At Slate, Allison Benedikt writes a sure-fire, click-athon article. She writes that people who send their kids to private school are bad people. If everyone sent their kids to public school, they would improve. Also, it doesn’t matter that schools are bad, because learning is over rated. Really.
My kids go to a public school, but it isn’t anything like the public schools that Benedikt describes. It’s ethnically diverse, but not economically diverse. The upper middle-class are a large enough contingent that they set the culture for the town, so the few poor kids behave like rich kids. Test scores are high. Competition is fierce. Almost everyone goes to college. A few families send their kids to private schools, but most don’t.
Great, right? Well, not really. You have to buy a house or rent an apartment to go to a school in this town. The cheapest house in the town (2 bedroom, 1 bath, busy road) costs $350,000. The median home price is $630,000.
To achieve the public school utopia that Benedikt envisioned, not only would everyone attend public school, but public schools would not be determined by geographic area.
UPDATE: More from Megan.
The one place in the United States where Benedikt’s argument (private school exiters decrease the quality of public school) holds is New York City. New York City is probably the only place that I’ve lived where multi-millionaires live within one mile of people on welfare. Theoretically, they would all be in the same public school district. That’s pretty amazing. If the rich went to public schools and the middle class stayed in the city, the public school system WOULD be better.
I got sucked into a thread on Urban Baby over the weekend with wealthy city types discussing whether they would send their kids to private school or move to the suburbs. They talked about which suburbs were the right ones and whether they could stand to live anywhere but Manhattan. Oh, the culture-less rubes in the Jersey suburbs. The only reasons that they would consider dirtying themselves with non-Manhattan people was because of the schools.
I’m not really blaming them. We left the city when Jonah hit Kindergarten.