So says Allison Benedikt in her receive Slate article, "If You Send Your Kid To Private School, You Are A Bad Person." To me, that isn't just an idiotic statement, it's personal. From 3rd grade until I graduated high school, I went to a private, religiously affiliated school (I had attended a public school previously). I reject the premise that parents who send their kids to private institutions are "ruining" the nation's education system. Yes, Ms. Benedikt, I'm sure that's exactly what my parents had in mind when they decided to dole out the funds for my siblings and I to attend the local Catholic school.
It is not mere annoyance that drove me to type this piece, however. I mean, let's be honest, why should I really care all that much about what one illogical Slate writer has to say about education? I knew her post was doomed when Benedikt started with "I'm not an education policy wonk," and then proceeded to dissect complex education policy. Yet, I had to offer my two cents because the "logic" which fueled the post is based upon two false premises which the left commonly uses when discussing not only education, but a variety of subjects. It's important to be aware and refute said fallacies.
For clarity's sake, here's Benedikt's argument in a nutshell: If all parents currently sending their kids to private school send them to public schools instead, the "collective" would be much more inclined to put more effort into improving the public school system because we'd all have some skin in the game. She also assumes that once everyone does have "skin in the game," funding will flow like a raging river towards the public school system and its issues will improve. Like magic!
Throwing money into a corrupt bureaucracy plagued by the incessant-issue-causing teachers unions won't solve the problem, but that's a topic for another time. To start however, I want to identify the false dichotomy through which the article's author uses to view the issue at hand. Ms. Benedikt speaks of public and private schools as if those are the only options for students. They're not. The components of our educational system are much more complex. Do "public schools" include magnet and charter schools? What about homeschooling? Simply identifying "public" and "private" schools doesn't acknowledge that it's not a black and white issue. There are great public schools and very poor private schools in our educational system. And homeschoolers should not be exempt from this scenario. Benedikt mentions how she suffered, SUFFERED, through a horrific K-12 experience in a public school. I'd like to point out that while I received many benefits from attending a private institution, it shared many of the characteristics Benedikt complained about. My school didn't have AP courses either (it had dual credit, but not AP). The course choices were slim and the extracurricular activities were limited. We didn't have anything resembling a Home Ec. course and the boy's tennis team was cut after my senior year. I even had to go to the local public school for gifted classes. Imagine that!
Now I want to really dig into the fallacies on which Benedikt bases her entire argument. The article stands on a shaky foundation, to say the least.
1. If one school is succeeding, it is obviously "taking away" that success from another school.
Ms. Benedikt's article appears to claim that successful private schools are not only rising above their public counterparts, but they're doing so at the expense of said public schools. This is an extraordinarily narrow-minded way to look at the world. It's the "haves" against the "have nots." If one person succeeds, it means another person fails. Bologna. This argument is remarkably similar to the wealth distribution argument we often face. Those on the left seem to see our resources as slices of a pie.
If one person has a slice of pie, that means another person is faced with one less "slice." The more free market opinion, however, is to suggest that we just make more pies. In the jobs market, that means creating more innovation, more jobs, more businesses. It works the same way for schools. More opportunity in the educational realm might not necessarily mean "more schools." However it can mean striving for better standards, hiring more accomplished teachers, and allowing for more inter-district mobility, all of which can be accomplished by reforms like school choice. None of which mean creating success for one school in exchange for the failure of another. Benedikt states that "banning private schools" isn't the answer. Ok, but neither is condemning them. Instead of tearing down success, why don't we strive for it?
2. Educational Choices Should Include A Consideration of the Collective.
Yes, I'm sure every parent thinks to themselves, "Well, this school is great for my kids, but what effect will my choice of schools have on everyone else?" It looks like Allison Benedikt belongs to the Melissa Harris-Perry school of "Your kids belong to the collective." I tend to believe, however, that educational choices are some of the most personal choices we make. Each child's education is their own. It's what they do with that education which affects others. This collective mindset is dangerous for it destroys the value of the individual. Without the success of countless individuals, society would not progress (See: Atlas Shrugged). It works the same for education. Each parent and each student must make educational decisions on their own, weighing various factors that matter to them (the parents and child), not society as a whole.
All parents want the best for their children, which means it's important that they choose a school based upon what it offers to their child specifically. Allison Benedikt, however, believes that such a decision is "morally corrupt" (no seriously, read the article, I'm quoting verbatim). While I mourn for the children stuck in our under-performing schools, "redistributing our kids" into the public school system will likely do more harm than good. Right now children in public schools are subject to things like Common Core, tyrannical teacher's unions, and leftist brainwashing. Shouldn't we address those issues first? And are there perfectly successful public schools as well? Sure, but choosing these schools is a decision parents and children should be able to make on their own, a suggestion, which might seem horrifying to the Allison Benedikts and Melissa Harris-Perrys of the world. Then again, the latter did wear "tampon earrings" on air, so I find myself wondering why anyone values her opinion in the first place.