There are so many things wrong with the health care bill, I hardly know where to start. Fortunately, some bloggers have started doing analysis of the gigantic bill that your Congressman probably didn’t read. Jatticus posted a great synopsis of many of the problematic sections of the bill in “The Devil in the Details.” It’s a great summary, but I want to get into a few paragraphs in particular, because they reminded me of another system I am intimately connected to that was nationalized, attempting to kill off private options and opting out.
When the public school system began in the United States, it was presented as a solution to the problem of limited access to education. Prior to the 1830’s, education was mostly available to the rich. Some areas and religious groups provided educational opportunities, but this was not widespread. In the 1830’s, the Common School Movement began, with the goal of providing unifying education to an increasingly diverse nation. By 1900, elementary school education was available to almost all children. The first compulsory attendance law was passed in 1852 in Massachusettes, the home of education reformer Horace Mann; by 1918, all states had compulsory attendance laws for elementary schools.
By then, the cracks had started to show. Namely, Catholics were less than thrilled to be told that they had to both fund and send their children to schools whose purpose was often to disabuse religious superstition and sectarianism… which usually meant “trying to make Catholic kids quit being papists.” In 1925, the Supreme Court had to get involved in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, ruling that the state (Oregon, particularly, fueled by KKK anti-Catholic sentiment) could not compel children to attend public schools, but had to allow for the option of private schools. (Funny, but there doesn’t seem to have been any huge movement to crack down on WASP institutions. Private school bans made it on the ballot in Michigan, Washington, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Wyoming, Arkansa, and Nebraska, but failed to pass popular referendums. All seem to have been aimed squarely at Catholic schools.)
The public schools began as a voluntary, we’re-here-if-you-need-us institution. Horace Mann, however, always had the intention of making them universal, mandatory, and strictly controlled. Everyone would have an identical education, to promote national unity.
Now, we have the federal Department of Education to enforce those goals. Dissent from the “allowed” options is not treated well, although homeschoolers have fought for years for respect and legal protections of parental rights to raise their children as they think best. Sure you can use your options… but don’t expect us to make it easy for you.
Some school districts have conducted surprise inspections on homeschoolers under the argument that every homeschool has to meet the guidelines imposed on private schools. California’s state supreme court declared homeschooling unconstitutional, until the ruling was overturned on appeal. Children have been placed in foster care, parents accused of criminal negligence and forced to go to court to get their children back. Homeschooling has been cited as justification for taking children away from the pro-homeschooling parent in divorces. (We consider ourselves very blessed to have a friendly school district… but we’re not assuming that that is a permanent state of affairs.)
There are those who acquiese quietly to the preferred government option… and there is everyone else, who really need to be smacked into line as quickly as possible.
Now we read the new health care bill, and find much of the same thing.
- Public health visits to homes to instruct parents on proper child rearing and child spacing (allegedly voluntary… for now).
- Health clinics in public schools, where children will likely obtain whatever they want without parental interference (condoms are already fairly common hand outs in public schools. Some girls have even been taken for abortions during school hours, by the school nurse, to avoid parental involvement. This provision would only make those scenarios more widespread.).
- Like public schools, public health care will cover everyone in the country, including illegal immigrants (so much for the rule of law… this is the era of empathetic justice!).
- Doctors’ education, residencies, and pay will all be controlled by the new Health Care administration.
- Like students who need more services (either in the gifted or special education direction), health care rationing for anyone who needs more than check-ups will be in effect. The list goes on.
Like health care, education in the early 1800’s was not universally available. Of course, the poor, and especially poor children, suffer for that.
Public education gave my mother and her brothers opportunities that were never available to her parents, first generation immigrants who never even finished grade school… oh, wait, that’s right: my grandparents scraped up the money to send my mom and three uncles to Catholic schools. Ok, scratch that example…
Anyways, public education can be a great leg up, a route out of poverty, like it is for the kids in the D.C. schools… oh, that’s right, they cancelled the school voucher program, so all the D.C. kids are stuck in one of the worst and most expensive school districts in the country. (Not the Obama girls, of course; they’re going to a private school, as have all of the previous presidents’ children. Yes, I know Amy Carter went to a D.C. public school… briefly. And then reality overcame ideology and the Carters decided what everyone else with the money to do it decides: my child’s future is not going to wait for the public schools to get their act together in a year or two… or twenty.)
Ok, seriously, public education can be a good thing.
But private school students and homeschoolers routinely outperform them at less cost.
Why didn’t we improve the private options by encouraging investment in private schools? Create locally-driven town schools where they were needed and wanted? No, instead we created a lesser system that was more widespread, made it mandatory, persecuted the private options or opting out, paid the specialists involved less, and invented a massive, centralized bureaucracy to control the whole thing. Now, the papers regularly lament the lack of quality in our education system, offering one solution: more money.
Do we seriously believe that doing the exact same thing to health care is going to yield anything but the exact same results?