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Public versus Private Ed: Who’s Really the Bad Guy Here?

I wanted to ignore the obviously ill-conceived rant, which the author dubbed a “manifesto,” about parents who send their children to private school being “bad” people. Nancy French had already written on its folly, and members of the National Review staff had already piled on — big time — on Twitter:

Jonah Goldberg: “If we had no public schools, but required education, then everybody could go to private school! Boom. Everyone could be equally bad.”

The more polite of two tweets from Charles C.W. Cooke: “Schools are provided for all. This doesn’t mean you are obliged to use them. The norm isn’t using state services, it is not using them.”

Jim Geraghty: “If You Denounce a Large Segment of the Public as ‘Bad’, Based on One Decision That’s None of Your Business, in Slate, You Are a Bad Person.”

Kevin D. Williamson: “If you live in the suburbs rather than a dangerous ghetto, you are a bad person.”

But my husband, Jim, and I take this as a personal affront, as we have seven children who have attended both private and public schools. Currently, of those under 18, four are in public school and one is in private. But if we could afford to send all of them to private school, we would. That does not make us “bad.” From my husband’s own great post on the matter over on AEIdeas:

I certainly don’t want to spend much time refuting writer Allison Benedikt’s fact-free, data-free “argument”: If more upper-middle class and wealthy parents — a.k.a. Slate readers, I guess — sent their kids to their local public schools, the U.S. education system would suddenly improve.

…Aren’t the “bad people” — to use Benedikt’s language — here the ones who would trap lower-income and poor kids in their local education monopoly? Or as Alex Tabarrok puts it: “Barricading parents into the poor schools their government offers them is like barricading people into communist East Germany.”

Tabarrok also notes that merely having more activist parents inside a school monopoly might not change much without competition: “When you complain of delay, where is your voice more likely to be heard; at a restaurant or at the department of motor vehicles? It’s the threat of exit that makes people listen.”

Jim also points out that public schools are failing partly because they are residentially assigned, and mentions the study that shows that there is more bang for the public buck when kids are given vouchers to attend private schools.

I myself would like to add to the list of those who are truly the “bad” people in education: the union bosses that fool taxpayers, including their fellow members, into believing that they are fighting for the interests of the children; the teachers who throw a videotape into a machine, spend the rest of the class texting, and consider that “instructing”; the liberal politicians who scare good teachers into rallying against teaching standards (intended to weed out the truly awful teachers) by making them believe everyone is at risk of losing their jobs. The list goes on and on.

We cannot stand by as the Left throws labels at those who understand what will truly make a difference in public education. We all need to bone up on the facts, push back, and not allow them to control the conversation anymore.



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