Read a roundtable with its founders here, or see new stories in the Human Interest section. You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like public school system articles-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid 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. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. So, how would this work exactly? 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. Your local school stinks but you don’t send your child there?
Then its badness is just something you deplore in the abstract. Your local school stinks and you do send your child there? And parents have a lot of power. In many underresourced schools, it’s the aggressive PTAs that raise the money for enrichment programs and willful parents who get in the administration’s face when a teacher is falling down on the job. By the way: Banning private schools isn’t the answer. We need a moral adjustment, not a legislative one. 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. I believe in public education, but my district school really isn’t good! You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it. 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.
By the way: My parents didn’t send me to this shoddy school because they believed in public ed. They sent me there because that’s where we lived, and they weren’t too worried about it. Also remember that there’s more to education than what’s taught. As rotten as my school’s English, history, science, social studies, math, art, music, and language programs were, going to school with poor kids and rich kids, black kids and brown kids, smart kids and not-so-smart ones, kids with superconservative Christian parents and other upper-middle-class Jews like me was its own education and life preparation. I asked them to tell me why. 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.