Pluralistic society best argument for school choice

Stacey Abrams appeared maskless in photos alongside elementary school children. Twitter/@staceyabrams

Listen to this story (5 minutes)

  • It's time to fully acknowledge the differences that we have in society and find ways to alleviate endless cultural wars. School choice expansion can help us accomplish that goal.

Private school enrollment is surging across North Carolina. The surge—the greatest in 50 years—is no surprise for exasperated parents who tried to navigate public school shutdowns during COVID-19 lockdowns. While the demand for school choice is on the uptick across the country—it’s not solely because of lockdowns—but differing views about education. In an increasingly pluralistic society, differing worldviews about education style, human sexuality, and spiritual formation must be acknowledged. Simply put, there should be more educational freedoms because of our cultural differences. 

The coronavirus pandemic kicked off the accelerated demands for school choice since families have differing views about shuttering schools, vaccine, or mask mandates. 

The demand only intensifies as evidence piles up revealing left-wing progressivism, the established faith of many public-school administrators and bureaucracies, is increasingly foisted on students. One only must pay attention to a fraction of the news to see the clash of opposing worldviews. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has called for “a drag queen for every school.” Understandably, that rallying cry and other social engineering attempts will not sit well with many public school parents. 

The solution is more choice. Parents who want a more traditional education in a more traditional sexual environment should have options. After all, the rights of conscience and freedom to pursue spiritual formation do not end in an educational setting. Sound pedagogy is not the same for every family, and this realization only rises in an environment where parents can access more information and research is available on the internet.   

Likewise, a choice should be available for families who want to deviate further from long-established sexual norms. If drag queens are deemed a vital part of the educational experience, some parents will find a market for that. Furthermore, some schools may want to take the NEA’s advice and use terms like “birthing parent” instead of “mother.” The marketplace can offer solutions to our differences instead of endless bickering and cultural rifts because of an unnecessary state monopoly over education.

Janet Nunn helps her granddaughter, Nariah, with schoolwork. (Image from

The U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed a right for tuition assistance at religious learning institutions in Carson v. Maykin, which opens further the possibilities of ending state secularism as the preferred religion. A wrong that has persisted for decades should come to an end. After the decision was handed down, many on the left fretted that Muslims may now get to attend Islamic schools, pointing out this possibility on social media hoping that it would enrage those on the right. Yet, this is proving not to be the case. Most parents and families—regardless of political or religious views—just desire more options. Rational people are not against Christian students finding a supportive environment or Muslim students doing the same.

“The U.S. remains the only major nation where secular government instruction remains the only option for public schools,” declares Bob Luebke, senior fellow at the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “It’s time our education system respects individual freedom and recognizes all Americans’ different values and beliefs. Embracing educational pluralism is the antidote to these shortcomings. Pluralism is the best way to honor our ideals and individual freedom. It’s the way to end the interminable battles over religious and cultural issues.” 

The factory education model makes more sense in homogeneous communities that were more prevalent in 1950s America. The only advantage to one-size-fits-all models in education is not for students but for many politicians and special interests who benefit from a robust educational bureaucracy that rewards the power structure at the expense of parents and students being held hostage.

Declining enrollment in public schools doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad schools. In many cases, the traditional public-school model is not a good fit for every child. Even a top-rated school may not be the best for a specific student. COVID-19 highlighted that school choice is essential going forward, and now the further rise of religious and political pluralism only makes it even more obvious. 

Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation. 

More from Ray Nothstine