Chris Blattman

Close this search box.

Further rightward shifts in my future?

In response to my nanny-driven Republicanism post, Peter Berck comments:

It is being a parent that will drive you rightwards. Keeps lots of rice paper around so you can eat words like “our children will go to public schools.””

Sigh. I can already see that capitulation coming. Right after “my child will not watch TV.”

My civic conscience hates the idea of fleeing the public school system. My other option, is of course, to flee northwards, home to Canada, where the public schools are pretty great. Less of the pathetic and tragic dysfunction of the US system. It’s the one big thing that makes me think of return.

The real question: would I sacrifice my principles for 10 degree warmer weather? I think the answer is “almost certainly”.

My hope is that I’ll try to be one of those parents who is part of the public school solution.

Meanwhile, if you want to read a good book on the failures of American education, my good friend Celina just published Our Schools Suck. Worth a look.



8 Responses

  1. I always kind of wonder how good a public school for my kid would be if I sent that kid to a public school, then devoted, say, 1/2 of the money I was going to spend on tuition on supporting their classroom. New books, painted walls, whatevs.

  2. Ah the old “until you have to send your kids to public schools” thing. The fact is that research pretty clearly shows that private schools do not produce better results. They have a modest absolute advantage in test scores which disappears once you factor in demographics. It is true that the very top tier elite private schools offer a fantastic education. But no more so than the best suburban and big city magnet schools. Somehow whenever the talk comes to “public schools vs. private schools” we end up comparing a rough, inner city neighborhood school with 95% of its students on free and reduced lunch to super wealthy private schools.

    I teach in one of the wealthiest school districts in Ohio. It is also one of the highest performing districts. My kids go to the Columbus City Schools, the second largest district in Ohio. And they get as good an education as any student in the district in which I teach. There are a lot of bad schools, there are a lot of good schools. Most large districts have some of both. Banning private schools won’t really change anything in the dynamics of schools. Most of those students will end up going to wealthy suburban schools or elite magnet schools, and the ones that don’t would be the ones whose parents had the least resources.

    If you really want to make your kids’ school a good one, get involved. Get other parents involved. Involved parents make schools better. I am often asked by family and friends for my opinion on choosing schools for their kids. The first reaction is often to look at a schools’ test scores. But this really doesn’t tell you that much about the education your kid will receive. Instead, look at the programs the school has and the results they get for kids who are similar to your kid. If you have a gifted kid and you are looking at high schools, don’t look at overall test scores. Instead see what kinds of AP and IB offerings the school has. If your child is into music, check out the music program. My kids go to (one still does, one just moved on the high school) a language immersion school. While they didn’t always like the first few years (K-2 they do all core instruction in French) it has been great for them. The school also has a wonderful art and music program, which is important to both of my kids. These are the things that will make or break your kids school experience. And they are available in a wide variety of schools.

  3. As a father, your first responsibility is to your cubs. Political visions could be wrong in the end. Your responsibility will never go away. Blair answered this question.

    Of course, when your children are not in the public school, you can claim you can fight for better schools, but you will realistically try to improve the school of your kids first. Evolution is smarter than you are.

    It is your destiny.

    However, there are good public schools. Probably not in your area. People living in Westchester all go to public schools, while Washington Irving does not see a lot of rich kids (Stuyvesant does).

  4. My kid goes to a public school. The parents whose children integrated schools back in the 60s sent their kids to public schools. I don’t see how anyone who is glad the schools were integrated can fail to live up to what those parents and kids did.

    Do your research. If you are yourself educated and affluent enough to afford books–as I have no doubt everyone reading this is–your kid is going to do JUST FINE no matter WHAT school you send them to. Whereas parents like us yanking our kids out of public schools and sending them to private contributes to the problems that public schools have, if only because by doing so we end up *not knowing* what the situation is in public schools. If you have a kid in them, you learn a lot about the regulations and rules that the schools have to deal with. And where you dislike said rules and regulations, you’re actually in a position to try to do something about it.

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for so-called liberals who abandon public education. It’s the rankest hypocrisy. Your kids will THANK YOU later in life if you give them the opportunity to broaden their social horizons and learn first hand that the myths and prejudices we hold against the poor and brown are false.

  5. It seems to me there is only one solution to improving public schools: ban private schools (religious and otherwise). As long as private schools are an option, the wealthy and powerful have an escape and their influence will never come to bear on those people who make the decisions (amount of funding and how funding is distributed) that truly impact our public schools. If everyone’s children had only public schools as an option and schools were funded by a proportion of the money determined by number of students (rather than locally-provided property taxes), you could bet your last dollar that the wealthy and powerful would suddenly take an ardent interest in paying teachers more and recruiting better talent. If Obama had to send his children DC city schools, don’t you think education would be a much higher priority for his administration. Instead, they’re insulated in the moneyed walls of Sidwell Friends.

    Despite this, I realize what I propose will never happen. In the future, our country’s children will be divided between those attending private and charter schools and those incarcerated in public schools.

    And this idea that you can call yourself a liberal and send your children to private school is ludicrous… As Joe Queenan has said, “I don’t care who you are. If you send your kid to private school, you’re a Republican.”

  6. Each year of lost or sub-optimal education in a child’s life is immensely costly, cannot be recovered, and has compounding effects. Putting one more child into the public system will make little or no marginal difference to that system; but putting Amara in the best school available will make all the difference in the world for her. I suspect that figuring out what “best” means will be the bigger challenge.

  7. I’ve become more left (if that was even possible?) since I had kids. But then, I don’t live in the U.S. Even our right is more lefter than your left. :P

    North American schools scare me. I think there are some really good ones, but its such a crap shoot.

  8. Chris,

    About public schools… In Saskatchewan, the schools are great if you are in a good neighborhood. We recently pulled our 11 year old out of our neighborhood school and have go to the public school 7 blocks away… more extra curricular activities, higher academic standards, a teacher that gives daily updates via email (when needed), more computers in the classroom and a larger library, just because it is on the right side of a major street.

    Working in the inner city, we keep hearing from teachers down here of 150% classroom turnovers during a school year and a massive truancy issue that everyone addresses but no one knows how to fix.

    I am not saying that I would take Mark out of a public school, I am just saying that something seems wrong and no one really is talking about it.

Why We Fight - Book Cover
Subscribe to Blog