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Charter Schools Blur Line Between Religious, Public Education

From the standpoint of democratic theory, the basic problem with school choice is this: Religious belief and affiliation can be vital sites of civic learning for many Americans. In their temples, mosques, and megachurches, Americans learn to cooperate, organize, identify, and engage with social problems. These skills help them develop the kind of bonding capital that forms the basis of a democracy; from that platform, citizens can develop the bridging capital that allows them to identify with and engage civil society as a whole.

On the other hand, some religious groups preach beliefs and false information that are hostile to fellow citizens and dangerous to civil society. Any old bonding capital is not good enough. As John Dewey once observed, belonging to a gang may provide a member with opportunities for connection and growth, but toward the pursuit of destructive ends. The question of what to do with religion in school-choice programs is how, or whether, to keep the baby while ditching the bathwater.