local taxes (like property taxes) and the PTO would still make a difference. I mean, yes, some people would be more inclined to be concerned about public education, but even in public education, there are ‘privileged’ districts and schools.

Minority schools could be (heck, sometimes are) places where the leaders of an ethnic groups ensures the next generation is trapped in the ghetto beholding to the next generation of ethnic leaders. Forever.

But minority schools also preserve unique little cultures that enrich our (US) national polity. Two sides of the same coin. You cannot have private schools you approve of (Amish) without tolerating private schools you do not approve of (White Supremacist).

But wasn’t it a Good Thing that in the 1900s the kids of all kinds of immigrants generally went to public schools in to order to blend the melting pot?

Actually, with the amount of overt (Protestant) religion being taught in public schools at the time, an enormous percentage of those immigrant kids were taught in Catholic schools.

I would bet you there is a lot of scholarly research on this sort of thing.

There is a whole history to the civil rights movement inspiring community leaders, activists, students and their parents to put multicultural educational programs, and bilingual programs into the public schools. It progressed from segregation into integration, then onto more respect for cultural differences.
People who can afford to privately fund the education of their children have every right to their special schools, and IMO public schools should be better funded.
But is it outside the realm of possibility to have curriculums directed to enrichment along the lines of cultural, racial and ethnic diversity? Also to have hiring policies which attempt to pair students of color with teachers who are either of the same cultural background, or who understand and value the uniqueness of the ethnic minorities they are teaching?
I am not looking back and saying that progress has not been made. I remember a time when a Mexican American child (with all kinds of smarts in his or her own language and culture) could be
flunked, or sent to a remedial class, just because the teacher could not speak Spanish. Progress has been made, and drop out rates of minority students from public schools in the U.S. are not as high as they used to be.
However, students of color may feel safer from hate crimes based on race-within a culturally focused magnet school in their own neighborhood, and self esteem gained by exposure to role models of one’s own culture may be more important to marginalized people.

Gosh, I am certainly in the minority on this. I really appreciate everyone’s input on this. Let me mull it over again.