Wednesday, April 01, 2009


So, Slate's various advice columns are always a source of hilarious hand-wringing (especially their Green Lantern, including favorites like "What's the greenest form of birth control?" and "What's the greenest way to keep my clothes looking sharp?"). Their My Goodness column ("Advice on how to make the world better") today had this question:
My family lives on the west side of Los Angeles. I face the same choice as many urban families: Will the kids attend public or private schools? Should one minimize opportunities for one's own child in service to the greater good?
What is interesting from my anti-everything perspective is that both respondents agree that it's okay to send your kids to a private school, and one of them already did, but at the same time both insist that we really need to worry about is improving public schools. Respondent Patty seems to put this solely in terms of bigger budgets (in mentioning the stimulus plan's $15 billion toward education as "limited good news"), while Respondent Sandy at least notes that just throwing money at it won't solve the problem. The better and easier option, I think, would be to open up more schools to the kind of competition that already provides the options and choices these elite white women have the opportunity to select from. School vouchers and bigger, shifting or tiny-but-easy-to-transfer school districts would force schools to improve or watch their funding dry up as enrollment declined.

I also think the emphasis and choice and competition would go toward fixing the underlying problem -- a warped view of education that, at the bottom, sees schooling as a meaningless waste of time, or, at the top, as a taken-for-granted entitlement that gets in the way of socializing and getting to the "real world." Almost everybody who really wants their children to have a good education can obtain one. We need to encourage all parents that this is a worthwhile effort by giving them a reason to think it is.

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