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Oxymoronese and 'Free Public Schools'

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It's one thing to intentionally speak in oxymoronics for the sake of humor or irony, but some people speak Oxymoronese as though it's an actual language.

This language, as an example, conflates "public" with "private but open to the public" and is inadequate in distinguishing between such concepts as "coercive" and "volitional."

Examples of Oxymoronese occurred repeatedly in a recent Associated Press article about arguments over giving public funds to private schools.

The first Oxymoronese concept in the article pops up in the phrase "federal free or reduced-price school lunch program."

Logically, this is classic TANSTAAFL – There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: If it's federally funded it ain't free. Technically, of course, nothing is free since someone somewhere somehow pays for everything that everyone has.

The North Carolina School Boards Association insists that the state constitution specifies that "taxpayer funding for schools should be used exclusively for running 'a uniform system of free public schools.'"

"Free public schools?"

While actual oxymoronic phrases have become commonplace – "jumbo shrimp," "bittersweet" – such seriously-uttered but impossibly contradictory Oxymoronese phrases as "free public schools" are as irrational as "unfeeling emotions," "voluntary tax" and "coercive libertarianism."

In the rational world anything paid for by tax money is "public," including anything claiming to be "private" while accepting tax money. Free is free, public is public, coercion is coercion, libertarian is libertarian.

The article further points out that "private schools" that accept tax money should be required to "give parents an annual written explanation of a student's progress, including scores on standardized achievement tests."

But this would simply turn private schools into de facto public schools, an idea obviously incomprehensible to native speakers of Oxymoronese.

Even the otherwise laudably libertarian Institute for Justice gets it wrong.

They represent parents who want to use tax-based grant money to send their sons to the private Christian Faith Center Academy.

The mother is quoted as saying, "We are also taxpayers and we would like to have a choice as to where our tax money goes."

This is like saying, "If a street thug sticks a gun in my ribs and takes my money I have a right to tell him how he can spend my money."

A victim with a "choice" is still a victim.

Politicians, of course, cynically use Oxymoronese to cover their blatant lies. See, for example, "USA PATRIOT Act" and "Affordable Care Act."

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