This Is No Surprise To You, But It Turns Out I'm A Bad Person

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275 Responses

  1. Charles says:

    Google, find "photographic evidence that Ken's youngest is not always smiling".

    Your search returned: 0 results.

  2. AlphaCentauri says:

    Wow. "I don't know anything about quality education; I just know I didn't need it." That attitude is sure to bring about the flowering of public education. /eyeroll

  3. Kilroy says:

    Pretty sure Ms. Benedikt would be telling you to send the kids "back to the Orient" so they could improve that overall society. Sure, they might not have it as well, and their kids won't either, but maybe their grandkids grandkids will see some benefit.

  4. Lizard says:

    "Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good."

    Sorry, I'm calling this one a troll. Nobody talks like an Ayn Rand villain in real life — no one is that honest.

  5. wanfuforever says:

    That is some kind of arrogance to say parents looking out for the best interests of their own kids is wrong. The more I think about it, the higher chance I'll take the comments section and turn it into a rebuttal column (ahem, I meant "counter-manifesto"). Yeesh.

  6. Grenaid says:

    I'd say this comes from the same anti-intellectual streak that runs through a lot of America; why else brag about what you missed and how little it matters? How could you possibly know? Oh, right. You weren't educated.

    'Better to remain silent and be thought a fool then open it and remove all doubt,' I thought public schools emphasis on conformity taught that much at least. Not to Benedikt I guess.

  7. lelnet says:

    And in the meantime, y'all can hang out with those of us who care about education so much that we've actually figured out the only way public education in this country will ever be fixed is if it completely burns to the ground first.

    Also, despite my effective certainty that the article in question wasn't an _actual_ troll, I still think Lizard wins the comments so far. :) (Poe's Law is a thing, true…but surely nobody ever expected it would get _this_ far.)

  8. RyanE says:

    Personally, I think the "common good" is much better served by giving the kids of this generation educated the best they can be, which, if it's in Private schools and you can afford it, that's awesome. If you have good public schools, go for that.

    They'll become the future Doctors, Engineers, Scientists, and even Lawyers (yeah, I guess some of you are OK).

    Her argument also seems to have the fallacy of "It was good enough for me (I'm fine)", yet everyone should stay in public schools so it'll get better.

    I do disagree with her argument that getting drunk before games with the trailer park kids qualifies as a good cultural experience.

    :)

  9. Analee says:

    I'd rather be a bad person than a parent who didn't do the absolute best for her child education-wise. My parents wanted to send me to a private school, but unfortunately could not afford it. They made damn sure though that they taught me what my school failed to do.

    Note: I do not have kids, but I would like to have them someday, and I hope to be as good a parent as my parents were and Ken and his wife are.

  10. RyanE says:

    Yeah, Im ejumacated. I meant to say "giving the kids of this generation the best education they can get", not that screwed up sentence above…

    :|

  11. COD says:

    The first schools my kids ever attended were colleges. I'm a monster and I must be stopped.

  12. David says:

    Her argument is pretty much that if some schools are bad, then everyone should have to suffer, because then we'll fight for improvement.

    She may be willing to send her kids to public schools. But is she willing to live in some run-down tenement, so she has a vested interest in improving substandard housing? Is she willing to give up her health insurance, to better sympathize with the plight of the uninsured? Is she willing to give up her car so she can fight for a better transit system? Is she willing to live in a high-crime area, and try to improve it?

    My guess is no.

  13. rabbitscribe says:

    … make the best interests of your children subservient to the best interests of a collective imagined by a smug self-appointed elite.

    Said imagined collective to exist several generations in the future.

  14. Jag says:

    I had both my boys in private school until I pulled one out this year. One was flourishing in all honors classes, sports teams, popular (in other words, nothing like me). My younger son was not doing well socially or academically (more like me), so we actually put him in public school this year hoping that he will get more out of it.

    I stressed about not having them in the same school district, but as a parent you need to do what you think is best for your kids.

  15. Ryan says:

    Alison Benedikt seems to have missed her own point.

    It's a perfectly valid argument that public schools should not be allowed to be medicore educational institutions, particularly if private schools maintain much greater standards and are only affordable to the upper-middle class. That direction lies the problem on entrenching classes further than they already are; after all, study upon study shows that parents' income level is the best predictor of child's grades and future income as well. Put another way, for most people the class you are born in is the class you die in. More simply, the American Dream is fiction.

    What is not a perfectly valid argument is that people should accept the fact that public schools are crap in the meantime (in the US, anyway) and send their kids there over private schools to ensure the institutions are improved. That's a very cynical take on the view that "money talks." It makes sense for people to be self-interested in the quality of education their children receive and seek out the best within their means. I have no doubt that if I lived in certain parts of the US I'd be seeking out the best private school I could afford, too.

    Maybe Alison should instead aim her ire at government education standards that permit poor educational funding, accept low standards, and generally plod along with the status quo in some places while investing in others. The whole point in government-run education systems is to ensure quality of education for all; if that system can't deliver on that promise, then it is broken and in need of repair. What it doesn't need is the sacrifice of yet more children to a shitty system.

    Does the status quo breed a class division in educational quality? Absolutely. But the solution to that is NOT to compromise the quality of education that kids whose parents can ensure they get it receive – through whatever means at their disposal.

  16. Mrrrrk says:

    Ken – southern Californian whose child could use a kick-ass private school, in place of coasting. Could you share the name of the one to which you refer?

  17. Scott says:

    [Trying to start a slow clap that takes over the entire country…minus the Benediktine Morons, of course.]

  18. SassQueen says:

    I… just…

    No.

    At least she comes right out and admits that she's judgmental.

  19. Scott says:

    [The comment system ate my (clap)s. I'll try again…]

    (clap)

    (clap)

    (clap)
    (clap)

    [Trying to start a slow clap that takes over the entire country…minus the Benediktine Morons, of course.]

  20. John Thacker says:

    The strange thing about Ygelsias's comment is that I thought he was pro-immigation. I don't see how you can take that attitude on education and not also think, for example, that immigrants from poorer shouldn't be allowed to leave their countries (and must stay there to improve them.)

    Also, since art is really important, people who subscribe to HBO instead of watching high rated free network shows are bad people, since otherwise their efforts would improve the quality of art for all of us.

