Wednesday, September 04, 2013

the "common good" is a hopelessly lost cause...,

slate | 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.

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. Everyone, all in. (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. 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.

 I believe in public education, but my district school really isn’t good! you might say. I understand. You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it. If you can afford private school (even if affording means scrimping and saving, or taking out loans), chances are that your spawn will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. She will have support at home (that’s you!) and all the advantages that go along with being a person whose family can pay for and cares about superior education—the exact kind of family that can help your crappy public school become less crappy. She may not learn as much or be as challenged, but take a deep breath and live with that. Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine. Fist tap Dale.


Nakajima Kikka said...

Are the public schools overall really as bad as all this?...I don't think so. Particularly, if you keep in mind that public schools are not boarding schools; their mission is mass education, not elite college prep.
Rigor, schmigor, that's what I say. For "intellectual" skills, the kids need to learn the "three R's" well, plus some algebra, geometry, art & music, all taught in a practical way. In high school, a few specific courses (American history/civics, biology) are necessary to function in this society, but most everything else (languages, algebra 2/trig, physics and chemistry, etc) should be electives. Restore home ec, industrial arts, and phy ed. It's all any American kid, even those born into the Ruling Class, need from a primary and secondary school education.
But the 800-pound gorilla in the room remains race and ethnicity. Whenever parents make the decision to send their children to private schools, R&E usually play a significant part. As in, they're trying to limit their children's social interaction so that it's primarily with those of similar/same R&E. It's a fact, jack.

Dale Asberry said...

Check out John Taylor Gatto.

Also, google out any 19th century school exam and think about how ill prepared the majority of American students would be to answer almost any question on that exam...

CNu said...

You missed a little something in that R&E reduction NK-san. When black parents make the heroic financial sacrifice of paying three college tuitions to have their child educated at the best private, independent school in the midwestern U.S., it has with limiting that child's social interaction by race and ethnicity. Rather, it has everything to do with obtaining access to the best educational experience that money can buy, privileged access and exposure to college prep and admissions opportunities, and a slew social challenges that they would likely not face in a different context.

When my parents made this decision for me in 1976, it meant being called a nigger quite often for months until the legend of my surreptitious, cruel, and certain revenges was established, as well as, the absolute certainty that if my person was violated, instant, gleeful violence was certain to ensue with the object of genuinely hurting the antagonist, no matter what the odds.

When I made that decision for my spawn in 2000, I was no longer concerned about the uglier downsides I'd experienced nearly two generations previous, but I was concerned about the social challenges. As it turned out, there were no consequential social challenges. Both my children established/are in the process of establishing themselves as wildly popular and broadly respected scholar/athletes. I have one in her second year of college and one who just started high-school.

That said, I would ask you the question, do you suppose that when Asians and South Asians send their kids in droves to these self-same schools, that these kids and their parents are so honorarily white that they assume they're segregating on the basis of R&E? The reason I ask you this is because I've witnessed and continue to witness the extent to which academically high-performing Asian and South Asian kids don't enjoy anything remotely approaching the popularity and social cachet of black kids in the exclusive private school setting.

I believe those parents have put their children there for the same reason my parents put me there waaaaaay back in the day, not to make friends, but to be well educated. Thankfully they don't catch hell like I did for a minute, but, in many regards, they're socially segregated and barred from the mainstream and the popular echelons of the mainstream as strenuously as I was back in the day.

woodensplinter said...

@Cnu Don't even try to play like this wasn't/isn't a factor

John Kurman said...

John Kurman said...

Well, let's see. I don't know how to dance the Quadrille or the Mazurka: an essential 19th century skill if you wanted to get laid.

Nakajima Kikka said...

