Sacrificing your own children for the greater good

Thanks to Robert Stacey Stacy McCain, I found this interesting article:

If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person

A manifesto.

By |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. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (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. 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? I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better.

There is much more at the link.

Mr McCain mostly just mocked Miss Benedict Benedikt1 for her (self-admitted) ignorance, but I’d rather address a more important point. The issue that Miss Benedikt raised is the same one — though hardly ever stated so directly — by our friends on the left in the 1960s and 1970s, in the issue of forced busing to achieve racial integration. Parents were expected to allow the use of their own children as the guinea pigs for social experimentation, in the hope that this would produce some better world a couple of generations hence, and they were racists2 of the worst kind if they protested. Why, it couldn’t be that parents were really concerned about hour-long bus rides, unnecessarily taking their children past closer schools; it had to be because they didn’t want their children to have to sit beside Negroes!

As it happens, I was a student in a segregated public school system in the South — yes, I am that old — when integration occurred there the way it did in a lot of small southern towns: the black school mysteriously burned to the ground during the summer. We had no real problems with integration because there was only one school; there was no forced busing with students passing one school to another further away for social engineering.3 It turned out that white families didn’t really have a problem with their kids going to school with black kids.4

But while I don’t remember any problems with integration in the Mt Sterling, Kentucky, city school system, I certainly can remember the stories of how well integration went in some larger, northern cities. The protests in Boston were particularly famous, as was the case in Wilmington, Delaware.5

The problem, which Miss Benedikt didn’t seem to consider, was that parents might have supported or opposed integration — no blanket statement can be made, covering everybody, on this — and politically the north favored the concept of integration, but when it came to their children, individually, parents were more concerned about them and their well-being than they ever were about some far-off social goal.

When Miss Benedikt wrote, “Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good,” she simply was not thinking as a parent.6 Or perhaps she was, and perhaps they do send their children to public school, but the question then has to be asked: what’s the school like? It’s perhaps a touch easier to say that you’ll send yoru children to public schools when the public schools are decent. After all, not all public schools are the same.

It is, in the end, the choice of Mr Cook and Miss Benedikt to decide to which school to send their children is their own.7 Whatever motives they have, they have. But the notion that people ought to sacrifice the well-being of their own children to achieve some amorphous social goal is not one that’s going to get widespread support among parents.

  1. The spell checker reported “Benedikt” as an error, but that seems to be the way her father spelled his name as well.
  2. This was before the use of raaaaacists.
  3. We couldn’t have had busing anyway; at the time, there were no school buses in our area at all!
  4. It would be unrealistic to state that there were absolutely no problems; but there were none so obvious that they made an impression in the mind of a then sixth-grader.
  5. The referenced section contains the rather mild sentence, “Now, Delaware has a high rate of children who attend private schools, magnet schools, and charter schools due to the perceived weaknesses of the public school system.” The truth is that the white citizens of New Castle County virtually destroyed the public school system in response to the 1976 court ordered busing. In New Castle County, where I lived for two years, if there is any way possible that you can send your children to private schools, you do, because the public schools are so bad. Our daughters attended Corpus Christi parochial school during the two years we live in Hockessin; Corpus Christi was the parochial school associated with our parish.
  6. An odd thing, since she and her husband, John Cook, have at least three children.
  7. I know nothing about their finances, and it is possible that they could not afford a private or parochial school, and do not really have any choices.

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