We buy a small utility truck and turn it into a combination bookmobile and performance art platform. We drive it to areas benighted by ignorance and superstition. Our noble mission: bringing new ideas to people stuck in the failures of the past.
I’m talking about such backward areas as Madison’s Dudgeon-Monroe and Vilas neighborhoods, Willy Street, the professoriate’s tweedy digs in University Heights and Shorewood Hills, wherever liberals live.
Yes, we bring to these backward areas lessons in liberty, divine the mysteries of a competitive marketplace, and explain consumer choice — the virtues that made the U.S. the economic powerhouse and beacon of freedom to the (outside) world.
The mobile library will lend the works of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Amity Schlaes, and Robert Samuelson. Bill Buckley’s Firing Line program will play on the wide-screen monitors to a gobsmacked populace. We illustrate the basic concepts of a free market economy via live puppet shows; the doughty Adam Smith battles the evil Karl Marx. A Ronald Reagan re-enactor hands out jelly beans to the kiddies and puts an axe to the teachers union monopoly.
We got to do something because my Madison neighbors just aren’t getting this free market thing, judging by the hairball being coughed up hereabouts when Gov. Scott Walker proposed expanding the school voucher system.
Now, understand, the governor would expand school choice only to big school districts (at least 4,000 students) that include two failing schools, as judged by the State of Wisconsin. Guess what? We got 12 of them things right here in Madtown.
"Most people would reject the notion that we have failing schools in Madison," sniffed Madison school board member Ed Hughes, thereby proving the Lee Dreyfus maxim about Madison being so many square miles surrounded by reality.
Kaleem Caire would be the exception that proves the rule. The clear-eyed Madison Urban League president calls shame on a district that graduates only 48% of its black students; 56% of its Latinos. Only 7% of African-American students tested as college-ready on the ACT test in 2010. For Latinos, the percentage is 14.
Caire eschewed the usual snake oil of higher taxes for an actual solution: a charter school focused on serving minority-race students. It would hold school 23 days longer than the the public schools and each school day would be two hours longer. Boys would wear jackets and ties and do community work.
"We need entirely different schools to fit the needs of students, not the teachers and administrators," Caire said.
Oh, one more thing, his school would be non-union.
Down the school board voted his charter school, 5-2. The minority race president of the school board who voted in the minority now faces an challenge in this Spring’s putatively non-partisan election from a professional Democrat endorsed by the county Democratic party and (watch for the redundancy) the teachers union.
The race card being thus unavailable, school board member Hughes attacks vouchers as "simply an attack on local control and the whole nature of public education."
Yet, he might ask the 1,041 Madison School District students who opted out of his public schools through the state’s open enrollment option last year. As the consumer of those government services, those taxpayers might argue that they are exercising that most local of controls: parental control.
Indeed, the state’s contribution toward education follows the child — just as it does under the current voucher program in Milwaukee, just as it would under the Walker expansion.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi demonstrate why our free market Van of Hope must also teach elemental logic. Both potentates condemn school choice, saying it wouldn’t get at the root cause of whatever is troubling our schools — "specifically poverty," the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
It never occurs to these college graduates that it’s the other way around: ignorance causes poverty. Our van would also teach history: Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty and poverty won.
If I’m driving the Van of Hope, I’m taking State Senate president Mike Ellis for a little ride, if you know what I mean. (And I think you do.) Ellis wants each school district to hold a referendum before permitting school choice.
Senator Mike, I don’t care if the vote is 99 to 1. Why deny that one child a choice?
Think of it this way: It is 1995. You put to referendum a choice in computer platforms. Microsoft PC edges out Apple iMac by 2 votes. You can still buy Apple stuff, but only after paying Microsoft PC for computers you don’t use.
Where is the incentive for Microsoft to hustle a better product with a government assured revenue stream?
I can see our Van of Hope now. D-Day Lewis and Bluto Blutarski, blow torches blazing, are doing the metal work. They drive it to the Farmers Market on the Square. They blow the steam whistle and shout, "Ramming speed!"