  21. I am most decidedly not a libertarian, of either the big- or small-l variety; I'd describe myself as a partisan Democrat and a general believer in big government. (as a friend of mine said "I believe government should be too big to fit into your bedroom")

    And yet, my daughter goes to private school because I live in an Abbott District. If we lived half a mile down the road in the neighboring school district, we'd certainly save the money and send her to public school (among other things, we'd then need that money for the mortgage).

    I'm all for my municipality having a good, functional public school system. If the city wants to raise property taxes all around to get there, fine. (after all, we've still got miles to go in tax rates before we're anywhere near what they have in Camden county) But how on earth is sending my daughter to the public schools going to do that? I think the world of my kid, but I don't think she's so special that gracing the local schools with her presence will somehow magically cause the other kids to improve.

    I don't understand what the article's author means by "terrible public school". In my case, it's having to have meetings with the school administrator when my K-3 daughter complained about a boy in her class touching her butt and trying to touch her "in the poopy place". I don't entirely blame the teachers for letting one kid wander into the bathroom while another was in there since they really had way too many kids to control, but that ended her one and only year at public school. I do blame the administrators for a completely bass-ackward response.

    That's the big difference I've noticed as a parent – the teachers at both public and private school seem primarily motivated by working with the kids so there isn't that much difference in dealing with them (though at public school, they're also much more worn down since the student/teacher ratio is at least twice what is at her current school). The difference in the administration, though, is like night and day. I'd so much rather deal with the administrators at my daughter's current school.

  22. Anonymous Coward says:


    You fail Google.

    But without Google, how would I look up "salubrious"?

  23. dw says:

    To her credit, she does say that "banning private schools is not the answer".

  24. Dan says:

    I'm an outside-of-NYC agnostic who sends his kids to the local Catholic grade school because the education there >>> than the free public education (that I pay for anyway).

    Abolishing private education in favor of 100% government run education? Sweet, because the government (fed, state, muni – all of them) kicks ass at everything else it does!

    My parents scrimped and saved to send all five of us to pricey private education. My mom bought a really nice car last week, actually. Her first real luxury now that the youngest is finally out of school. My mother's view is the exact opposite of Ms. Benedikt's. Here is what she said to me: "I was happy to get my children a good education." But, mom, you could have bought a Lexus back in 1990 and just sent us all to public school. "As a bad mother," she replied. Not really a bad mother, but in her eyes not giving us such an advantage is tantamount to neglect.

    I'm not naive to think that this is a universal opportunity. White upper middle class suburban kids with two working parents with their own advanced degrees in the same household, pushing education… not everyone is in that position. But if you have the means give your kids the better education between two choices, how do you deny them that under the presumption that their grandkids will get a great public education one day (maybe)? It's asinine.

    BTW, every parent-teacher conference went this way for 12 years:

    He's a smart kid with a smart mouth who will cruise to Bs with no effort and without really learning anything if you let him.

    English Benedictines don't tolerate that nonsense. Now I'm a productive member of society, one with the critical reading skills to know that Ms. Benedikt would have herself benefited from a better education. I get her thesis. It just fails.

  25. Unregardless says:

    Whoa. You better hope your wife doesn't read the part about how you don't take her serious.

  26. Kevin says:

    I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.

    Hmmm, so the collectivists have moved from 5 year plans to 25 year plans… I guess that counts as SOME progress towards acknowledging reality.

  27. Dangerboy says:

    She obviously doesn't know how damaged she is. Hell, she can't even spell Benedict. Unless that K is for Komrade.
    I know, I've gone the gutter route on this one, but I'm feeling intellectually lazy today. Must be the damage to my brain cells from reading her article.
    It's her kind of pie-in-the-sky bureaucracy can fix it all viewpoint that damns children, locking them into a system that has no idea what to do with them.
    What did public schools do for Jacob Barnett? Not a goddamn thing, except tell his mom he would never learn to tie his own shoes. Now he's a 10 year old astrophysicist.
    I'll be a bad person right along with you, Ken, because my own son deserves the absolute best I can give him, not the exact same thing as every other kid. Life ain't fair, and Benedikt's la-la-land will never come to be.

  28. Dan Weber says:

    My parents moved me from a private school to a public school, despite my father teaching in the same private school system.

    We moved our oldest from a public school to a private school.

    Me and my kids are not pawns in your little social experiment. I'm sorry if you got a God-complex playing Sim City, but it's your problem, not mine.

  29. Dangerboy says:

    (OOPS…14 year old astrophysicist. My bad.)

  30. Renee Marie Jones says:

    Oh the horrors!

    Hey, do what you want, but do not make the mistake of thinking that private schools are "better" because they are run by The Market(tm). Education is one of those things that The Market(tm) screws up worse than the government.

  31. gramps says:

    This has to be some kind of a troll/sarc exercise. No one can be so dumb as to think that supporting multiple generations of substandard education will result in a better society…. unless you think that all this fancy shit like electric lamps, running water – clean water, no less — sewers… all that stuff society has come up with by pushing the knowledge frontier forward is really bad for us. She must yearn for the streets being piled with the bodies of cholera, yellow fever and malaria victims.

    Of course if too many children get good educations, and do the same for their kids, then the number of easily misled, low-information voters will decrease and society will no longer elect idiots to office. Maybe that is her worry.

  32. bralex says:

    Since starting to read here, I've put sites like slate, salon, and wired (for my purposes here SSW) into my "rotation" along with my sci/tech sites and BBC news. I am constantly amazed that SSW exist – the editorial control seems minimal, they read like a collection of highly-biased blogs mixed with summaries of TV episodes (esp. breaking bad). I don't see why they are considered _relevant_ by anyone? I read the subject article and see no reason to consider it significant enough to take apart. Sites like huffpost and drudge have at least some shred of editorial control to underpin their biases (sp?).

  33. Hal 10000 says:

    I love the logic: she didn't need a really great education, therefore no one does. Of course, if I'd gotten a mediocre education — without calculus or physics — I wouldn't be a scientist today. But maybe, if I were lucky, I could a smug writer whose semi-coherent burblings make everyone cry "Poe".

  34. Gabriel says:

    If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my children, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.

  35. Dan Weber says:

    This has to be some kind of a troll/sarc exercise

    In 2 days she will come back and say "she was just trying to start a conversation."

  36. Dirkmaster says:

    Llizard:
    I disagree. This article is a perfect example that the HONEST progressives ARE in fact Ayn Rand villians.

