Paul Jacob

But as Neal McCluskey, an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute, points out:

[A] very large percentage of the people living and paying taxes in Cobb County are Christians. Why is it acceptable to force them to use their tax dollars to teach their children something to which they strenuously object, but unacceptable to place a sticker on textbooks that asks other people to consider, even for a moment, beliefs contrary to their own?

That question gets to the crux of the problem: No matter how divergent their views and values, all Americans are forced to pay for public schools, no matter what the educators teach.

But how can millions of people get what they want out of a one-size-fits-all-so-deal-with-it system? The answer is that they cannot. And the fight over evolution is just one of numerous struggles precipitated by a system for which all must pay, but only a select few control.

In virtually every facet of our lives we have an abundance of choices, an important fact I often call attention to in my Common Sense e-letter: We have consumer power, and this power is nothing to sneeze at. So why don't we have it in education? For all the lip service we hear about the value of diversity, the system squelches diversity of thought. Educational decisions must, as Cato's McCluskey says, become "matters of consumer choice, not political power."

There appears to be a never-ending supply of new educational ideas, new ways to teach and learn more effectively. And there are strong feelings on what should be taught and what should not. Some make good sense to most of us. Some will never gain a consensus in support. And some just make for good items in "news of the bizarre." But the funny thing is, we don't all agree which ideas are which.

Which is why, actually, the important thing is for people to make their own choices and thus create a marketplace where the decision-making power is placed in the right hands: the parents'.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.