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Losing Supreme Control

Last week, the Judicial Oracles spoke and education was the theme. Headlines shouted the news that vouchers are constitutional and that saying the word "God" in public school is not, while the intelligentsia, not to be outdone, fell all over themselves in the editorial pages telling us how our lives will change.

Strangely, the messages from both left and right are mixed. Conservatives would have us believe that vouchers will solve the public education dilemma through market competition, while banishing God from the classroom is an attack on freedom of conscience that will harm our children. Liberals contend that vouchers will destroy the public schools by starving them for money, while protecting children from government establishment of religion will support family autonomy.

Is either scenario credible? Are the Judicial Oracles so lacking in insight that they reach out one hand to help just as they slap us down with the other?

The answer to this paradox may be in the third decision handed down last week. Mentioned only in passing in the national press was Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls which said that the widening, indiscriminate drug testing of schoolchildren is also constitutional, the Fourth Amendment notwithstanding. In Earls, the Supremes have put us on notice that this is not the end, soon all public school children will be peeing into cups for the privilege of attending government run indoctrination camps 180 days per year. Their reasoning is familiar, especially of late: safety trumps liberty every time.

Despite the "protect-the-children" sentiment, it is not safety that the Supremes are really after, for note this sentence: "Preventing drug use of schoolchildren is an important government concern." The unconstitutionality, the hubris, the shear gall of that sentence is as overwhelming as it is revealing. To the contrary, preventing drug use is an important parental concern, yet at some point in our nation's history our government became daddy to all our children.

Put all three decisions together, look at the big picture that has emerged over the past 150 or so years, and the real government agenda is laid bare – control.

At first, control was exercised subtly by supplying a good which all parents need while maintaining the nexus at the local level. Yet since the turn of the twentieth century with the development of certain ineluctable trendsu2014the widespread adoption of textbooks, the consolidation of school districts, the state and federal distribution of education dollars, zero tolerance and truancy policies, and more recently the push for national standards and testing – government control of schooling, which means government control of children, has become increasingly brazen.

Last week's decisions are all of a piece. Vouchers have nothing to do with improving public schools and everything to do with controlling and thereby destroying private education. Even a proponent of vouchers admits the danger.

Writes Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell:

"I can't help but think of Marshall Fritz today, and all the others, who fear that this is not a victory for parents and children over government schools, but a victory for the government over private schools…

"We know from efforts to regulate charter schools, compulsory education laws, efforts to regulate homeschoolers, and education management companies that sacrifice their business models for government contracts, that regardless of the circumstances, the government will never stop pushing to gain more control over private decisions about education."

The banishment of God from the classroom, begun in the earliest stages of government schooling in the 1840s and all but completed with Supreme Court opinions in the early 1960s, is not as some believe an attack on Christianity, for religion here is merely collateral damage. The Ninth Circuit's ban of the "Pledge of Allegiance" has nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do with controlling children's minds.

And Earls serves not to protect schoolchildren from the big, bad drug monster, but to habituate the nation's citizenry to the kind of self-administered humiliation required for total control. If you are not sure about this, reread 1984.

Rather than waste time analyzing tortured judicial logic, it is more instructive to ask the question, "Why now?" In this Age of Public Relations, for the government boldly to show its agenda of control – to take the mask away – is either a monumental blunder or an act of abject desperation. In considering answers, bear in mind that in national politics, monumental blunders rarely happen.

As every mother of a toddler knows, total control of other human beings is an impossibility. 1984 is a novel, after all. In real life, control begets further control, a vicious circle that culminates in blowback. It just might be that the Education Establishment understands the severity of the situation in which they find themselves – that the critical system of political control over which they preside is reaching a crisis as never before seen – and has acted accordingly.

Every freedom lover should rejoice at the opinions last week. With each new turn of the screw, more and more people are facing the fact that government is no parent. Even the allure of free day care cannot forever prevent mothers from rescuing their precious children. Our Berlin Wall is teetering. Exercise genuine school choice, take your children out of government school and, from a safe distance, watch it fall.

July 6, 2002