Saturday, August 22, 2009

The "Public" options

The current debate over President Obama's proposed overhaul of health care in the U.S. has raised an issue I find intriguing particularly related to the way many Christians have reacted to the so-called "Public Option" germane his plan.

Of course, by "Public Option", Obama means to have a government-run insurance option as part of a new health care system. So, "Public" means a tax-funded, government administered insurance program. There are several concerns with such a suggestion. There is great concern that a government subsidized insurance program will undercut private insurance companies and drive them out of business leaving the government as the sole healthcare administrator. Related to this concern is what happened in Hawaii a few years back when a so-called public option was signed in to law and hordes of Hawaiians dropped their private coverage to take use the government "insurance" and overran the state bank. The public program was haulted inside a year when it became obvious it would bankrupt the state treasury. There are related concerns about the number of doctors, the need to ration health care (like in Canada and the U.K.), etc. But who can deny the biggest red flag about a government run program? The government is not good at running much of anything. Who really thinks the government would do a good job running or administrating a small program let alone one this massive?

Here's where I am intrigued as it relates to the way professing Christians seem to be talking about Obama's "public option". I have been talking to many Christians about this debate. I have yet to find one Christian who thinks a public option would be good for anyone. I have heard some believers even speak of the suggestion of a public option like Obama's as unethical, even immoral (specifically related to some of Obama's provisions for public funds being used for abortions). I think it's fair to say there is widespread opposition among Christians toward the suggestion of a public option concerning health care. There is a sizable group of Christians that are vigilantly opposed to the so-called public option. Government can't do this job, they shouldn't do this job, they should stay out of it.

I generally agree with this sentiment.

But why are so many Christians comfortable with public schools?

The government running schools and education makes far less biblical sense to me than running health care, yet the majority of professing believers seem perfectly OK with it.



Michael Lockridge said...

Unfortunately, I am not sure that the Church can manage either public health or public education. For my first two children we attempted to use our Church Christian school. The administrator was a good friend, and I really wanted to believe in this system.

Unfortunately, even with generous assistance we could not afford the tuition. We opted for public education due to economics. Though I appreciated the ideals of Christian education, the reality was that it was an option only for the affluent.

Modern governments have a vested interest in maintaining some form of public education. The populace must be able to function in and maintain a modern infrastructure. This need has superseded the original intent of Church education, which was to allow the populace to read and understand the Scriptures.

How much education is enough? How much health care is necessary? If our people can read, write, and are treated when broken or bleeding, is that enough? Or must there be more?

Poverty should not hinder basic education or fundamental health, and a culture as affluent as our own should be able to easily provide what is minimal. Too many bells and too many whistles can break whatever system we create, but too few services can break the spirits of the people.

I have participated in conversations between committed communists and socialists and their more conservative counterparts. Rarely was the disagreement about what must be done. The disagreement was about how to do it.

These are, indeed, interesting times.


Reepicheep said...

I hear what you're saying Michael, and I respect your comments.

Christian school can't be an option for only the affluent. We do our best to make sure any family that wants to send their child to our school has as much financial aid as they truly need.

If we couldn't affort Christian School, we'd home school. Too much is at stake related to discipleship to give them to Caesar for 9000 hours before 9th grade.

I can see the government's purpose in maintaining some form of public education, but as it relates to the key years of spiritual formation (approximately before age 16 or so), I don't think Christians should send their kids to be trained by it.

Zach said...

Totally agree, Tony. Government shouldn't be involved in either health care or education (or roads, or foreign aid, or most things in which it's currently involved).

We have an interesting mix at our house, with our eldest enrolled at St. James Catholic high school, our middle child being homeschooled, and our first grader attending the local government school (he will be homeschooled eventually, but is autistic and needs services that we cannot provide at home).

This year marks our first experience with private school of any kind, and St. James has been wonderful in evaluating our ability to pay and awarding the right level of financial aid. It's still a sacrifice, don't get me wrong, but it's so worth it.

