I just read an essay that I find thought-provoking today by Kevin Williamson of the National Review Online.
I’ve intentionally put off commenting on Allison Benedikt’s little essay (“If you send your kid to private school, you are a bad person”) in Slate, but I think I have come up with a policy option that would satisfy both Ms. Benedikt’s concerns and my own inclinations as well. She writes: “Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service investment, or property tax investment, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring investment.”
This is true, but it is inadequate. In fact, almost everybody already is invested in our public schools — by most estimates, 90 percent or more of U.S. students attend public schools….Redistributing funds is not sufficient; we have to redistribute people.
What we obviously must do, therefore, is turn rich white liberals out of their homes.
Ideally, they would relocate to the very worst neighborhoods, where, applying the Benedikt principle, they would do the most good. But I do not really care where they go, so long as they go.
This is not so radical an idea as it may seem. We seize investors’ capital in the name of the public good all the time.
I have to ask: if you live in an area where the public schools have shall we say “issues” (West Chester Area School District or Coatesville Area School District or Phoenixville Area School District all come to mind ) or you just decide it’s your money and that is where you want your kid to go to school, I have to ask who the heck is Allison Benedikt to judge?
Now here is an excerpt of her “manifesto” (which is really just a bitch-fest):
By Allison Benedikt|Posted Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, at 5:50 AM
You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve…..(Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)…So, how would this work exactly? It’s simple! Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service investment, or property tax investment, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring investment……I went K–12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn’t offer AP classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag!
If parents decide instead of public school to send their kids to charter school which do their best to emulate private schools, is Allison Benedikt going to chastise those parents too? (And interestingly enough if you want to look at Chester County school districts, while West Chester Area School District has a fairly large seepage rate to charter schools yet neighboring Great Valley School District has literally an amazingly low number like under a dozen kids in charter schools what does THAT say about some school districts?)
I mean is it just me or are we suffering the angst and pity party of one on the part of this writer Allison Benedikt because she can’t get over the fact she had to go to public school? Waaaaaaaaahhhhh!
Except for three years where my parents decided to try out the purportedly fabulous public schools of Lower Merion Township, I am a pure product of private school. I am also extremely unapologetic about it. St. Peter’s for elementary school in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia and then Upper School at Shipley in Bryn Mawr.
I am one of those people that as a kid I thrived in a smaller school setting. I thank my lucky stars every day that my parents made sacrifices so we could attend private school. Today they might not have been able to afford it, private school is so ridiculous in price. I will be honest: I hated Welsh Valley Junior High School. It was a pit. It still is today.
I still remember my first day as a public school kid in Lower Merion Township – we had moved to Gladwyne from Society Hill (we later moved to Haverford) and that summer before 7th grade was bittersweet. I missed my friends in Society Hill but I was loving the then (certainly not now as it is so over-developed) country feel of Gladwyne with Mr. Gwinn and all his horses across the street. I had made some tentative friendships in the neighborhood, but nothing much beyond neighborhood games of kick the can and whatnot.
On first day attending Welsh Valley Junior High School (and I was terrified by this HUGE school after being at a small day private day school), this pinch faced blonde (she grew up to be pinch faced too) whose mother had let her buy Candies (they first came out in the mid-1970s, remember?) and had not checked her with the crimping iron (remember the days of zig-zaggy looking hair?) walks up to me not to say “hi” but to look me up and down, sniff and utter her most obnoxious comment (she thought) “oh look a city girl.” You see, I had not been spawned with these girls, so I was too different to ever fit their cookie cutter image. But I have never been able to walk in Candies (nor did I want to own them) , so it is all good I suppose.
Welsh Valley was like the suburban version of the Jets and The Sharks, only there were more groups. There were cliques and groups based on where you lived in the township, there were cliques based on simple economics, cliques based on religion, cliques based on race, cliques based on sports. And then there was just everyone else who didn’t fit in a particular clique.
Eventually I made friends, and I have to this day kept some of the friends I made, but I hated Welsh Valley. So when my parents said at the end of 9th grade that I could go to Shipley where my best friend Anna went to school, I jumped at the chance. And incidentally, to be able to catch up with the level of education at private schools, I had to take summer school that summer – apparently the Lower Merion School District was lacking in some areas.
At Shipley I found a home and myself. Smaller classes, kids more to my liking and fewer vicious girl cliques.
Allison Benedikt would have you hate your parents if they sent you to private school. She would have you hate your neighbors and friends for choosing anything other than public school. She wants the world to be some sort of reverse fresh air fund. Now while entitled to her opinion, again, I think she should just be honest with herself if not the audience she writes for.
I also feel that I was not put on earth to be a crusader for public schools. Public school systems are about politics and the economics of government waste as much as anything else, so unless you are willing to go whole hog and reform the politics and economics, nothing will every really change. It is just a vicious cycle.
Allison Benedikt is pissed off she did not go to private school. That seems to be her hair shirt. That is not my problem, nor yours. Don’t measure and judge people by where they send their kids to school, public or private. Don’t judge the kids by that, either. It is the quality of the person that counts. After all, we all come from somewhere. Variety makes the world go round.