There's a local fundamentalist here trying to sell the idea of a non-sectarian charter school to the local district. It turns out that one of the school board members is a member of the church. Waring Fincke, our local rainbow-suspenders- wearing liberal-gadfly, wrote a wonderful letter asking for their non-sectarian approach to teaching sex education, their anti-harassment policy position on LGBTQ, and whether evolution would appear in their curriculum. So far, no real response. They've clung to the "it's about a choice in values for the parents" argument without really saying why those values should be subsidized by the tax payer.
I thought, there's only one appropriate response to this. We need a Pastafarian solution.
Public schools are unfairly blamed
Let’s include Pastafarians in debate on charter school
His Holiness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, made His first public appearance in a May 2005 open letter to the Kansas state school board. He flew in to save Kansans from their own self-seriousness as public officials, under pressure from fundamentalist groups, considered whether to include Intelligent Design in their science curriculum. His Noodliness serves as a reminder that, in these times, when politics has become a dangerous joke, only comedy can tell the truth.
The letter was written by a devout Pastafarian, as members of the church call themselves, and reminded the board that there were many different versions of Intelligent Design. He urged the board to include Pastafarianism's, equally scientific, view of Intelligent Design which holds that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Pastafarianism doesn’t stop there. It provides an equally scientific account of global warming, insightfully noting the empirically demonstrable relationship between a decrease in the overall number of pirates during the past 100 years and a simultaneous increase in global temperature. The letter demanded equal time with the non-spaghetti based fundamentalist Christian version of I.D. and, in order to offset global warming, encouraged people to talk like pirates. (For all the revealing details, see www.venganza.org)
Now, even though the Church of the FSM isn’t a real church – like the First Baptist Church or Scientology, say – I believe Pastafarianism holds an answer to questions about whether West Bend should go forward with a values-based charter school.
Typically, charter schools have been sold to the public on the basis of a marketing campaign emphasizing the quality of their performance. These campaigns have depended more on glowing press reports and for-profit industry based advertising schemes rather than on actual data.
Diane Ravitch, one of the original proponents of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind, explained her change of heart in the Wall Street Journal back on March 10, 2010 – after she’d carefully uncovered the chasm between the inflated promises and the reality of charter school performance. It turns out, for instance, that when charter schools are measured against public schools, only 17 percent of charter schools did better, 46 percent were roughly the same, and 37 percent were worse.
Pastor Dunford’s charter school promotion rides a wave of resentment directed against public schools, but this resentment turns out to be an empty paper sack.
Consider this: Even though Gallup’s annual poll on education shows Americans to be “overwhelmingly dissatisfied” with the quality of America’s schools, “77 percent of public school parents award their own child’s public school a grade of A or B, the highest level of approval since the question was first asked in 1985.”
Another even more urgent fact: The anti-public-school lobbyists and marketing firms have stoked this dissatisfaction by blaming teachers and, especially, teachers unions. To believe that teachers are at fault for our declining international educational standing requires one to ignore a couple of well-known studies from the National Bureau of Economic Research going back to 1998. The data clearly shows that the quality of teachers accounts for only 7.5 to 10 percent of any increase in student test scores and for only about 10 to 20 percent in performance outcomes. Shockingly, the major factor determining student success in school is poverty. After that, parental participation.
So arguing for charter schools on the basis of improved performance is iffy at best. But if performance isn’t an issue and financing doesn’t have any advantages, why would anyone want to drain funding from our already overstretched public school budgets in order to create a charter school? Well, how about the values argument?
Back to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. What if a local pastor from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wanted to create a “values-based” charter school to teach the core values of Pastafarianism: clean living, eating carbohydrates and talking like a pirate?
Imagine if we discovered that a number of the school board members promoting a FSM Charter School were Pastafarians themselves and had hidden this fact from public view? Would we have reason to suspect they had conducted their noodley business behind the backs of the public they are sworn to represent?
Even if they received no financial benefit from moving tax dollars away from the public schools and into the coffers of a Pastafarian prep school, wouldn’t someone raise an eyebrow and wonder whether there wasn’t a hidden agenda here, different from “offering parents a choice”? Maybe their real agenda isn’t delivering good public education at all – since the data suggest that public education, certainly in West Bend, is already doing a great job – but rather teaching students to carbo-load and talk like pirates.
Wouldn’t the public have a right to know? Arrrrrr?