If You Sacrifice Your Child to Prove a Point about Public Education, You are a Bad Person
I have a never-ending fascination with the politics of education, principally because I drew the short end of the stick on that count. The district in which I attended school was (is) notoriously bad.
On multiple occasions, I can recall the State taking over the high school due to very poor test scores while also implementing some drastic measures, like removing administrators and scheduling mandatory reading/writing times in unrelated classes like Geometry or Physical Education.
I was so deeply affected by my education due to the inherent contradiction between what I experienced and what people told me I was experiencing.
On the one hand, I had teachers and family telling me that those were the best years of my life, that I was doing something noble and important, that I was being paid for attendance in a currency much more valuable than money–experience, knowledge, wisdom.
On the other hand, I spent most of my weekdays bored out of my mind or overly anxious about something of little consequence. I learned to game the system, doing just enough to satisfy whatever was required of me without devoting myself fully to what I ultimately found to be futile and asinine and an incredible waste of time. I never could believe those were the best years of my life. If I’d thought that had been the pinnacle of my existence, I’d have offed myself years ago.
So, that being the case, I have no sympathy for public education. It caused me nothing but trouble while blaming me for its own trouble. I don’t mean to say all public education is incompetent and ineffective (though perhaps most of it is). I only mean to give some background on why I’m opposed to the ideas presented in Allison Benedikt’s If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You are a Bad Person.
You can tell the article is asinine from the title alone, but I can appreciate someone with a passionate opinion, so I went on reading it.
From the article:
There are a lot of reasons why bad people send their kids to private school. Yes, some do it for prestige or out of loyalty to a long-standing family tradition or because they want their children to eventually work at Slate. But many others go private for religious reasons, or because their kids have behavioral or learning issues, or simply because the public school in their district is not so hot. None of these are compelling reasons. Or, rather, the compelling ones (behavioral or learning issues, wanting a not-subpar school for your child) are exactly why we should all opt in, not out.
I believe in public education, but my district school really isn’t good! you might say. I understand. You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it. 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.
Many of my (morally bankrupt) colleagues send their children to private schools. I asked them to tell me why. Here is the response that most stuck with me: “In our upper-middle-class world, it is hard not to pay for something if you can and you think it will be good for your kid.” I get it: You want an exceptional arts program and computer animation and maybe even Mandarin. You want a cohesive educational philosophy. You want creativity, not teaching to the test. You want great outdoor space and small classrooms and personal attention. You know who else wants those things? Everyone.
Whatever you think your children need—deserve—from their school experience, assume that the parents at the nearby public housing complex want the same. No, don’t just assume it. Do something about it. Send your kids to school with their kids. Use the energy you have otherwise directed at fighting to get your daughter a slot at the competitive private school to fight for more computers at the public school. Use your connections to power and money and innovation to make your local school—the one you are now sending your child to—better. Don’t just acknowledge your liberal guilt—listen to it.
My issue with these statements is that “public education” is being defended as an ultimate good without it being explained why I should consider it an ultimate good, especially one beneficial enough that I would sacrifice a kid to defend the idea of it. As far as I can tell, based on what I experienced, public schools aren’t teaching anything worthwhile. Above all, they teach one how to obey when they ought to be teaching kids how to learn, how to recognize natural abilities and interests and then improve upon them under their own self-direction (since that’s what the rest of their lives will depend on).
That I would insist on sending my child into an already questionable institution, though it would be detrimental to their own experience and education, just so that less fortunate–or worse, apathetic–students can feel a little more equal isn’t something I’d be willing to do.
I much prefer parents being able to control their children’s education, whether that means sending them to a public school, a private school or homeschooling. (When I have kids, my vote will be cast for the latter.)
Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.
This isn’t really an issue of improving the common good. Being a mass of mediocre shitheads for the sake of equality doesn’t improve the common good.
Churning out as many intelligent, thoughtful, skilled human beings as possible, by whatever means necessary, does.
- August 29th, 2013