One of things that I’ve found fascinating while eavesdropping on twitter this week is the continuum of opinion on parents.
On the first day of the scandal, when most of the focus was on the Uber-rich and their bribes, there was near consensus that these people acted inappropriately. Except for the brother of one the kids that was caught up in the sting.
“They’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion,” said Malcolm Abbott outside the home that overlooks the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I believe everyone has a right to go to college, man.”
But then on day two and three, when pundits and writers were looking for new angles, attention started focusing on middle class and upper middle class parents and how they help prep their kids for school and college.
The NYT had some nice data on the percentage of parents of all incomes, who do things like help their adult child (aged 18-25) study for a test and make their doctor’s appointments. I didn’t see charts this week about the percentage of parents of younger children who help them study for tests or hire tutors for them. (LMK if you came across any new data in the news.)
But beyond the just-the-facts stories like the NYT, there was much discussion around how wealthier parents skew educational outcomes. And this discussion was ideological.
My kids are privileged in a dozen different ways. They have two highly educated parents, an extended family, a tradition of sitting down for dinner with discussion. They live in a low crime community, where their peers are all expected to attend college. Their school is well funded with AP classes and guidance counselors. They attend summer camps and travel. Right off the bat, they have a HUGE leg up on lower income peers.
Even if I never looked at a term paper or attended back to school nights or hired tutors (I do for Ian.), they are ahead of the game. I recognize that. I vote for politicians who will support education and economic prospects for the less fortunate. But I’m going to keep going IEP meetings for Ian and helping Jonah (and his roommates) with their political science classes.
There are some, on the left, who think that parents should be shamed into doing less for their kids in order to reduce inequality. I agree with Rick Hess and say that’s impossible.
The right views public education as fundamentally broken. In the past, the answer to the broken system were charter schools and vouchers, but they’re moving past that. Now, the only answer to the broken schools are parents who bring change from within.
I’m somewhat sympathetic to those arguments. I’m not sure if it’s a bug or a feature, but there are many in this group who have children with special needs. But I’ve also seen a lot parental advocacy that doesn’t benefit the common good, but their own particular children.
There’s probably a sane middle to those two extreme points of view, but I’ll let you all figure it out.