  37. Dirkmaster says:

    Oh, and I am not a troll either. I just look like one. :-<

  38. Jim says:

    Slate's not a content farm?

  39. David says:

    I went K–12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn’t offer AP classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either.

    It shows.

    I attended… let's see… eight public primary or secondary schools and graduated from an ethnically complex, socially stratifed, and financially challenged high school in a barrio between two ganglands. In high school, I read a number of books somewhat greater than 1.

    So yeah– is it really about the school?

    It's folly to generalize with crude chiliastic algorithms over something as complex as the education of 50 million people.

    I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm not a big-L Libertarian, although I have small-l libertarian leanings. If you asked me to summarize my domestic political outlook, you could do worse than this: I want to minimize the ability of people like Alison Benedikt, who tend to encrust government, to tell me how to raise my family or live my life. I believe in free expression, free worship, free conscience, personal responsibility, the rule of law, strictly limited government (and the strict limitation of people with clipboards and people with guns and badges, thank you very much), and that the best society is one in which free people make free choices, not one in which you allow the Alison Benedikts of the world to make the best interests of your children subservient to the best interests of a collective imagined by a smug self-appointed elite.

    Exactly. This could be the credo of Popehat. And yes, I sent my child to private schools K-12. That's what we deemed right for our family.

  40. Gabriel says:

    I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either.

    And now I write policy pieces on a popular blog, with no intellectual qualification to do so! Isn't the internet great?

  41. James Pollock says:

    "That is some kind of arrogance to say parents looking out for the best interests of their own kids is wrong."
    There are lots of cases where having each individual working for the betterment of its own interests can lead to degradation of the system as a whole. For example, traffic. Each driver jockeys for position with the result that A) accidents are more common, and B) road rage, and C) overall slow progress for everyone.

    Imagine if the air traffic system operated the same as neighborhood traffic does.

  42. Dan says:

    …crude chiliastic algorithms…

    I initially read that as chilitastic and now I'm hungry.

  43. Shane says:

    Substitute the word school in the essay with the word product and watch the milk fly.

  44. Xenocles says:

    Ken, we already knew you're a bad actor because of your non-kin adoptions. This is just another nail in the coffin. (sarcastic)

  45. naught_for_naught says:

    The four biggest factors in a failing public education system:
    (1) The dysfunctional culture that engulfs the schools themselves.
    (2) Lack of funding.
    (3) Institutionalized mediocrity (administration and unions)
    (4) Parents who don't make education a priority in their homes and send their children to school unprepared to learn.

    The most insignificant factor in a failing public education system:
    (1) Parents who send their children to private school.

  46. shg says:

    So you took the linkbait.

  47. Lish says:

    So no one should be allowed to have anything until everyone is able to have it? That's some convoluted logic right there…

  48. SPQR says:

    Ken, well done.

    I'm baffled just how anyone can write something as flagrantly stupid as:
    "but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad"

  49. azazel1024 says:

    As you mentioned Ken, often times Private schools are much more diverse. My oldest just started Kindergarten. At his public elementary school in the rural part of our county there are 32 children in his Kindergarten in two classes. If the county doesn't shut down his school (which they are trying to do, so that he'll be stuck on a bus for nearly an hour each way, instead of the 20 minutes he is now), he'll have a class size of 16 all through Elementary school. In addition there are 2 non-white male students between the two classes and 8 non-white female students (about equal numbers of boys and girls).

    Most of the private schools near us have both more diverse classrooms and larger class sizes. In terms of school ranking though, the private schools aren't much better than the public schools. It helps that I am one of the top counties in Maryland (for the school system) and one of the best public school systems in the nation.

    However, there are bad schools in my county still. If I hadn't moved, I probably would have been "forced" to place my children in private school for high school as our old house funneled in to an excellent elementary school, stellar middle school and the 2nd worst high school in the county with a fair amount of crime and other problems inlcuding greatly reduced options for things that Alison Benedikts sneers at, like AP classes.

    Instead I "lucked out" on where I was able and wanted to move and my children, even if their ES gets closed, have the opportunity to attend on of the better public ES in my county (and nation), one of the better Middle schools and one of the 3 best high schools in my county (not sure of exact current rankings).

    How I rise my children is my own responsiblity so long as I am not abusing them. I choose to give them, if not the best, than one of the better educations I possibly can (in part voting with the location of my residence). I also choose to teach them the religion I espouse (agnosticism). I also choose to teach the my political views (liberal with very slight libertarian leanings). I also choose to teach them my morals (respect everyone, even thine enemy and curtesy costs you nothing and gives you much; being the main two). I will fight for better public schools in areas that have poor public schools, but I won't put my kids in them.

    Just like I'd fight to clean up slums, but I am not about to move to one. I fight for universal health care, but I am not about to abandon my private health care, etc, etc.

  50. Clark says:

    I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental.

    You're not wrong, Walter Alison, you're just an asshole.

    Wait.

    Actually, you're both.

  51. James Pollock says:

    Here is the problem: If enough well-behaved, well-motivated, academically-inclined students are removed from the public schools (along with the support of dedicated parents who can afford to invest in their children's education beyond paying their taxes) then that drags down the overall capability of the remaining student body. Not just because the "smartest" kids (here I'm using "smartest" as shorthand for well-behaved, well-motivated, and academically inclined) aren't there, but because the remaining "smartest" kids, the ones whose parents couldn't afford to take them out of the public school, are so vastly outnumbered that the schools won't cater to them. We risk losing the achievements those students would have made.

    It's not a new argument, it's just that now the debate is "private vs. public" instead of "urban vs. suburban".

    I went to suburban schools (my high school was actually barely suburban, the primary industry was still agriculture and the middle schools offered a class on the care of livestock along with metal shop and wood shop.) My daughter went to a specialty middle school offered by the suburban school district, then the stereotypical large suburban high school, then switched to a program where she took college courses instead of high school courses to meet her high school requirements, again, offered by the suburban school district.

  52. David W says:

    Strikes me as typical Statist. 'Sacrifices must be made' – but always by someone else. She's not arguing that you should work to improve public schools whether or not you use them. She's saying that it's ok for your kids to be sacrificed for the greater good. That you have a higher responsibility to Society than you do to the people you explicitly committed to raising. Somehow paying attention to abstract Good is more important than paying attention to the specific good of those three specific kids. If this be Badness, Ken, all I can say is Bravo!