That's why I wrote "R&E usually play a significant part". It's not the single, dominant factor driving parents to seek out private education for their children. All the usual quality-of-education ("the best education money can buy") issues are there are well. But we're kidding ourselves by not recognizing that R&E is a factor as well. How much of a factor? Well, based on personal experience and what I absorb from the zeitgeist, I would say 25% on average, with the other 75% being quality-of-education.
Truth be told, primary and secondary private education is there to meet some kind of "special need" that public education has trouble with. By "special need", I'm not talking about learning disabilities here. The "special need" may be ensuring proper religious formation, or it may be providing a truly gifted child with an education tailored specifically to developing those gifts. In areas where the public schools are really bad, the "special need" is providing a decent education in a safe, disciplined environment. For parents in the Ruling Class, or who aspire that for their children, that "special need" is met by boarding schools. This are the 75% "quality-of-education" factors. Now, add in the 25% R&E factor into the mix, and you've got the overall average picture of what drives an average American parent to want to take their children out of a public school and put them in; a private one. The expectation value, as it were.
Since you asked, I think the 75%/25% breakdown, on average, also applies for Asian and South Asian parents as well. The decision is primarily taken on QoE factors, but R&E also is taken into consideration. In the elite private school settings you're talking about, Asian and South Asian kids usually socialize among themselves, and only rarely in any kind of romantic way. Bluntly speaking, our kids are "socially retarded" in those settings--a consequence of the Tiger Mom phenomenon, mostly. When all the test-taking ends a few years later, serious problems begin to emerge.

Nakajima Kikka said...

I will.

Many of the questions on those exams are perfectly reasonable and fair, and ones that any 19th century American student needed to be able to answer. For example:

Of course, we live in the 21st century, not the 19th. As hard as it is for Americans to believe, the belief that the average American public school is a nightmarish place of horror, and that the average American public school student is a moron, is a complete myth.

CNu said...

Outside of QoE, a big part of my personal impetus for putting my kids through all that was socialization/familiarization with the kids of the ruling class. My daughter took on a ruling class classmate her senior year who had made a practice of serially raping 9th graders and getting away with it. It was an interesting little digression for her and a couple of her close associates. She learned first hand, the hard way, about real politik and what separates the 1% from the rest of us lumpen middletarians. In the process, she lost all respect for lying, cheating, self-interested administrators - who refuse to stand up for principle or even for children, for that matter.

It prepared her exceedingly well for her still higher level of engagement at university. She's decided that she wants to be a profiler and chase the worst that humankind produces. Our compromise to keep the funds flowing is that she complete pre-med requirements and get on the extremely longterm vocational track for psychiatric medicine. The child been blowing up my IRC this morning, she's so much in love with this pursuit.

Aside from avoiding Pookie an'em, what are the R&E motivations for kids who will by-and-large not get in the popularity cut, not dabble in pink-toe miscegeny, not even have much fun with one another? Is that status-seeking moms aspiring vicariously through their kids, but not taking stock of the kids' experience on the ground in those settings? Mom and dad have to pay more careful attention. How you not see your child struggling? If he/she is not getting invited to sleepover somebody's house every week, or go on trips to the vacation house, or have a list of folks asking to be their roommate at university, the social return on investment in this context is not there.

It wasn't there for me, but my fundamental goal for my own children was for them to cultivate and experience all of the assets and none of the liabilities I had experienced in that era in that setting.

CNu said...

lol, no lie...,

Dale Asberry said...


Of course, we live in the 21st century, not the 19th.
Uh, ok.

As hard as it is for Americans to believe, the belief that the average American public school is a nightmarish place of horror, and that the average American public school student is a moron, is a complete myth.
Not sure I was suggesting any of that... pointing out that the educational system 1) purpose is not education 2) doesn't provide as quality an education as 100 years ago.

CNu said...

Shift that to average "urban American public school" - with an 80% or higher free and reduced lunch rate eligibility - and as far as learning goes, it IS only a hair's breadth removed from these strong negative characterizations. There is of course some history that attends to this disparity

But speaking in general, I'm inclined to agree with Dale's negative characterizations of American public schools in general.

