Slate Gets Education Wrong.

A writer at Slate recently wrote an article on education. She admits to not being a policy wonk, just judgemental. The very first thing you see in the article is a startling insult if you send your kids to private school you are a bad person. Not murderer bad but pretty bad either way. This would surprise most parents, you are a bad person for providing the best you can for your children.

Her basic argument is that if everybody sent their children to public schools then everybody would be invested and would leverage that to make the public schools better, for the common good…..eventually. The author readily admits that it could take generations to improve and that your children and even grandchildren may get a mediocre education because of it. Rest assured, though, it is worth it.

I want to take a minute here and say this. Really? What common good does she speak of? Whose definition of common good? Is sending all the children to bad schools really going to improve society as she hopes? This is astounding to me.

She does make a good point, though. She states “local school stinks and you do send your child there? I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better.” This is correct and many parents are seeing how bad public schools are for their children and reacting accordingly by putting their children in private schools or even homeschooling them. Not only are they paying to school their children, they are forced to pay for the schooling of others for the “common good”.

To the author’s credit, she does not suggest a legislative action just a moral one. She also credits aggressive PTA’s with raising money for schools as well as keeping administrators in line. What I think she fails to see is that those schools that do not have aggressive PTA’s will not necessarily change if you have all children to go public schools.

“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.”

The excerpt above strikes me as particularly obtuse and really hits one of my pet peeves. Why does she get to decide what is and is not a compelling enough reason to send a child to private school or homeschool to get a more individualized education. Why wouldn’t a parent take the opportunity to educate their child in a private school or homeschool if they have a behavioral or learning issue? Putting children with these issues in public schools without a personalized learning environment is foolish and does more harm to these children than good. The only argument that can be made for putting these children in non-supportive environments is the one she makes, for the common good, and we all see where these things lead.

She goes on to recount how she had a sub-par education and that she survived it. I am going to venture out and say that most parents do not want to have their children survive a sub-par education but would rather have their children have the best education they can. It is not about bringing everybody down to the lowest level, it is about raising them up. Having everybody receive a sub-par education instead of some receiving a great education, some a good education and some a subpar education is not ideal. This brings up the question about public schools doing so poorly and what to do about that. This is for another blog post but to read more about it (, ).

She ends her article by calling her colleagues that send their kids to private schools morally bankrupt and reiterating that parents who send their children to public schools want the same things that parents who send their kids to private schools want. While I may agree with generalities in this situation i.e. parents want their kids to have a good education, I cannot agree with it in particularities. There are 320 million people in this country, each with their own identity, personalities, wants, needs, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Each one having particular things they value, differing strengths and weaknesses. To tell parents that their unique child has to go to a public school to learn the same as everyone else is absurd. While “for the common good” sounds great on a bumper sticker it does not allow for individualization of education. It does not value the individual at all. The greater good is not great without the individual.

In the quest to protect minorities and protect them, Slate and others on the so-called left despise the smallest minority out there, the individual. It is the parent’s responsibility, not the states, to teach the child or to find a proper teacher for the child. Children are not a one sizes fits all program. Each child learns differently as well as having different aptitudes in differing subjects. It is best to individualize education rather than lowering the bar to the lowest common denominator. We should be looking for innovative and decentralized ways to bring about education rather than a top-down approach. We should strip away standards and allow experimentation to happen in the realm of education. We have seen this proliferate online and with great success. The way to fix the education issue is not to further restrict choice but to expand it.

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