L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 128, July 2, 2001
Choice and Diversity go Hand-In-Hand in Education
by Jack VanNoord
Special to TLE
Our plans to go to St. Martinique during spring break never materialized. So, my wife and I packed the kids into the minivan and went to Indianapolis to visit my sister and her family. Thursday morning, I tagged along when my sister drove her daughter to school.
My sister and her family live in a very nice neighborhood, so if they had chosen the Indianapolis Public School system, their daughter would have gone to one of IPS' better schools. But they didn't chose to do that.
As a partner in one of Indianapolis' most reputable law firms, my brother-in-law earns enough to send their daughter to one of Indianapolis' exclusive prep schools. But they didn't chose to do that, either.
Instead, they chose to send their daughter to The Oaks Academy in the heart of Indianapolis in a neighborhood that is a mix of houses, empty lots, and boarded up buildings.
The Oaks Academy opened it's doors in September 1998. It is a Christian school structured on a classical education model. Third graders read Homer's Iliad. Fourth graders learn Latin.
The educational excellence the school offers is drawing families from all over Indianapolis. Although the school is in a neighborhood that is 95 percent black, The Oaks is quickly realizing it's goal of having an equal mix of black and white, urban and suburban students. It would be almost impossible to find a government-run school that is as racially and economically diverse as The Oaks.
Yet, the idea persists that when we eventually do away with government-run schools, we will all choose to segregate ourselves into little enclaves according to race and income. The Oaks Academy stands as a testament to the contrary. Not only are parent-run schools like the Oaks more racially diverse than government schools, but according to Professor Jay Greene of the University of Texas, black and white students are more likely to be found sitting side-by-side in the lunchroom. Choice in education doesn't stifle integration, it fosters it.
The Oaks Academy and schools like it should be a viable option for every family who desires it. But, not every parent can afford to pay --via taxes-- for a seat in the public school that his child will never occupy, and then pay the tuition at the school he really want his child to attend. Parents should be allowed to keep their educational dollars so they can send their children to the school THEY feel best meets their children's academic, social, emotional and spiritual needs.
Education in this country is a shadow of what it could be. Schools like The Oaks Academy could be the norm, not the exception. But first we must take control of our children's education out the hands of politicians, teachers' unions and the state and put it back in the hands of parents in the form of tax credits.
Next time you are in Indianapolis, visit The Oaks Academy. Witness for yourself one iteration of what education in America will look like when we separate school and state.
One final note: Shortly after The Oaks Academy purchased it's current building from the Indiana Public School system, it received a phone call. It seems that thirty years earlier, when the Indiana Public School system had renovated the building, it removed some leaded glass windows with a quote incorporated into the design.
The caller had the windows in his basement! Today, the windows and the message they contain once again hang on either side of the main entrance. The words that have returned to 2301 North Park Avenue after a thirty year absence? "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free."