And the only way to fix it runs directly opposite the vested interests of the administrators and teachers who run this decrepit 19th century model - so they will strongly resist the desperately needed changes.

umbrarchist said...

With the billions spent on "education" it is so curious that professional educators can't suggest something as simple as a National Recommended Reading List.

These could be a couple of entries:

The Tyranny of Words (1938) by Stuart Chase

Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics (2006) by Stan Gibilisco

And for those tablets:

EveryCircuit by Igor Vytyaz

Nakajima Kikka said...

My point was that the expectations for public school students generally, and the students' ability to meet them, are much higher than they were then. Public education in the 19th century was limited to basic literacy, penmanship, history, and arithmetic, taught by endless recitation and drilling. Schools were only open for a few months every year, and student attendance was haphazard. (Low expectations)

100 years ago, only 25% of high-school-age teenagers actually went to high school, and less than half of those received a diploma. As for the other 75%, about 2/3rds of them never made it as far as the 8th grade, and of those who did, nearly half did not pass that 8th grade final exam, and so never received their certificates of completion. (Low ability to meet those low expectations).

The idea that American public education was so much better in 1910 than today is absurd.

Dale Asberry said...

Please cite your sources. Otherwise I'm going to assume that you're simply making up those statistics. Again, read John Taylor Gatto.

My point is that you're VERY late to this party.

Nakajima Kikka said...

Flipped teaching is an interesting concept, though I'm wondering if it might be better to do the whole thing in school (both watching the video lessons and applying the knowledge to problems). That solves the problem of computer and internet access. Class sizes need to be relatively small for this to work. In my experience teaching high school science, 14 students (7 pairs) is about the upper limit that can be taught effectively by one teacher/coach, particularly under this kind of system. Everyone in the class will be up and moving around a lot; easy to lose control if you're not careful. And once you've lost control, they are gone; you've lost them for the rest of the quarter/semester.
The idea is definitely worth pursuing in a public education setting. The interiors of the current installed infrastructure base will need to be upgraded, but entirely new school buildings do not have to be built from scratch. It does run against powerful vested interests, though, as well as the simple habit of following the same well-worn track. If it is implemented at all, it will be in bits and pieces, a strategy which guarantees failure, of course...

Nakajima Kikka said...

Shift that to average "urban American public school" - with an 80% or higher free and reduced lunch rate eligibility - and as far as learning goes, it IS only a hair's breadth removed from these strong negative characterizations.
This is truth, and where R&E cuts most deeply. Urban American public schools are the way they are for a reason. Their student bodies are predominantly non-Caucasian, and a majority of those in charge of them, from the highest government officials down into the teaching ranks, simply do not believe that non-Caucasians require the same level of education as Caucasians do (and, as an aside, they also do not believe that non-Anglo Caucasians require the same level of education as Anglos do). In their heart-of-hearts.
That's the attitude. So what's the plan? The overall plan is to systematically destroy urban public schools through a process similar to strategic bombing. The speed at which the public schools in a particular urban area are destroyed varies according to the effectiveness of the local population's "air-aircraft defenses", as it were. Places like Detroit and Philadelphia no longer have any, and so the bombers rain destruction upon the public schools at will. Places like NYC, however, still have rather formidable AA defenses in place, and so the bombing is less effective, and some bombers even get blown out of the sky.

Nakajima Kikka said...

Better late than never...

A good statistical source for the state of American public education from 1870 on is the National Center for Education Statistics 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait:
If "fixing what's wrong" with American public education is the goal, trying to get back to "the good old days of 1900" is no solution at all, IMO. Though it occurs to me that that is PRECISELY the long-term goal of such truly great Americans as the Koch Brothers, the members of the Cato Institute, and the current governor of Pennsylvania...
From what I've gleaned of Gatto so far, his claim is that American public education is primarily a system of social control designed to assign everyone their "proper place" in a military-industrial society. There's some truth to this. American public education was originally based on the 19th century Prussian common school model; strict obedience to one's superiors was an important part of it.

