Elian Gonzalez Case Exposes Choice Hypocrisy

Published May 1, 2000

A number of commentators who strongly oppose allowing parents to choose schools for their children have nonetheless come out in favor of allowing the father of refugee Elian Gonzalez to choose whether the 6-year-old should be returned to the communist-controlled island of Cuba.

Pointing out this contradiction in a recent commentary, Cato Institute fellow Tom G. Palmer noted “hypocrisy” was the mildest term he could use to describe such behavior.

Palmer recounts how the National Council of Churches last May called on its members to oppose school vouchers, which put parents in charge of the education of their children and allow them to decide which school their children will attend. Yet in January, the NCC issued a statement in support of Elian’s father and his statement that “I should be in charge of my child’s education, where he goes to school, and what kind of schooling he receives.”

It also was last May when Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen opposed giving U.S. parents more freedom to choose schools for their children. Yet in January, Cohen said Elian’s father is the one “who speaks for the child.” Cohen’s fellow Post columnist Mary McCarthy also strongly opposes helping U.S. parents choose schools with vouchers, but she backs “the sacred right” of Elian’s father to choose for the 6-year-old.

While Palmer agrees there is a strong case for having parents decide, he argues that sending Elian back to Cuba “would be a grave injustice” because it “is effectively a one-way trip to prison.”

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.

For more information …

Tom G. Palmer’s Cato Institute commentary, “A New Twist on Parental Choice,” is available on the Cato Institute’s Web site at http://www.cato.org/dailys/03-01-00.html.