The Right to Education? (Pt. 4)

In my last post I laid out what Wayne Grudem and Michael Walzer take to be a major issue in our education system, namely that an unequal education system perpetuates an economic underclass in our society and that unequal education opportunities often fall along racial lines. In essence unequal education is a justice issue. Today we will take a look at some of the solutions that Grudem and Walzer propose in order to alleviate this problem.

The Solution – Grudem

Wayne Grudem believes that it is appropriate for the government to provide enough funding so that everyone is able to gain enough skills and education to earn a living.[1] He knows that the problem is a failure to educate children to be active and productive citizens of their society and he advocates for a school voucher system, funded primarily by the government, as the solution to the threat. He says that “the most beneficial change in our schooling system would be a system of school vouchers provided by the local government to pay for the education of the children in each family.”[2] Parents would then be able to use these vouchers to pay for the fees required by the school that they choose for their children. He believes that privately run schools could do better job educating children than government run schools could. In addition to the claim that privately run schools could educate children in a more efficient manner, he believes that this fulfills the biblical mandate which calls for parents to be the party primarily responsible for training their children.[3]

The Solution – Walzer

Michael Walzer advocates exploring educational vouchers as a solution to the problem. He says that because private schools are expensive parents have little control over their children’s education. Thus instituting a voucher system seems at the surface to get rid of the inequality that arises as an accident of birth.[4] The voucher plan would make tax money available for education purposes, thus parents could spend this money on the open market. This would guarantee that children go to a school with other children who are similar in interests and ideologies. In one way, this is a pluralist proposal. It would strengthen many traditional organizations, such as religious institutions.[5] It “would help create a society where there was no strong geographic base or customary loyalty, but rather a large and changing variety of ideological groups.”[6] However, it might also serve to inhibit diversity within schools, thus children would not be exposed to a variety of ideas and cultures. Walzer concludes by saying that a voucher plan is a possible solution, and that it makes sense,[7] however it is not the only solution.

The Solution – From Within the Church

Last time I introduced a couple of former classmates that I had while at Fuller seminary, Jamal Scarlett and Randy Demary. Both of these students also provided “solutions” to the issue at hand. Both students believed that the schools, whether they be public or private, and parents should work together to solve the problem. Jamal Scarlett said that it is in part due to broken families and faulty government structures that children find themselves receiving an education which keeps them in a cycle of despair and failure. Thus if children are to be reestablished into the community, both family and governmental structures must be strengthened. Randy Demary believes that parents “must confront the system, protest, move, tutor, and seek out afterschool programs”[8] if the school district is failing to do its job educating the children. Also, the government has a responsibility to respond to such complaints, making sure that such complaints do not arise in the first place by ensuring a quality education for all.[9]

By examining Grudem’s and Walzer’s solutions to the problem of a lack of quality education, as well as Jamal Scarlett’s and Randy Demary’s solutions, we have seen that there is a pretty common belief that the provision of a quality education is the responsibility of families and government. In other words, both Grudem and Walzer have much in common when it comes to the practical nature of the solution. However as we will see in our next blog, their theoretical approach to the solution, their basis for their proposals, is radically different…..

[1] Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 281.

[2] Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 250.

[3] Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 247.

[4] Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, 218.

[5] Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, 218.

[6] Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, 218.

[7] Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, 219.

[8] Demary, E-mail Interview, December 4 2010.

[9] Demary, E-mail Interview, December 4 2010.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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