Dems and Repubs Spar on the Abolition of Public Education

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Sarah Camiscoli is a shoe-leather journalist! She sat in on the College Dems vs College Republicans final debate of the year, and everyone yelled a lot.

The chalkboard in Fayerweather 313 blared: “Resolved: The public school system should be replaced with vouchers.” This was to be a long evening. Before the debate got underway, the College Republican moderator noted that this was the last debate of the year. “It’s been fun while it lasted,” he said. He then introduced Will, a passionate advocate for the abolition of public education, as someone who claims to have “killed a goat with his bare hands.”

Opening with the statement that “everyone knows” that current education system “is broken” and offering statistics such as the “increase in 185% in real dollars” that have been “thrown at” students in low income areas with “no effect,” the Republicans claimed that they wanted to offer “parents a choice” by enrolling each eligible student in the United States into a “radical voucher program” that would offer each family a sort of subsidized ticket to assist them in affording an education that would no longer be free.

To this, the Dems cited the 14th Amendment and the “responsibility of government to take an active role” in upholding the equal access constitutionally assured to each citizen.  Their most poignant point was that “voucher awards are too small to offer low income families equal opportunity.”  To this, the Republicans simply replied that the 14th Amendment promises “no right to an education” and that all it offers is “the right to your liberties.”  The Dems corrected this statement by citing several Supreme Court rulings that upheld that the 14th Amendment does in fact extend to education. Soon, the debate boiled down to this:

Rep -“Why should everyone have an equal education?  Not everyone is capable of doing the work at Columbia.  Not everyone is capable of doing the work you do in your junior and senior year in high school.”

Dem- [Yelling]- “Should everyone who is poor and black not go to Columbia?”

Rep – “I don’t understand this idea of equal education.”

Dem- “You’re equating income with merit?”

Rep- “That’s how life works.  If you have more money you should have more opportunity.”

After this outburst was quelled, moderators asked the Dems about the success of public schools citing statistics that spending “93% more on each person” did not increase performance.  To this, the Dems spoke about the existence of low performing private schools and how the public education system is not necessarily the problem, but more so how socioeconomic factors are more influential than a school’s status as public or private. Their resolution was that is means “spend[ing] as much as it takes to get all students up to the standards that they want us to.”  To this, the Republicans claimed that the Democrats are living “in a utopian world” where “the aim is everyone going to college” when the fact is that “90% are not capable.”  Questioning the Republicans’ sources for such factors, they claimed it was just from “practical experience.”  To this, CU Dem James Downie, responded, “Well, I am going to go with history.”

Realizing that time had run short and the unmoderated crossfire that followed this statement was not conducive for coming to a resolution, each side closed with their bipartisan beliefs on how to give children the “chance to make the fullest use of the chances given to them.” The Republican moderator noted that, “the opinions expressed by the Republican representatives do not reflect those of the College Republicans.” Bwog skipped out into the spring night, thinking wistfully of the debates of November 2008.

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  1. Anonymous  

    hahaha: “That’s how life works. If you have more money you should have more opportunity.”

    Ohhhh look, I'm saying something that sounds sort of cynical. This means I sound smart! (Ignore the fact that I haven't actually offered an argument for what I said. Shhh!)

  2. Anonymous  

    They actually tried to dispute that there's no right to an education? Seriously?

  3. College Douchebags

    More like. Republican scum.

  4. Repubs  

    Unfortunately, the only way strategy CU Republicans seem to have is to blurt totally ridiculous talking points and then backtrack with a wink and a nudge. The substance never, ever , follows. It's just the same old rhetoric, and even if it is self-referential they haven't provided any alternative.

    • This country  

      would be so much better if Republicans weren't so intellectually bankrupt. The reason substance never follows is the vast majority of conservatives don't realize where this idea originates or its implications. There's no reason to even enter into a wonkish discussion about educational quality, cost-effectiveness, or case studies (http://papers.nber.org/papers/w10008) with them. It's a total non-starter.

      Republicans seem to thing economics amounts to just weakening the public sector as much as possible, whether or not there's any real justification. This is why anti-tax activists and Rand-wingnuts love school vouchers----If families with higher incomes top up vouchers with their larger incomes, it is in their interest to cut the program to a bare minimum, weakening its effectiveness and political support for the public sector. It is a holy order that public education must be cut "down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub".

  5. Anonymous  

    New Jersey has tried to throw money at the problem for years now, and the schools are still crap. I'm all for experimental methods to reform schools, but my fear is that the advocates for vouchers will take it to their logical extreme (See resolution: "The public school system should be replaced") and schools will devolve to an unaccountable free-market clusterfuck that breeds insularity and groupthink. (Kindergarten admission-tests?! Elementary school education at college-tuition prices?)

    • Kindergarten admissions tests  

      Haha, you clearly didn't go to a Manhattan private school! (Or many private schools in New England, for that matter). They already have kindergarten admissions tests, ranging from the simple (play with some blocks and know your colors) to the downright ridiculous.

      • Paul

        Exactly. His fear is that the entire school system will go the way of the elite Manhattan private schools. Of course it wouldn't; it would go the way of the mediocre and not terribly competitive (but still expensive) suburban private schools.

  6. A Non-Ymous

    i know something we can agree on. pie. who doesn't like pie?

  7. anon

    ... I glanced at the title quickly, so I misread it as "Dems and Repubs Spar on Abortion", and then spent the entire article waiting. Sigh.

    Rep- “That’s how life works. If you have more money you should have more opportunity.”

    The level of classism and privilege in this statement is astonishing. It should be their slogan.

  8. Surfin' UWS  

    Claws in, people. It wasn't quite THAT bad. I was actually there.

    The republicans got screwed on the basis of their resolution (What is this, debate 101; never put 'abolition' in your resolution if you're taking the federal perspective)....And the fact that one of them kept repeating "not everyone is capable of reaching college so let's stop treating them like they can"....lost the crowd preeetty quickly with that gem (especially given that an irish accent already sounds elitist any way you slice it).

    As a whole I'd say they were the better debaters though. The Dems were downright rude sometimes.

    James was fine but that girl just kept making obnoxious faces, scoffing, and sneering when the other side was talking. She had strong arguments but was essentially a bitchy preteen throughout the whole thing.

    ....It's getting kinda rough to see Republicans REPEATEDLY butt-loved at these things. There are smart, likable republicans out there.....Aarti...Cooper...Rubeintz....Alex N.....Get them on the stage with a resolution that doesn't equal "let's kill puppies" for Pete's sake.

  9. midwesterner

    I'll wager that most of these Dems who think throwing more money at public schools is the answer have never attended a true public school in this country. Sure, they went to public school that had a magnet school or attended some sort of insulated public school filled with high achievers and deep pockets.

    The lion's share of a school budget goes to teacher salaries (it was ~80% at my high school). Teachers are, for the most part, paid by seniority rather than by any sort of skill measure. Why not promote a more competitive system that has more potential to reward good teachers (yes, I know this is hard to measure) and get rid of the dead weight in the system?

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