    On an unrelated note: ok, so her high school and college educations were lacking. What's that got to do with "You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t." Can't she, what with 'doing fine', spend the pittance to acquire a public domain copy of Whitman and read it some weekend?

    Oh, I guess it's ok, as long as she gets drunk with Black and Brown people instead. That's clearly equivalent.

  53. Virgil says:

    This was the best bit, IMHO… But many others go [...] simply because the public school in their district is not so hot.

    If by "not so hot" you mean scores 0.9 percentile on the state rankings (and that was before all this common-core BS came down the pipe and made everyone's grades even lower), then yeah I'll give you that point!

    Yes you read that correctly 0.9%. Now why the shuddering-buggery-fuck would I choose to subject my kid to those numbers, for "the common good"? Maybe I should feed them a nutritionally deficient diet just to complete the picture, because after all if we're feeding our kids better food then it doesn't help the common good including the people who can't afford good food.

  54. Clark says:

    @Ken:

    My mother worked in public education her entire 30-year career

    So did mine.

    It was because she saw how terrible the public schools were that she sent me to private school.

    I note that this is a very common pattern.

  55. Lizard says:

    @Dirkmaster:

    Someone might believe that parents should sacrifice their children's well-being, in defiance of the most fundamental urges programmed into us by evolution (I must note I'm an exception here, as I'm childless and will almost certainly remain so). However, it is unlikely they have the honesty and self-awareness to consciously describe their beliefs that way, even to themselves. Of that small percentage who do have such self-awareness and honesty, effectively all would recognize that this idea will be seen as astoundingly evil by pretty much every human on Earth, regardless of other political views, and if they chose to express it at all, would do so only in a maze of twisty little euphemisms, all alike.

  56. Roland says:

    Abe Lincoln (a Republican) spoke of "government of, by, and for the people." I think he was talking about public institutions that actually served the public, rather than themselves or special interests. I think I'd support that. But I haven't seen such a thing in my lifetime. That's why so many people despise government. A culture of bureaucracy in govt., and a culture of deliberate ignorance in society, is inevitably fatal. In the meantime, you've got to look out for your own–government has shown its true colors.

  57. Clark says:

    @James Pollock

    Here is the problem: If enough well-behaved, well-motivated, academically-inclined students are removed from the public schools (along with the support of dedicated parents who can afford to invest in their children's education beyond paying their taxes) then that drags down the overall capability of the remaining student body

    It doesn't "drag down" the quality; it allows it to remain down.

    You start with the assumption that redistribution is the default moral choice.

    Many of us disagree.

    Hell, if you keep innocent white collar college educated people out of jail you're going to drag down the jail populace so that it's all criminals!

    Oh noz!

  58. Dan Weber says:

    So no one should be allowed to have anything until everyone is able to have it? That's some convoluted logic right there…

    It's perfect logic, if you have no ethics about the people you are stomping down for your particular cause.

    And, wouldn't you know it? Everyone thinks their Particular Cause is always Worth It.

  59. love this:
    I will note that some elementary logic classes might have helped her: if bad education is not so bad, why is it terrible that it persists, and why does its persistence act as a moral imperative for people to eschew the best interests of their children?
    ************
    Popehat – Win!
    Benedikt – Fail.
    ************

  60. Anton Sirius says:

    The whole thing reads like an Objectivist's attempt to argue the other side of the education debate, except that an Objectivist would never be caught dead using a term like 'humblebrag'.

  61. Dan says:

    Now I get it, thanks to this additional claptrap from Slate: My parents actually sent me to private high school for tax benefits, apparently.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/08/29/tax_private_schools.html

  62. NeoBob says:

    Public schools will simply have to work harder and do a better job of courting the needs of the public if they want to gain marketshare. That's how it works, right?

  63. Michael says:

    @naught_for_naught:

    if you assume that funding is one of the main issues facing public schools (though I disagree that is true), then any parents who remove their children from the public schools (whilst still paying taxes) actually increase public school spending per pupil.

  64. stillnotking says:

    I would call this a troll/linkbait article, but those usually include some pretense of empirical support for their "controversial" position, so it's more likely she's just a moron.

  65. naught_for_naught says:

    The back story of this piece: Double-X's managing editor showing her underlings what click-bait is all about. Tomorrow's thesis: Why the Catholic Church needs a Gay Pope.

  66. Al I. says:

    I think she's saying how she thinks it should be. She's not forcing anyone down one path or another. I'm not seeing some big reason to attack her over her opinion. I do see some assumptions that she's somehow judging by having this opinion, but I'm failing to see that actual judging when looking for it.

  67. naught_for_naught says:

    @Michael

    It's a mistake to think that spending on education automatically leads to better outcomes. It's a fact, however, that U.S. public schools have a lower per-capita than many other industrial countries.

    But, sure, taking your child out of public school while maintain funding levels would effectively raise the per-capita funding rate, but is that what pro-voucher folks are asking for?

  68. naught_for_naught says:

    @Al

    I'm not seeing some big reason to attack her over her opinion.

    Look again. I think it's stated pretty well in her thesis: If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person. If I didn't think it was just a cynical ploy at driving page views and ad impressions, I might be inclined to having my feelings hurt and saying some unkind words.

  69. stillnotking says:

    Not to mention that she describes herself as "judgmental" in the third sentence of the article…

  70. James Pollock says:

    "'My mother worked in public education her entire 30-year career'"
    So did mine.
    It was because she saw how terrible the public schools were that she sent me to private school."

    My mother worked in private, vocational education; I went to public school (and a state university). YMMV

    "It doesn't "drag down" the quality; it allows it to remain down."
    Well, the "uninvolved parent" portion does. You'll note that I included not just losing the more academically-inclined students, but losing the more involved parents, as the problem.

    "You start with the assumption that redistribution is the default moral choice."
    I what now?

  71. ketchup says:

    If Benedikt were a teacher in a public school system, she would almost certainly be disciplined, and maybe even fired, for writing this piece.
    For advocating more people attend public schools? No! For advocating underage abuse of alcohol! Public schools these days have zero tolerance for substance-abuse issues. If a teacher advocated underage drinking to excess, the PC police would be all over it.
    (Of course, the PC police are just one reason I don't send my kids to public schools)
    Perhaps if she read more, she would realize that promoting teenage alcohol use has fallen out of favor since she was a student.

