What to do when your candidates are hypocrites

Full marks to Sandra Tsing Loh for honestly expressing her disapproval of the fact that both of her candidates (that would be Obama and Biden) abandoned the public school system when it came to their own children.  And she explains why their abandonment is more than merely symbolic:

Let us not even touch the term “community organizer,” so buffeted about, by both sides, like a balloon at a rock concert. Let us just say that if Mr. and Mrs. Obama — a dynamic, Harvard-educated couple — had chosen public over private school, they could have lifted up not just their one local public school, but a family of schools. First, given the social pressure (or the social persuasion of wanting to belong to the cool club), more educated, affluent families would tip back into the public school fold. And second, the presence of educated type-A parents with too much time on their hands ensures that schools are held, daily, to high standards.

But the significance of educated families opting in to their local public schools goes deeper than that. Research done by Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, indicates that poor children benefit hugely by mixing, daily, with middle-class children (particularly those from families who value education). Conversely, as long as the deleterious effects of poverty, like rampant absenteeism and serious health issues, do not overwhelm the school culture, middle-class children suffer no ill effects. Furthermore, studies have shown that new immigrant children learn English faster and master the complex linguistic skills they need to succeed on standardized tests when they are in classrooms with native English speakers. Sadly, because of the widespread flight of higher-minded families, ethnic segregation (not to mention class segregation) in public schools today is so extreme that only one in five immigrant children will have even one native English-speaking friend.

So it is with huge grief-filled disappointment that I discovered that the Obamas send their children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School (by 5th grade, tuition equals $20,286 a year). The school’s Web site quotes all that ridiculous John Dewey nonsense about developing character while, of course, isolating your children from the poor. A pox on them and, while we’re at it, a pox on John Dewey! I’m sick to death of those inspirational Dewey quotes littering the Web sites of $20,000-plus-a-year private schools, all those gentle duo-tone-photographed murmurings about “building critical thinking and fostering democratic citizenship” in their cherished students, living large on their $20,000-a-year island.

Loh is even more heartbroken to discover and admit that the only person running for public office who has committed to public schools is — yup, Sarah Palin.  It’s yet another illustration of the fact that Palin, rather than running from the system and ranting from the sidelines, chose to engage and fix things from the inside out.

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  • dg

    Bookworm, you offer no evidence that Palin is committed to public schools. How did she engage and fix things? What are the student performance stats, the program costs and benefits? Or are we doing another faith-based analysis?

    You also missed Loh’s more recent NPR discussion/rant on why she is not a supporter of Palin. Funny how that one didn’t make it onto your website.

  • BobK

    dg –

    Evidence? uh… She got her start in ‘public’ life on her local PTA. From Sen. Palin’s acceptance speech:

    I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better.

    How did she ‘engage and fix things’? Perhaps she worked in school fundraisers or volunteered in her kids’ classrooms. Student performance stats, cost/benefit analysis? Would you care to wager on whether the Wasilla public schools have better stats and cost less per student than the schools in the neighborhoods that were the target of the Annenberg grants that Sen. Obama administered? If you have those comparisons. I’d love to see them.

    Sen. Palin at the very least demonstrated hands-on engagement at the most significant level, and PTA work seems to me a better indicator of commitment to schools than rhetoric about how someone else should spend more money on my local school. Involvement in your local PTA is potentially much more effective, IMHO, than state-driven programs or >shudder< the Federal DoE and No Child Left Behind.

  • Gringo

    One point about the ∅bamas sending their children to a private school: the school may have a number of scholarship students. Off hand, we don’t know how many, if any. This is also rather typical of Congressmen in DC: send their kids to Sidwell Friends or to St. Albans, not to the public schools. School choice for me, but not for thee. OTOH, would YOU send YOUR kids to the DC public schools? Or the Chicago schools, for that matter. Not exactly as appetizing a choice as Marin County Public Schools, for example.

    A further point about Senator ∅bama and public education is that as far as I can tell, he never attended a publicly funded educational institution in the US: the ritzy private school in Hawaii 5-12, Occidental, Columbia, Harvard. That makes his chairing the Annenberg Challenge even more interesting. How can someone with no experience whatsoever in public education, let alone teaching in it, be able to discern which grant proposals for research in public education would fly or not fly? After all, while diversity of ability describes public education students to a T, diversity of ability does not exactly describe the schools that ∅bama attended. IMHO, one of the reasons that ∅bama failed at the Annenberg Challenge was that he had no prior experience with what would work and would not work in public education.

    Gee whiz, for some funny reason this is not the first time experience and ∅bama has been brought up. Wonder why? Experience and ∅bama: sorta like the null intersection in a Venn Diagram.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    I’m with Gringo on this one…..sacrificing my children for the purpose of lifting a public school is more than I would do. If the public schools weren’t so completely dominated by the teacher’s unions and the leaden weight of administration, I might have some hope for them.

    But, when a well-known and celebrated educational genius like Jaime Escalante can be driven out of the L.A. Unified School District, then something is so fundamentally wrong with the public schools, that even the children of the rich and the powerful aren’t going to make a difference.

    Sorry if that sounds defeatist, but a parent’s obligation is to do the best they can for their children. I fault Obama, and every other left-of-center politician, not for choosing a safe and functional school for his kids, but for not acting politically to see that poor parents could do the same.

  • suek

    >>Sorry if that sounds defeatist, but a parent’s obligation is to do the best they can for their children.>>

    I agree. I was a school board member for some years. We had a problem with a few teachers, and when a parent called to ask what I thought about her withdrawing her son (she was active in the parent group, and wanted to support the local school) because he had a teacher she thought was a problem and putting her son in a private local school, I had to recommend that she go ahead. Even if a teacher is a known problem, it’s difficult to get them out in less than 2 years – and that’s assuming you have a principal willing to do what needs to be done. Your child only goes through the system once – s/he needs to do it right. The kid comes first. Always.