Two points to note regarding the cost of Christian education. First, the growth--and growing cost--of government at all levels has had a "crowding out effect" on charitable giving in general. Christian schools and hospitals should be rich recipients of tuition-offsetting Christian philanthropy, but as Arthur Brooks' excellent book Who Really Cares? illustrates, each $1 spent on government "charity" results in $0.50 less donated to private charities.

Second, tuition at Catholic schools was formerly kept low because the teachers were primarily priests and consecrated religious, whose vows of poverty precluded their receiving the salaries that lay teachers require to support their families. At most Catholic schools today, only a handful of the formerly ubiquitous nuns remain--meaning that overhead costs have skyrocketed.

I wonder if there hasn't been a similar phenomenon in Protestant schools. Shows like Little House on the Prairie always show single young women as teachers, not married men and women with families to support.

Anonymous said...

I know that it depends on the situation and everyones perspective. I am personally against any government run health care, but am not against public education. Growing up in our church more kids were sexually active/got pregnant that were attending christian schools then public. Being a product of public education all my whole life, I found public schools to be the litmnus test for what my parents/church were telling me not to do or how to live. Also, the bigger influences of young people is not the educational vehicle but parental input/support and their friends. Just like education everyone can do things on their own and take advantage of what is offered by the public but not relying on it.


Frontier Forest said...

I find it interesting that most of the millions of young Obamanite supports who worked so hard for his election, seem to be sitting on the side lines, staying surprisingly quiet on the crucial issue of Health Care reform or deform. Maybe since most of the young folks have health care themselves, they just aren’t that concerned about the 15% that don’t? Or maybe they don’t care, or better yet, just can’t grasp the horrible long term results of such an inept plan. They wanted change and all of us got to live with that radical change.

Daren said...

The public school vs. christian school debate seems to be only among the middle/upper class. In my neighborhood, getting your diploma is a major victory. The reason for this is obvious. Outside of a handful of Christian schools in America's inner cities, few Christian educators care about the poor enough to move into their neighborhood and begin formal Christian education designed and affordable to the urban poor. While I applaud Westminister's willingness to provide scholarships, it still leaves the majority of KC's urban poor with no option for Christian education. I would love to discuss how could we get the excellence of Westminister into Ivanhoe or McAdams here in Wichita. I am proud of our World Impact Christian schools which provide at least some of the poorest in LA, Chester, and Newark with a real Christian education option. I would love to see a group of Christian educators take their belief in the priority of Christian education and begin to seek out a strategy to be obedient to Scripture's commands to look after the poor by starting Christian schools in some of our midwest inner cities. My (future) kid will be the first one at the door.

Reepicheep said...

I appreciate your zeal. I'm all for anything we can do to provide Christian Ed. in the urban core.
Hopefully we grow strong enough and God grants us the ability to provide a school in the inner city also. First things first. I have to work in the context I am placed first, still battling on that front let alone head to the urban core to do the same.

Frankly, as we train people with a Christian worldview I hope we'll have MANY willing educators work at your World Impact schools.

Rick Calohan said...

Being Presbyterian I have always felt the call for education that was rooted in Calvin's Geneva which in turn became the catalyst for Knox's Scotland.

When the church fails to reform itself it also fails to reform a community, a city, a state, and a nation.

I have witnessed from afar and near what Westminster Christian Academy is doing by presenting a well rounded education in not only the basics but in Biblical Christianty.

While many of our friends children attend Olathe schools which in itself is not a bad school district, I can't help but wonder how can you send your children to a godless human secular progressive school that conflicts with your faith.

I attned public schools in the Kansas City Public School District, when intergration became official it tore up neighborhoods. While I do not codone discrimination based on race I also do not codone discrimination based on income. When busing became official in the mid 1970s many of my neighbors who had the means either sent their kids to Catholic Schools or moved North of the River. Thus the district was drained of not only financial support but also community involvement.

While John and our next child could go to the Olathe Public Schools and get a fine education I feel it is my duty to see that they get the best education and for me that shall be Westminster Christian Accademy for it was the church and the school and the fact that Tony, Nathan, and Brian live in the same zip code as I that I know our Covenant children will receive a Covenant education provided by our Covenant church and our Covenant community.