  72. ShelbyC says:

    Well, as Yglesias says, "Very tough problem for liberal political theory around this." And he's not kidding. Benedikt nails the fundamental problem for progressives: Progressives want everybody to have equal opportunity, but most don't want to admit that in order to accomplish this, the government has to ensure that parents efforts to provide advantages for their children are rendered irrelevant. Benedikt may as well just come out and say that, in some people's minds, if you are a parent who tries to provide advantages to your children that all children don't have, you are a bad person.

  73. Mitch says:

    Almost wrote a long response, then I realized the only thing to say was: Amen! (as a parent who sends my daughter to a good urban public school).

  74. Trebuchet says:

    @Michael:

    if you assume that funding is one of the main issues facing public schools (though I disagree that is true), then any parents who remove their children from the public schools (whilst still paying taxes) actually increase public school spending per pupil.

    Not necessarily. State funding for education is commonly on a "per pupil" basis, so declining enrollment directly reduces funding while reducing fixed costs not at all.

    Meanwhile, I am absolutely certain that Ken is not A Bad Person. However, if you are a parent that sends a kid to a school that actively teaches anti-science (e.g. creationism), sends a kid to a "segregation academy" (usually associated with all-white churches), or actively works to harm public education (usually by attacking funding), then I would submit you are a very bad person indeed.

  75. Nate says:

    I'm not at all going to dispute that every parent has a right to do what he/she feels is best for his/her children whatever type of schooling that may be (because I agree that every parent has that right).

    My genuine questions are: How do you help those kids with parents who don't care? Or do you help those kids? What role do parents play in the education system? (In my experience I have seen parents looking out for the best interests of their children both help and hinder the education of others.)

  76. ketchup says:

    Right ShelbyC.
    Why stop at public schools? If you take your children to a private hospital because they have better facilities than the public hospital downtown, you are a bad person!

  77. Anton Sirius says:

    "Progressives want everybody to have equal opportunity"

    No, that's how the opponents of progressives tend to mis-characterize their position on every subject.

    Progressives want to mandate a useful minimum level of opportunity. They don't care if some people start further ahead, just so long as no one starts behind arbitrary line X.

  78. Dana Gower says:

    Beginning with her "modest proposal" (or manifesto, whatever), doesn't anybody think this is legitimate satire? It is just too carefully worded and thought through to be serious. I think it's brilliant (and, no, I'm not talking about her argument). This is stylistic pyrotechnics at its finest.

  79. James Pollock says:

    "Public schools will simply have to work harder and do a better job of courting the needs of the public if they want to gain marketshare"

    Close.
    "Public schools will simply have to work harder and do a better job of courting the needs of the public if they want to improve parents satisfaction."
    is better.

    Assume that the general population has several subsets:
    1) people who have no school-age children.
    2) people who have children, and are unhappy enough to pull their kids from public school, and have the wherewithal to to do it.
    3) people who have children, and are unhappy enough to pull their kids from public school, but do not have the wherewithal to do it.
    4) people who have children, and have no strong opinion about the education their kids receive.
    5) people who have children, and feel well-served by public education.
    6) people who have a vested interest in status quo.

    I think that class 2 can be subdivided (WHY are they so dissatisfied with public education?) but this is going to be long enough already. A claim that can be levied against some of them is "QUITTER! Stay and fix the problem, don't run away from it!" although, of course, efforts to improve public education run into class 6, who have the support of classes 4 and 5.

    The problem is that the entrenched interests will keep the support of classes 4 and 5 as long as public education generally serves most of the needs of most of the students. If your kid(s) fall outside the mainstream, it's tough to interest public education in serving them (they're forced by law to handle the kids at one end of the bell curve; in theory they're forced to handle the kids at the other end but often fail to do so Kids who coast along with good grades without having to put any effort in are ill-served because they will eventually run into a situation where they WILL have to work at learning, and they won't have been prepared for it. Until they hit that point, though, they're likely to be largely ignored unless the parent(s) have juice.

  80. Jessie says:

    I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.

    Isn't human nature more likely to be "well, not having AP was good enough for me, so it'll be good enough for them."

    I fail to see how this

  81. ShelbyC says:

    "Progressives want to mandate a useful minimum level of opportunity"

    Really? Why is it that I hear discussions about "equal opportunity", "equality", etc. so much more often than I hear "useful minimum level of opportunity" and the like?

  82. I'm a small-l liberal way up here in Canada (that's sort of like a small-d democrat down in the U S of A), but I stand with Ken on this. I mostly support anyone's right to do what they think is right for their kids as long as (a) it doesn't harm others and (b) they can pay for it. (I can imagine areas where one might argue, such as vaccination and excessive corporal punishment.) That said, I strongly support a well-funded public school system along with well-funded socialized health care – these things don't eliminate the barriers to merit-based class mobility but I think they help. And I think everyone should pay for those public systems in their taxes, and I think private schools and hospitals should not get public funding, because I think voucher systems ensure that the public institutions will always be financially crippled and hence only able to provide the lowest common denominator of service. As for those who think big government is worse than big business, I can only say… LOL. Both kinds of institution tend to foster self-serving bullsh*t and bureaucracy; anyone who's done serious time working in either knows it. Checks and balances are always needed in both cases.

  83. Sam says:

    Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me.

    Yes, all us trailer park kids were too busy drownin' our poor-education sorrows in alcohol cuz we certainly cain't keep up with the high falutin' private schools. Ugh.

    But, you know, I'm sure forcing even more children into an already overburdened, poorly structured system will magically fix it.

  84. stillnotking says:

    If you send your kids to any school in America, you are a bad person. Nigerian schools are much worse than anything here, and they'll never improve without rich Western parents pushing for reform.

    I mean, surely Benedikt isn't limiting her argument on the basis of petty nationalism, right? That wouldn't be very liberal of her.

  85. ShelbyC says:

    This article really highlights the fundamental tension between liberty and equality. If people are free, they will use that freedom to privilege some people (usually their children) over others.

  86. Bun and Cheese says:

    She's either trolling or actually a bit pissed off about her educational lot in life yet refusing any responsibility for her part in it. She could change that for herself if becoming a serious student was ever possible. It's easier to castigate parents who take a more active role in their child's education because it's comfortable- there's no work involved for her. Kinda tragic, but most zeros are.

