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The Education Liberator, Vol. 2, No. 8, October 1996

From the Editor

Weathering the Storm
(Vouchers Redux)

As Hurricane Fran pushed ashore in North Carolina, the TV weather folks assured us that by the time she reached Durham (far inland), she would be too weak to do more than snap a few small tree branches. I thought of that later as I sat in the dark listening to hundred-mile-an-hour winds howl around my house. And I thought of it again when a neighbor's ancient pecan tree came out of the ground, roots and all, and smashed into my back porch, destroying part of the roof.

Prognosticating is risky, whether you're predicting the course and strength of a hurricane, or guessing at the response you'll get from challenging readers of a newsletter such as The Education Liberator. In our July issue we ripped the idea of tax-funded school vouchers, then invited pro-voucherites to tell us where we were wrong.

We predicted among ourselves that one or two brave souls, at most, would take up our gauntlet. Hadn't Douglas Dewey and Marshall Fritz convincingly shown that vouchers would expand welfare dependency to parents and students not currently on the education dole? What more could be said? Plenty, it so happened. Pro-voucher letters, articles, e-mails, and postcards poured in as we reaped a whirlwind we had not foreseen.

Strictly speaking, though, our prediction held up. Few, if any, of the writers tried to refute the dependency issue to which we had specifically invited responses. Some conceded that dependency might expand with vouchers, but argued this would be a lesser evil than denying a degree of freedom to the vast majority of children currently confined to choiceless government schools. (This strikes me as a utilitarian argument masquerading as a moral one.)

Since no one, in our opinion, met the dependency issue head-on, we present in these pages a sampling of what people actually did offer in defense of vouchers. I am sorry we do not have room to publish all of the responses, but there will be future Education Liberators, and the debate over vouchers will not go away soon.

Meanwhile, as I write, Hurricane Hortense is churning up the Atlantic (whatever happened to Gustav?) and the weather folks are saying she's going to stay far to sea. Maybe I should buy candles and extra radio batteries just in case. And next time we decide to issue a challenge to our readers, maybe I'll take the precaution of first renting a large post office box.

Steve Smith

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