One argument from the “neighborhood effect” for nationalizing education is that it might otherwise be impossible to provide the common core of values deemed requisite for social stability. The issue can be illustrated concretely in terms of schools run by religious groups. Schools run by different religious groups will, it can be argued, instill sets of values that are inconsistent with one another and with those instilled in other schools; in this way they convert education into a divisive rather than a unifying force.
Carried to its extreme, this argument would call not only for governmentally administered schools, but also for compulsory attendance at such schools. Existing arrangements in the United States and most other Western countries are a halfway house. Governmentally administered schools are available but not required. However, the link between the financing of education and its administration places other schools at a disadvantage: they get the benefit of little or none of the governmental funds spent on education – a situation that has been the source of much political dispute, particularly, of course, in France. The elimination of this disadvantage might, it is feared, greatly strengthen the parochial schools and so render the problem of achieving a common core of values even more difficult.
This argument has considerable force. But it is by no means clear either that it is valid or that the denationalizing of education would have the effects suggested. On grounds of principle, it conflicts with the preservation of freedom itself; indeed, this conflict was a major factor retarding the development of state education in England. Here is another of those vague boundaries that it is easier to mention than to define.
In terms of effects, the denationalization of education would widen the range of Maine quick loan choice available to parents. Given, as at present, that parents can send their children to government schools without special payment, very few can or will send them to other schools unless they too are subsidized.
Parochial schools are at a disadvantage in not getting any of the public funds devoted to education; but they have the compensating advantage of being funded by institutions that are willing to subsidize them and can raise funds to do so, whereas there are few other sources of subsidies for schools.
Let the subsidy be made available to parents regardless where they send their children – provided only that it be to schools that satisfy specified minimum standards – and a wide variety of schools will spring up to meet the demand. Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible. In general, they can now take this step only by simultaneously changing their place of residence.
For the rest, they can express their views only through cumbrous political channels. Perhaps a somewhat greater degree of freedom to choose schools could be made available also in a governmentally administered system, but it is hard to see how it could be carried very far in view of the obligation to provide every child with a place. The final result may therefore well be less rather than more parochial education.