  87. Chris F says:

    One of my former pastors had a daughter with a learning disability and one that was incredibly smart and home schooled both. They were able to give them both one-on-one attention (which neither would have gotten in either a public or private school) and this greatly benefited both. The more intelligent daughter was able to graduate high school with over two years of college classes under her belt if I remember correctly. The district they lived in offered enough college credits for a year of college at the time so it wasn't a slacker district.

    I think this falls into the good goal, bad method category. Improving the quality of public schools is an excellent goal but removing choice (even if it's through guilt instead of force) isn't the way to go about it. My wife and I are aware that the district we live in may or may not be the best for our daughter. We're planning on starting in public school and working to address any concerns (including her coasting if that happens) before looking at private school. We are also aware that the school administrators may have neither the desire nor ability to address whatever concern comes up and in that case us continuing to press them could actually end up just taking time from them and decreasing the overall quality more than if we move her to another school.

  88. David W says:

    @James Pollock: your theory seems to also support any of the following:
    - Expelling the low performing students from public school
    - Vouchers (for everyone or just for parents who care a lot)
    - Tracking/segregating schools
    - Private scholarships for kids who would benefit but their parents can't afford private school

    What makes Benedikt's solution your preferred one? Or is it?

  89. Jessie says:

    Sorry, premature submission.

    If you want to improve the education of children, increase the expectations we have of our children. As a child, I tended to do the least amount of school work as I needed. I was the child who cruised through school with B's. I never learned to study because I never needed to. I paid for that in college, but I rose to the level of the expectations of my teachers and excelled. That is where we must begin, in my opinion. If we accept lower standards now, our future standards will only continue to fall, not increase.

  90. James Pollock says:

    ""Progressives want everybody to have equal opportunity"

    Doesn't everybody?
    If you DON'T want everybody to have equal opportunity, who, exactly, should have MORE opportunity and who should have LESS opportunity?

  91. Sam says:

    I left college without having learned much there either.

    As a former teaching assistant and veteran of more years at a university than I care to admit, I firmly believe you get as much out of college as you put into it.

  92. Malc says:

    When I first read the "article", I assumed it was a satirical/ironic piece intended to further some cause like the school voucher idea so beloved by certain types of right wing pundits.

    Having since learned more about the twit who wrote it, I'm horrified to discover that it was probably intended to be serious. Gah!

    Mind you, I'm equally unimpressed by those who attempt to paint any and all left wing positions with this brush of lunacy; it's no different from painting the sociopolitical opposites with the whacky brush from the Project for the New American Century: how's that regime change in the Middle East thing working out for you guys, anyway?

  93. Andrew S. says:

    Not having the funds for private school (at at least $15,000 a year, as much as I'd like to do it, it's not happening) or the ability to homeschool, my daughter, who shares a first name with Ms. Benedikt, has three options in starting Kindergarden next year. I'm lucky enough to live in an area with multiple high quality charter schools. That is, if I can get lucky enough to win the lottery to get her in there. As opposed to winning the real lottery, which would allow private school to come into the picture.

    The public school she'd be going to otherwise next year is supposedly good. She'd be in a more diverse, better learning environment in either of the charters though, which is what I'm hoping for.

  94. James Pollock says:

    "What makes Benedikt's solution your preferred one?"
    What makes you think Benedikt's solution is my preferred one?

  95. David says:

    "If you DON'T want everybody to have equal opportunity, who, exactly, should have MORE opportunity and who should have LESS opportunity?"

    Doesn't matter who. It's not a good thing to bring down person A's opportunities just so it's "equal" to person B's opportunities. Specifically, if two student can get a better education in a private school, but only one parent has the money, that does not mean that we should eliminate the private school just so they have "equal opportunity".

  96. ShelbyC says:

    "If you DON'T want everybody to have equal opportunity, who, exactly, should have MORE opportunity and who should have LESS opportunity?"

    Well, that's the problem, isn't it? Different parents have different ability/desire to create opportunity for their children. But if we really want equal opportunity, we have to render parents' efforts to privilege their own children irrelevant.

  97. James Pollock says:

    "If you want to improve the education of children, increase the expectations we have of our children."
    Only if they have the tools and capability to achieve more. Raising expectations without providing the resources to achieve them is just a recipe for failure.

    "As a child, I tended to do the least amount of school work as I needed. I was the child who cruised through school with B's."
    Yeah, me too. But you may not remember that we were outnumbered by people who were working at or near capacity (they worked hard and got A's, or they struggled to make C's and D's). Telling people who are already working as hard as they can to make D's that they need to work harder won't suddenly turn them into B-students; it'll turn them into dropouts.

  98. TomB says:

    There are lots of cases where having each individual working for the betterment of its own interests can lead to degradation of the system as a whole. For example, traffic. Each driver jockeys for position with the result that A) accidents are more common, and B) road rage, and C) overall slow progress for everyone.

    Imagine if the air traffic system operated the same as neighborhood traffic does.

    Many studies have shown the fewer signage, signals and lines a driver is forced to endure (thanks to "traffic control"), reduces accidents and makes people better drivers.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=removing-roads-and-traffic-lights

    Another kind of anarchy could actually speed travel as well—namely, a counterintuitive traffic design strategy known as shared streets. The practice encourages driver anarchy by removing traffic lights, street markings, and boundaries between the street and sidewalk. Studies conducted in northern Europe, where shared streets are common, point to improved safety and traffic flow.

    The idea is that the absence of traffic regulation forces drivers to take more responsibility for their actions.

    James, someday you might just want to look at the best people can do, not the worst. It may make you feel better.

  99. Malc says:

    @naught_for_naught you mean "why the Catholic Church needs an openly gay pope".

    It's beyond the bounds of probability that none of the 200+ mostly celibate Popes were gay, and indeed it is entirely acceptable by Catholic doctrine as long as they did not act on their gay urges. This seems remarkably reasonable, as they don't like straight proto-Popes to act on their straight urges, either.

    I'll hypothesize that Julius II may have been gay, and that's how he got some notorious gay bloke to paint his ceiling.

  100. Rich says:

    I come here for the posts but I stay for the comments.

  101. En Passant says:

    Anonymous (sorry) wrote Aug 29, 2013 @10:23 am:

    I'm all for my municipality having a good, functional public school system. If the city wants to raise property taxes all around to get there, fine. (after all, we've still got miles to go in tax rates before we're anywhere near what they have in Camden county) But how on earth is sending my daughter to the public schools going to do that?

    Ms. Benedikt's reasoning (a euphemism for her actual thought process) was:

    It’s simple! 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.

