Allison Benedikt recently posted an article on Slate that has gotten a lot of attention. In it, she argues that parents with the resources to have a choice about where to send their children to school are morally obligated to send them to public school. Or, to put it differently, she has serious questions about the morality of sending your children to private school.
Her reasoning is pretty straightforward:
Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service investment, or property tax investment, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring investment. Your local school stinks but you don’t send your child there? Then its badness is just something you deplore in the abstract. Your local school stinks and you do send your child there? I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better.
The children of parents with the resources to have educational choices will generally do just a fine in a mediocre (presumably urban) public school, she argues.
Whatever you think your children need—deserve—from their school experience, assume that the parents at the nearby public housing complex want the same. No, don’t just assume it. Do something about it. Send your kids to school with their kids. Use the energy you have otherwise directed at fighting to get your daughter a slot at the competitive private school to fight for more computers at the public school. Use your connections to power and money and innovation to make your local school—the one you are now sending your child to—better. Don’t just acknowledge your liberal guilt—listen to it.