Samuel Goldman has a great post talking about what the Ultra-Orthodox Jews of Ramapo, NY, have done to the public school system there. They began moving to the town en masse in the 1970s, and now constitute a majority. They are an extreme sect of Hasidic Judaism, and reportedly dislike outsiders, and are hostile even to other Jews who don’t share their highly particular religious commitments. Because of this, they have taken over the local school board and begun shutting down public schools. Why should they use their tax dollars to fund institutions they don’t use (the thinking goes)? After all, they won democratic elections. Goldman writes:
Contributors to The American Conservative, myself included, often defend local control against the centralized decision-making. The developments in Rockland County illustrate a weakness of that position. Local control is attractive when citizens of a particular jurisdiction have a shared understanding of their interests, which may be different from those in neighboring towns, counties, and so on. It can get ugly when they are internally split between fundamentally opposed goals.
Paging Alasdair MacIntyre!
Goldman says that using public money for school vouchers are probably the best solution for schooling in the America we are fast becoming:
Although the situation in East Ramapo is extreme, the tension that it reflects will only become more frequent as our common culture fractures. Rather than fighting for control of a single education system, we should figure out ways to let all students go to schools that best suit their intellectual, religious, and cultural needs.
You have a better idea?