    It might be a matter of faith. It might be a matter of using a two-headed coin. Either way, she bets. And either way, you lose.

    Send your kids to a terrible public school. You lose, and your kids lose. But in due course and the fullness of time that public school will get better because you are unhappy about sacrificing your kids to the cause.

    Send your kids to a private school. You lose. Because Hitler. And everybody hates Hitler. And by Hitler she means you.

    But she does inadvertently expose the most significant lacuna in her education:

    Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me. In fact it’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about public schools.

    She didn't get drunk and read Walt Whitman with the kids who lived in the trailer park. And she didn't blow off the basketball game because she found Whitman more interesting.

    Whether that gaping hole is due to her design, or due to random failures in her attempts to reason, is a question that even Hanlon's razor may be inadequate to resolve. But one incontrovertible conclusion is that her screed was not the result of intelligent design.

  102. STW says:

    I was less amazed by her "sacrifice your children," since this has been the underlying theme with progressive education for years, than I was with her apparent refusal to learn anything in or out of school. My mother had a bit of disdain for my undergraduate and graduate business degrees; they were just training. The astronomy class I took was, in her mind, education. You can't blame your school if you are not educated since much of that comes outside of school. I wonder what her excuse is today for not trying to get some of what she missed?

  103. TomB says:

    Only if they have the tools and capability to achieve more. Raising expectations without providing the resources to achieve them is just a recipe for failure.

    By not sending my children to the local public schools, but spending the money and sending them to a private school, I am freeing up money and reducing class sizes in the public school, all the while still paying the exact same amount in taxes. Thus "providing the resources" to achieve more, at least in part.

    Your point?

  104. TomB says:

    It's beyond the bounds of probability that none of the 200+ mostly celibate Popes were gay, and indeed it is entirely acceptable by Catholic doctrine as long as they did not act on their gay urges. This seems remarkably reasonable, as they don't like straight proto-Popes to act on their straight urges, either.

    Read the quote again:

    "an openly gay Pope"

    Different thing entirely, no?

  105. James Pollock says:

    "Doesn't matter who. It's not a good thing to bring down person A's opportunities just so it's "equal" to person B's opportunities."

    Whoa, there. Wanting two people to have equal opportunities implies nothing about how this goal should be achieved. (Never mind that different assumptions about just what goes into creating an "equal opportunity" in the first place.)

    "Specifically, if two student can get a better education in a private school, but only one parent has the money, that does not mean that we should eliminate the private school just so they have "equal opportunity"."
    No, it does not. It means that we should improve the public school opportunity for BOTH students so that they're BOTH better served by the public school(s).

  106. Chris says:

    Yes, education is important for the development of our children, but you know what's even more important? Not dying of cancer. Sadly, our cancer-curing efforts are dragged down because too many parents do not have children in pediatric oncology wards, and thus aren't motivated to improve them. If everyone's child had cancer, every parent would be motivated to improve the situation.

    So if you don't give your child cancer, you are a bad person. All the children of today must endure cancer so that 25 years from now, we will have cured it. Or at least we will have thrown a lot more money at the problem.

  107. Shane says:

    @Lish

    So no one should be allowed to have anything until everyone is able to have it?

    I think that you got that wrong it is: "Each according to his ability, each according to his need." There all better.

  108. Shane says:

    @Jame Pollock

    Here is the problem: If enough well-behaved, well-motivated, academically-inclined students are removed from the public schools (along with the support of dedicated parents who can afford to invest in their children's education beyond paying their taxes) then that drags down the overall capability of the remaining student body.

    And we will need the national guard to assure that no one tries anything stupid like moving their kids to different schools.

  109. sorrykb says:

    I'm with Dan Weber. This has to be some ungainly attempt to "start a conversation". The problem — or, rather, one of the problems — is that she manages to muddle up her own thesis. She's arguing that people who send their kids to private school are making public schools worse. From this the implication would be that she wants public education to be better. At the same time, however, she's claiming that she wasn't harmed by having a crappy education in public school, so… maybe improving public schools isn't important after all.

    I consider myself a progressive (oh noes!), I attended public schools through university level, and I think parents should send their kids to whatever school they want (but only public schools should get our taxes).

  110. Dana Gower says:

    Her “manifesto,” (definition: a public declaration of policy) seems intended to reference Swift’s "A Modest Proposal (for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country…)"
    She then begins her second paragraph, “I am not an education policy wonk;” (“a public declaration of policy”). The full sentence: “I am not an education policy wonk; I’m just judgmental.” Normally, this would seem to be a strange thing to say, but you will find a number of similar sentences throughout.
    This is poetry. From Wikipedia:
    "Chiastic structure (also called chiastic pattern or ring structure) is a literary device[1] for chiasmus applied to narrative motifs, turns of phrase, or whole passages. Various structures of chiasmus are commonly seen in ancient literature to emphasize, parallel, or contrast concepts or ideas. Chiastic structures are sometimes called palistrophes,[2] chiasms, symmetric structures, ring structures, or concentric structures.
    These often symmetrical patterns are commonly found in ancient literature such as the epic poetry of Odyssey and Iliad. Various chiastic structures are also seen in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, where biblical writers used chiasmus to give meaning to their writings or to highlight details of particular importance."

    This woman is much smarter (and better educated) than she would have us believe.

  111. James Pollock says:

    "By not sending my children to the local public schools, but spending the money and sending them to a private school, I am freeing up money and reducing class sizes in the public school, all the while still paying the exact same amount in taxes. Thus "providing the resources" to achieve more, at least in part.
    Your point?"

    Yes, you missed the point by a good margin.
    Telling a kid "I expect better academic achievement than you've been showing" will produce results if that kid is one who's been coasting or not putting forth all the effort they are capable of. However, it will not produce results (at least, not the desired one(s) if that kid is already working at his or her capacity.
    For kids who are already working at or near their capacity, if you want them to achieve more, you have to give them access to the tools they will need to achieve more.
    Usually, what's needed is additional attention (tutoring) or materials (computer, calculator, Internet access, library access) and sometimes it's even more fundamental (food, shelter, clothing, safety).

