“Progressive” Opposition to Private Schools Grows
“Progressive” Opposition to Private Schools Grows
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   09.10.13

A recent essay by Allison Benedikt appearing in the online magazine Slate makes the startling claim that all parents have an ethical obligation to send their children to—hold on to your hats and socks—government schools. Well, that’s a summary of her argument in somewhat more diplomatic and less insulting language. Here’s what she actually says:

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]t 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.

…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.

I went K–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. There wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child.…

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. Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me.

Whew, I’m relieved that Benedikt doesn’t find all those parents who send their children to Christian private schools to be the equivalent of murderers.

A few thoughts about comrade Benedikt’s thoughts:

  • Benedikt overestimates the power parents have. Public schools are more immune to parental influence than are private schools whose administrators realize that if they don’t respond efficaciously to parental input, they risk losing their students and the funds on which they depend. Public school administrators feel no such pressure.
  • Conservative parents have virtually no influence on the way homosexuality and gender confusion are addressed in public schools since colleges and universities that train teachers are controlled by “progressives,” public schools are controlled by “progressives,” and conservative administrators and teachers are too cowardly to promote true intellectual diversity in the face of dogmatic “progressive” demands for censorship in the service of their ideological monopoly.
  • Perhaps Bendikt’s provocative effort to shame parents into abandoning private schools will pave the way for Warren Buffet’s dream of outlawing private schools altogether: “‘Make private schools illegal…and assign every child to a public school by random lottery.’” Education reformer and former chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools, Michelle Rhee, shares Buffet’s vision: “‘Think about what this would mean…CEOs’ children, diplomats’ children, many would be going to schools in Anacostia and east of the river, where most of our schools are. I guarantee we would never see a faster moving of resources from one end of the city to the other. I also guarantee we would soon have a system of high-quality schools.’”
  • Far too many public school teachers have a statist, communal view of children, a problem which is exacerbated by their Bill Ayers-esque belief that they are “agents of change” who have the right to use public education (i.e., the government) to advance their racial quota goals or their social, moral, and political beliefs about “reproductive health,” homosexuality, and gender confusion.
  • For the second time in as many weeks, I’m reminded of the sentiments of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry: “We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities.”  “Progressives” like Benedikt and Harris-Perry hold a worldview that assumes allegiance to the state supersedes allegiance to family (and church).  This is the worldview that results in the banning of home education and the forcible appropriation of homeschooled children by the government as is happening in Germany right now. (Click here and here to read more). Children do not belong to the state. They belong to their parents.
  • Perhaps Benedikt’s ignorance about the implications of her worldview is directly related to her ignorance of history, which in turn is a result of the lousy education to which she cheerfully seeks to sacrifice other people’s children. It might behoove Benedikt to read some Nazi perspectives on education.
  • It’s odd that after admitting that she “knows nothing about poetry, very little about art,” and read only one book in high school, Benedikt would confidently assert that getting drunk is as likely to shape one’s life as reading Walt Whitman. It may be true that getting drunk is as likely to “change the way” teens see the world, but it’s not true that it’s as likely to transform in positive ways the life of the mind.

Exiting or banning private schools will never be the solution to what ails America. The solution is to exit public schools pronto while the freedom to do so exists. When government employees (i.e., teachers) even mention something as perverse as homosexuality to five-year-olds—as is happening in all Chicago public schools starting this year —it’s long past time to exit government schools.

And churches need to make that possible by either creating affordable private schools or by financially assisting parents who want to pull their children out of public schools but are unable to homeschool or afford private schools. This is a mission worth supporting. It should spark biblically informed anger that so many of our church leaders—Protestant and Catholic—say and do nothing as children are taught with their money that abominable behavior is good. Where is the church?

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Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins became the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years in Deerfield High...


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