A few days ago, Slate.com published a column by Allison Benedikt where she declares that all parents who send their children to private school are bad people. The general scope of her complaints about public school can be distilled to two things:
- American public schools are a valued institution and for the greater good of the nation. If everyone sent their kids to public schools and got involved on parent councils and in their children’s education, eventually all public schools would be better. In the long run, this would be good for America.
- She did fine in public school.
I will approach this bluntly and without resorting to dismantling her viewpoint one sentence at a time.
First, public schools were a great institution, right up until the 1970s when the teachers unions and leftist feel-goods took control. This is when the quality of education started to decline. This control removed the ability of parent councils to have any influence over curriculum, teacher hiring/firing and other school activities. Having tried to deal with the public system in my district for my own child, it is like talking to a brick wall.
Second, the experience even in the United States is that charter schools provide a better education for exactly the reasons removing them from the public sector unions and bureaucracy and giving parents more influence. This is a path to better schooling. Another approach would be to privatize all the schools, allow teaching staffs to “take ownership” and pay them on a per head basis of students they can attract and retain. Good schools would thrive and grow; bad would wither and die.
Third, I don’t care about the long run when it comes to my child’s education and success in life. I care about them succeeding. And it I want to spend money to improve their odds, so be it. In what freedom loving country is that against the rules, even it is only by moral suasion? Do I care about the long run, yes – but I am happy to let the free market work it out.
Finally, Ms. Benedikt claims she did fine in public school, but then proceeds to show that she didn’t learn some of the things that should be critical to being a good citizen. If it is true she only read one book in high school and struggled in college (how did she get in???), the system failed her and she good have done much better for herself. I too went to public school – but I don’t think the public school I experienced in the 1970s and 80s can be compared to the current system – the current system wastes time on classes like “Innovative Technology” and teaching kids that using technology to solve math problems or spelling or grammar is acceptable.
To close – on reading Ms. Benedikt’s column, I was first incensed. Then I wrote this. Now I harbour suspicions that she was being facetious – or writing an argumentum ad captandum