I Send My Kids to Private School, and I Am Not a Bad Person

If you are a parent of school-age children, and/or read a certain type of on-line publication, you probably saw the article in Slate headlined “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are A Bad Person”.

I saw it on Slate, which I regularly read as much for the articles as for the comments (and when it comes to Dear Prudie, almost exclusively for the comments), and I saw it in my Twitter timeline several times. Some people agreed with the argument, which boils down to “everyone should send their children to public schools so public education will improve”, if not the sentiment. And some people don’t agree with the argument for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the way the author of the piece framed it as a judgmental manifesto with a data set of one (herself).

I’ve made my argument for why I send my children to a private, Catholic school already here. Ironically, one of the reasons I send my children to private school (and will unless I can’t afford it) is because it’s all I know. The same way Allison Benedikt, the author of the Slate article, got only exposure to public schooling, Catholic education is the only kind of education I got. I found it to be a rich and rewarding experience, one that I hope the Catholic school the girls attend (and that M will eventually attend) will provide for my kids. When it comes to high school, even moreso.

And, yes, the whole “you are a bad person” aside, I couldn’t find a real reason for Benedikt’s assertions that the only way to assuage liberal guilt if you are a liberal-leaning parent is to participate in the public school system. For the record, I have no guilt about choosing to send my kids to Catholic school. Not a pang.

Benedikt’s proof that public education is just fine is that she went to public school, a mediocre one at best — she asserts she had one book that she *had* to read in four years of school — and she’s just fine. She’s employed full-time, at a job she likes; she’s married and has three children (4 years old and under).

Her argument for sending kids to public school is that only by sending kids to public school will public education improve. That with parental involvement, public education will be held accountable to be the best it can be for our children. That with more kids will come more money, more voices for the betterment of the programs, and in three or four generations, we will finally be caught up, and all schools will be excellent and turn out good students.

She may have a point. I don’t know. Again, she doesn’t have anything to back up her assertion.

Now, the commenters on my little post had good points as to why they would or would not choose Catholic school. And again, we only are providing anecdotes. The commenters on the Slate piece ran the gamut to making real arguments for sending kids to public schools, arguments against, and dismissing Benedikt out of hand while also calling her names. The usual comment section fare. The comment section is at 5000+ comments and climbing, so Benedikt has done her job well, in this case, generating a clickbait article so advertisers at Slate get a lot of eyeballs on their ads.

Well, done, Allison. Kudos.

I think — and I am again, basing this on anecdotal evidence — that if liberal-leaning parents want to send their kids to public school, what actually happens is that they go out to find the best schools around where they have chosen to live and work. They do research to see the success rate of the school districts; they visit the schools and meet the teachers, and ask a lot of questions. They don’t passively send their kids to school wherever they happen to live (unless they live in a pretty good district already).

Then they move.

Would Benedikt assert that parents can’t relocate to send their kids to a certain public school? Do you have to stay put after you have kids, and use the public education system wherever you end up? Do you have to live within a certain mile radius of where you work, and send your kids to *that* public school?

If she’s going to declare me a bad person because, with adequate public schools in my area, I choose to send my kids to a private Catholic school, then shouldn’t parents that move to send their kids to the best public schools also be declared bad people? If the goal is to improve bad schools, shouldn’t good liberal parents send their smart kids to poor schools, get really involved, and improve the schools that way?

And what about conservative parents? Are they off the hook because they don’t care about public schooling anyway? And what about those who choose to homeschool, for religious (conservative) or secular (liberal) reasons?

The key to our kids getting a good education absolutely starts in the home. If you are an involved parent, regardless of how you choose to educate your children, whether you send them to pre-school, kindergarten, or start them in first grade, public or private, it’s not going to be a detriment to them.

But if you are an involved parent, your kid automatically has a leg up on children with parents who — for reasons from financial to educational — aren’t involved. A single mother with more than one child has a lot more on her plate than I do. I can afford to be involved, because I only have to work one job, and have a parenting partnership with my husband, and we have the means to outsource some things (i.e. laundry, hire the occasional babysitter, use a nanny in the summer). Do *those* things make me a bad person too?

I think a good education is the right of every person. I think public schools do need to improve — and the worst schools need to improve the most. I don’t know what the answer to improving public education.

But declaring that everyone should send their kids to public school because it’s the moral thing to do — that’s not the argument to make, in my opinion.

Did you read the Slate article? What did you think?

5 thoughts on “I Send My Kids to Private School, and I Am Not a Bad Person

  1. I see the point in the idea that public education will improve if everyone HAS to send their kids to public school, however there would inevitably be growing pains getting there. And blatantly, I selfishly am not willing to potentially sacrifice the quality of my own kid’s education for the broader social prospect that some day, down the line, the result will be better public education for everybody. Maybe that makes me a jerk, so I guess I’m a jerk.
    However, I also don’t think the argument is flawless, because I certainly do not think you can say private education is universally better than public education. It’s not so clear cut and easy a distinction.

    • I agree that not every private school is better than every public school. Just because you’re paying more for something doesn’t make it automatically better. If parents are lazy enough to assume that paying for their children’s education means they don’t have to be involved in their kids’ education, then that’s not-very-good parenting, IMO.

  2. I am certain that had there been a private school available to send my darling daughter, the teachers would have taken up a collection to get her there. We tried, but she didn’t fit well in the large classrooms and loud noises in school. She still hasn’t gotten a GED and neither a private or public school can be effective if a child is unmotivated. Thankfully my boys have been more interested in learning, though neither of them have been as focused on education as I would have liked. I feel a sense of personal failure that neither of them love to read; they take after their biological mother in that way.
    Idaho is poorly funded and only 1 in 10 kids completes college. Since we have so few private schools and we are generally poor and conservative, there is an increase in “homeschooling”, which can be either much better or much worse than the public system.
    The research I am aware of focuses on the benefit of parent involvement and early enrichment opportunities. Schools are unquestionably important, but parental involvement is crucial. Without parents who care, it is the unusual child that actually excels. And schools, both public and private, are driven far more by the personnel and the school board than the parents. I have a lot of friends that are teachers, they told me who my kids should and should not be taught by.

    • “Parental involvement is crucial.” That is the most important take-away any parent can take from any discussion of education. The home situation is probably more important to anything else, from daycare to private or public school.

  3. I am commenting without having read the article, and I get the point, but am I and so many others supposed to put our kids in a public school while we wait for those school to get better?

    We were “supposed” to live here for three to five years. Eleven and a half years later, for several reasons, we are still here. Even though my original, main motivation for sending my kid to a Catholic school was b/c I did not want her in the crappy public school, that is no longer my prime motivation. Having God/religion at the forefront of my kid’s education ended up being more important than I realized. And I say this as someone who has a shaky faith…

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