“You are a bad person if you send your children to private school,” writes Allison Benedikt a trollish Slate piece. Parents who choose private school (and presumably home schooling) are putting their children’s welfare ahead of the common good, she argues.
. . . if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.
. . . Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better.
If the local school is lousy, parents can raise money for enrichment programs and “get in the administration’s face when a teacher is falling down on the job,” she writes.
If you can afford private school (even if affording means scrimping and saving, or taking out loans), chances are that your spawn will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. She will have support at home (that’s you!) and all the advantages that go along with being a person whose family can pay for and cares about superior education—the exact kind of family that can help your crappy public school become less crappy. She may not learn as much or be as challenged, but take a deep breath and live with that. Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine.
Benedikt went to “terrible” schools that didn’t offer advanced classes or expect students to read. Unprepared for college, she didn’t learn much there either, she writes. She hasn’t read novels or poetry, knows little about art and is fuzzy on history. But she’s “done fine” in life without all that. “Where ignorance is bliss,” after all, “tis folly to be wise.” (Thomas Gray was not a cheerful man.)
While public school didn’t provide an academic education, it taught Benedikt other things.
Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me.
I’m sold! Sign up the kids right away!
I was educated — quite well — in public schools in a suburb settled by educated and education-valuing parents, many of them Jewish. The “level 1 crowd” did not get drunk before basketball games.
I paid a premium for a house in Palo Alto so I could send my daughter to excellent public schools with the high-achieving children of highly educated parents.
The public schools were so good that the Catholic K-8 school in our neighborhood didn’t enroll a single Palo Alto child. Its students — all Latino or black — came from a nearby town with terrible schools. Their low-income and working-class parents scraped up the tuition money to give their kids a shot at a decent education. They were not bad people.
James Taranto outs himself as a very bad person: He doesn’t have children. Not only has he failed to invest his flesh-and-blood in the public schools, he’s “depriving the future United States of taxpayers . . . hastening the insolvency of Social Security and Medicare and increasing their burden on other people’s children.”