In his haplessly earnest commitment to egalitarianism, Jimmy Carter lugged around his own suitcase and sent his daughter Amy to a D.C. public school. As she trotted off to Thaddeus Stevens Elementary, Carter could console himself with the consistency of his convictions.
Will Barack Obama follow Carter's example? the press wonders. Washington, D.C.'s mayor, Adrian Fenty, wants him to, as do Robert C. Bobb, president of the D.C.'s Board of Education, and board member Mary Lord.
Bobb and Lord have ludicrously urged Obama to send his daughters into the "trenches" of D.C.'s public school system. They write that "no private option offers President-elect Obama a personal reality check on the No Child Left Behind mandates he campaigned to reform. Public school parents see test-prep squeezing out art. They push for quality. As the law's reauthorization looms, what better crash course on its impact than to have kids in the trenches? Now that would be a change any family can believe in."
That the president of D.C.'s Board of Education and a board member counsel an incoming president to deprive his daughters of a superior private school education in order to use them as a "personal reality check" and "crash course" on the failures of No Child Left Behind says all you need to know about the insanely politicized character of D.C.'s public school system.
But the advice, while cruel, is perversely consistent with liberalism's logic: sacrificing the immediate educational good and opportunity of children for the sake of some ill-defined greater political good defines the mindset of the National Education Association. Don't let children leave public schools, the attitude goes. Keep them in the trenches, lest people lose confidence in the system and money and resources drain away. If this means most children receive a crummy education, oh well; a larger good has been achieved.
Moreover, since "equality" is defined by the NEA as sameness of outcome, its proponents have to try and restrict opportunity ruthlessly, as opportunity generates so many differences of outcome. "Equality" and liberty can't coexist. Of course, those who hold this ideology rarely subject their own children to it, dropping them off at posh private schools before heading off to make egalitarian-style arguments at NEA meetings.
While Bobb and Lord may want Obama's daughters in the "trenches," a growing number of public school teachers don't want their children anywhere near them.
According to columnist Clarence Page, "who reluctantly moved my own child to private school after the fifth grade," public school teachers from big cities are more likely to send their own children to private schools than parents in the general population.
Citing a Thomas Fordham Institute study, he writes: "In Obama's hometown, Chicago, for example, 38.7 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools, the Fordham study found, compared to 22.6 percent of the general public. In Washington, D.C., 26.8 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools, versus 19.8 percent of the public."
These stats are worth remembering the next time the NEA cranks out a report on the unsettling growth of homeschooling, charter schools and private academies. Obama has served up plenty of this propaganda himself, casting perfectly reasonable conservative educational policies as a betrayal of the public school system. But he sensibly if hypocritically exempts his children from these stances.
From press reports it appears that Obama's daughters will be spared the fate of Amy Carter. He already sends them to private schools, and Michelle Obama took a look around the Georgetown Day School this week, a private school known for its progressive educational practices.
At the Georgetown Day School, its children of destiny take their first steps toward an egalitarian society free of hierarchy and distressing disparities by calling teachers by their first names, and the students enjoy a curriculum heavy on "community service." Tomorrow's social engineers, after all, have to be educated somewhere, and the pampered egalitarians of the Democratic Party certainly aren't going to expose their children to the "reality check" of D.C.'s public schools.
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