The institutional straw man defense of taxpayer-funded school vouchers continues.
In an opinion piece Don’t Blame Vouchers for Poor Science Instruction another American Enterprise Institute scholar takes the plunge. Writes Michael Q. McShane in the Tallahassee Democrat:
Re: “Science has a spot in voucher debates” (My View, April 16). I share Brandon Haught’s desire for sound science education in Florida. I, too, am troubled that schools teach creationism, a nonscientific, a historical account of the origins of our world and our species. Where Haught and I differ, though, is in our interpretation of the role school vouchers play in promoting such teaching. Let me start with some facts. Gallup polling consistently finds about 45 percent of the population of the United States believing in creationism. Note, this cannot possibly be attributed to the pernicious effects of vouchers, or private schools writ large, as approximately one half of 1 percent of students participate in voucher programs and at no point in the last 50 years have more than 12 percent or so of students attended private schools.
McShane knows that nobody is blaming vouchers or privatization for poor science scores, and he’s using creative license to deflect the facts. Here’s what Haught wrote in the Democrat on April 15:
Many private schools have a rigorous science curriculum and instill a sense of wonder and thirst for scientific exploration in their students. However, at least 164 voucher-accepting private schools in Florida teach creationism. Many of those schools are proud of this fact. It’s a successful selling point. And they get away with it because they aren’t held accountable for what goes on in the science lab.
As former Marine, one-time science teacher and published author, Haught represents the sort of intellectual threat guys like McShane are tasked with attacking. Similar action was taken against Dr. Rosa Castro Feinberg for pointing out the flaws and failures that Florida’s voucher program has in serving English language learners. McShane assails public schools’ record on teaching evolution consists by pointing out that only “28 percent of them consistently implement National Research Council standards for the teaching of evolution.” Haught, a science teacher like this writer, knows that this is a real eye-roller. Few of the nation’s science teachers utilize the NRC standards as they are governed by their own state’s standards. McShane, who touts his resume as a former inner-city high school teacher, knows this too. It’s furthermore puzzling for someone who has been critical of Common Core Standards to cherry-pick any set of standards to make a policy argument.
When extremely bright and thoughtful people like McShane need to massage data in a manner which is easily dispatched to defend vouchers, the jig is up. Left with only feel-goods like “choice” or “rescuing families from failing schools,” advocates for taxpayer-funded vouchers as public policy can no longer intellectually defend it well enough for them to be expanded to the lofty status they want.