To the Editor:
Edd Doerr (“Voucher Plan Disregards Wishes of D.C. Voters,” Letters, March 16, 2005) complains that a number of voucher plans “were adopted not by the people, but by political fiat.” Nonsense. These plans were the result of the work of duly elected representative assemblies, not arbitrary decree.
Initiatives and referendums, to which Mr. Doerr often refers favorably, are certainly legitimate means of expressing the popular will, but, like legislative assemblies, they sometimes fall prey to the influence of well-organized special-interest groups, (for example, education associations), or the politics of fear, (for example, anti-Catholicism).
Recall, for example, that in 1922, Oregon voters approved a petition initiative, driven in large measure by religious prejudice, requiring nearly all children between the ages of 8 and 16 to attend public schools. During the legal proceedings that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Pierce v. Society of Sisters decision in 1925, defenders of the law admitted that its purpose was to destroy private schools.
A legitimate means of expressing the popular will does not guarantee a legitimate end.
James C. Carper
Professor and Chair
Department of Educational Studies
University of South Carolina