These arguments about public vs private school are so meaningless. Of course we can’t have a national public school system without forward mobility if we take out all the rich kids. The problem is that this argument distracts us from the core issue, which is that school doesn’t work for anyone, rich or poor. If school worked, then it wouldn’t matter if you have your kids in a private school or a public school because school works, and school is a method for upward mobility, and school is the right place for kids. Except it’s not.
So sending kids to schools that don’t work is ethically questionable, and taking your kids out of that system is a way to not have to deal with it. I understand that argument, but then if you take that argument one step further, homeschoolers would be the worst people in the world because they’re taking their kids out of the whole education system.
So, notice that the school reform discussion is completely devoid of any rational options because nobody will challenge the core assumption that kids should be in school. It’s just mental masturbation when they talk about what schools are okay and what schools aren’t .
What people are really saying is, “I’m going to die if I don’t have babysitting, so what’s a good way for me to have babysitting?” When people talk about how it’s unethical to take your kids out of public school, what they’re really saying is, “I can’t cope with the idea of massive widespread loss of free public babysitting. What would that do to our culture?”
It’s a fair question. The logical conclusion is if you decide that school is bad for kids, then parents should keep their kid at home, and what you end up with is a relatively small percentage of kids whose parents are so poor that they actually need to be in school to enable the parents to earn money.
Today, so many parents pull their kids out of public school and put them in private school, school is a way to segregate rich and poor kids. Poor kids go to crappy schools. If we had a little more honesty in the public school debate, then we could say that all kids with competent parenting should come out of school, and kids without competent parents go to school so that the kids get better parenting. That seems like an honest public discussion that we need to have. And then the logical conclusion after that would be a discussion about where we place public resources.
I’m on a road trip with my son and we stopped in Omaha where it turns out the zoo is the top-ranked zoo in the country. For those of you who are worrying that San Diego is top-ranked and I’m misguided, our Omaha tour guide/hotel desk clerk told us that San Diego sometimes outranks Omaha, right now Omaha is number 1. (I think it was the amazing aquarium that put Omaha on the top.)
So, anyway, we’re at the number 1 ranked zoo in the whole United States, and we are seriously the only people there. The only other people who are there are mothers with very young kids who have no idea where to go. I remember what that was like. I used to do all kinds of crazy things with my baby that couldn’t walk because I couldn’t stay inside all day, and I couldn’t go to places for big kids because my baby couldn’t walk.
The zoo, although it’s an enormous public resource, is completely wasted during the school year, because we lock the kids up all day, yet we’re still spending the money, our public resources, to keep the zoo operating. The zoo is a public resource for kids who need to be babysat all day, and private school money is money that probably should be going into a better tax system so that rich people don’t have enough money to put their kids into crazy expensive private schools and, instead, rich people start funding a public babysitting service for parents who are not competent.
If we did this we would truly be taking care of poor kids. We would truly be taking care of rich kids because what they really need is their parents, and it’s probably the resource they’re least likely to get. We would have a much better appreciation for where our public funds go in general, because we would stop accepting that it’s inevitable that we create major arts and intellectual institutions like zoos that we waste five days a week on while we lock the kids up.
I know this is a lot to take in. It requires everyone changing the way they think and, even for me, it colors everything I do, including going to the zoo. But we’re not going to make any progress in being a more honest society and a more caring society until we give up the false discussions about the purpose and relative merits of public schools.