Nakajima Kikka said...

You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you? OK, fine.

The R&E motivations of parents are primarily driven by a
desire to influence (“control” is too strong a word here) their childrens’
social interactions in order to maximize the time spent around those of their
own R&E group. They’re thinking about the whole dating & marriage issue
for down the road. For a lot of Asian-American parents, the fact that Anglo
kids never invite them to sleepovers or their vacation houses is perfectly
fine. Sure, they want their kids to be “on good terms” with those of other
races, especially Anglos, but they also prefer that those other races,
including Anglos, “stay on their side of the fence” in social and intimate

For these parents, sending their kids to these highly
selective, and expensive, private secondary schools is seen as the best way to
achieve this, under current conditions. The academic rigor of these places naturally
keeps the kids focused on their studies, and parents reinforce this with
relentless demands for top performance. Demands partly made to encourage said social/romantic
segregation, and partly made out of a belief that only perfect grades provide a
viable work-around to entrenched Anglo/Caucasian racial prejudice against
Asians. “If your grades are anything less than perfect, the Caucasian doing the
hiring will see the Asian name on your resume and place it in the circular file”.

Consequently, kids from our communities, on the whole,
receive very little in the way of a social return on investment in these elite
contexts. Of course, the media and blog commentators everywhere never cease to
remind us that, because of our cultural values and unflagging determination,
Asian-American kids are now tigers in American society. But we are not real
tigers, only paper tigers, useful to Anglos as “model minority mascots”,
perhaps, but otherwise largely irrelevant.

There. I said it. It’s out there. What you think about that? (^_^)

CNu said...

I ain't know how much "boots on the ground" experience Dale has in support of his scathingness, but, I'm confident you mutually have more in common wrt the limitations of the common public school model than not, and, that, your merged critique would be more encompassing than your individual espressions concerning its past and future states.

Dale Asberry said...

I'm not sure what got in my craw, but was driving back from my parents tonight wondering why I was being so uncompromising and couldn't come up with any good reason. With your feedback CNu, I'll take that as me being unnecessarily tetchy about the issue.

CNu said...

lol, we keep no secrets hereabouts. These parents, like my parents, are severely underestimating the influence and formative power of adolescent culture. My mother dismissed the importance of friends/girlfriends - telling herself that the quality of the education was all that counted - as though the "education" is not context dependent. How naive/self-deluded is that?

These parents imagining that their kids will autopoetically jack and jill along R&E lines, rather than along lines of teen popularity - is equally naive. (ironically, Jack and Jill is an outdated social network for bourgeois negroes who found themselves in exurban R&E isolation - to get their socially isolated children together for precisely the same reason as what you're ascribing to the paper tiger parents.)

Real tigers integrate, assimilate, and dominate - leveraging/preserving/imposing whatever is strong and distinctive about their culture - in the process.

I have carefully explained to my children the weak, insecure, and self-defeating nature of the "blackout", and for that matter, blackout 2.0 - so-called black-greek organizations at college. You don't need an R&E posse to be strong, you just need to make yourself objectively irresistible and strong, period.

Tom said...

There just isn't room for R&E to be the sole determining factor in people's decisions. Uglyblackjohn has a chart that puts it in context.

If my daughter marries somebody who isn't white, I will experience an emotional disturbance in my hindbrain. But if the young asshole's values -- and his family's values -- are ok then I'll get over it. If she marries a white dipshit I will truly feel that my life was wasted.

Am I the only one who feels this way? I don't see evidence of that.

arnach said...

How to Expel Hurtful Stereotypes from Classrooms across the Country. Unfortunately, Scientific American requires digital subscription to get to the original Armor against Prejudice article once the next month's issue is online.

CNu said...

John puts Race right after luck. Luck being the fourth, oops, errr..., I mean "force". Them what's got shall get, them what's not shall lose, and all-a-that....,