    Now, as to your observations:
    If you take a child out of public school where I live, the school gets less money. This is because funding is "per pupil" with adjustments for special categories (ESL, developmental disability, gifted)

    Educational spending is tax-deductible.
    So, if you lived where I do, by sending your kids to private school you'd be A) reducing the money available to the public school, and B) playing less in taxes. If where you live, sending your kid(s) to private school increases the amount of money available to the school and leaves you paying the same in taxes, you should consider moving if private schooling is that important to you.
    I'd suggest moving to someplace with good public schools, but I guess that wouldn't help.

  112. sorrykb says:

    P.S. to David: I had to look up "chiliastic" and was very disappointed it had nothing to do with delicious snacks.

  113. Rich Fiscus says:

    In 2 days she will come back and say "she was just trying to start a conversation."

    The perfect opportunity to tell us how irresponsible we are for changing the subject to her moronic comments.

  114. wshuff says:

    Personally, when it comes to making important decisions that affect my children, for the good of society I always take the advice of the girl who got drunk in the trailer park before basketball games.

    But when I need to make an important decision for myself, I tend to look to the girl who gave blow jobs behind the tilt-a-whirl when the carnival came to town.

  115. Anton Sirius says:

    "Why is it that I hear discussions about "equal opportunity", "equality", etc. so much more often than I hear "useful minimum level of opportunity" and the like?"

    Because those look better on bumper stickers.

    You're mistaking the rhetoric for the actual policy proposals. Hell, even the DFH's who talk about a "maximum wage" are still implicitly acknowledging that a range of wages are acceptable.

  116. James Pollock says:

    "I think that you got that wrong it is: "Each according to his ability, each according to his need." There all better."

    That's not quite how the Bible says it, but close enough.
    "Matthew 25:14-30: And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his ability."

  117. Xenocles says:

    "If you DON'T want everybody to have equal opportunity, who, exactly, should have MORE opportunity and who should have LESS opportunity?

    Wanting two people to have equal opportunities implies nothing about how this goal should be achieved."

    People start off unequal. The only equality we can give without taking things away from people is equality before the law – that equality that bans rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges.

    What does it mean to have equal opportunity to make the basketball team? Are you saying LeBron and I can both go to the tryout, or are you saying LeBron and I must be equally likely to make the team (that is, the team selection is random)? In the equal opportunity to try out the only losses are the waste of everyone's time my audition represents. In the equal probability scenario you are necessarily negating any natural advantage LeBron has over me by assigning the selection to something like a lottery. There are parallel arguments for any similar opportunity equalization.

  118. Shane says:

    "You start with the assumption that redistribution is the default moral choice."

    I what now?

    ROFLMAO

  119. Jessie says:

    Raising expectations without providing the resources to achieve them is just a recipe for failure.

    You seem to be misunderstanding my use of phrase. There are expectations in "minimum requirements to graduate" and there are expectations, as in "I know you can do this". What I have seen during my K-12 career and in the attitudes of the public schooling of the children I have and do foster, is that there is little to no encouragement of the average or better student to excel. Once an average grade has been obtained and minimum testing requirements have been met, there is little incentive to further maximize student potential. I was practically ignored in school because I did not cause problems and did not require extra assistance to learn the lesson. How is that kind of mentality going to improve future generations? Your milage may vary, but this observation is based on experience in multiple school districts and multiple children.

    If someone has the means and desire to attempt to maximize the end result of their child's education, then who's business is it of anybody's to say that is wrong. The law already states people must have a minimum education, are we now proposing to add a maximum?

  120. Shane says:

    @Jame Pollock

    "I think that you got that wrong it is: "Each according to his ability, each according to his need." There all better."

    That's not quite how the Bible says it, but close enough.

    ROFLMAO STOP!!! I can only spew milk through my nose so many times!!!

  121. James Pollock says:

    "And we will need the national guard to assure that no one tries anything stupid like moving their kids to different schools."

    Huh? Is this actually related to anything I wrote?

  122. wgering says:

    ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid

    This really sounds like a win-win to me.

  123. David says:

    "It means that we should improve the public school opportunity for BOTH students so that they're BOTH better served by the public school(s)."

    So you want the public schools to be the very best, so no private school can possibly outshine them for any students.

    That's likely going to involve more tax increases than we're going to be comfortable with, if it's even possible at all.

  124. James Pollock says:

    Shane, do you have some kind of dyslexia-type dysfunction that prevents you from spelling my name correctly?

  125. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    Sorry Freudian thing.

  126. Sam says:

    Doesn't matter who. It's not a good thing to bring down person A's opportunities just so it's "equal" to person B's opportunities. Specifically, if two student can get a better education in a private school, but only one parent has the money, that does not mean that we should eliminate the private school just so they have "equal opportunity".

    I've always taken the phrase "equal opportunity" not to mean equality of resources, but equality of social mobility. Coming from a lower economic stratum, one might have to work harder than a more well off colleague but if one can achieve the same end results, it's a win in my book.

    It seems like this article is taking as a given that educational opportunities are a zero-sum game and that the generally better quality of private schools is almost entirely due to increased resources. I'd wager that those schools also are far more innovative and efficient, which in no way prevents innovation and efficiency in public schools. This is lowest common denominator thinking at its extreme.

  127. David says:

    "If you take a child out of public school where I live, the school gets less money."

    Somewhat true. They do get less state funding. But since the state isn't paying 100% of the cost to educate that student, the district still comes out ahead.

    And the cost may be tax-deductible, but that's income tax. School districts generally rely on property taxes, at least around here.

  128. James Pollock says:

    "People start off unequal."
    Yes. Yes they do. Nobody (as far as I know) says that people should all be equal. The assertion is that they should all have equal opportunity, with the mechanism(s) to achieve that goal left wide open.

    "What does it mean to have equal opportunity to make the basketball team?"
    Well, sometimes that means having a no-cut team, and sometimes it means you have multiple teams (didn't make the varisty team? We have JV. Not able to make the JV? We have a freshman team. Can't make that? We have intramurals.) Sometimes, it means redefining what you want… instead of "everybody has an equal opportunity to make the basketball team" to "everybody has an equal opportunity to play basketball"

  129. Dan Weber says:

    The more I think about it, the more I think this is clever ragebait. Expect to see her on the morning talk shows next week.

    That's the problem with posting dumb things — if you pass a certain level of dumb you get people so flustered with you that you get invited to present your side.

  130. James Pollock says:

    "Somewhat true. They do get less state funding. But since the state isn't paying 100% of the cost to educate that student, the district still comes out ahead."

    Unless, of course, the state pays 100% of the cost to educate the student, as is the case here. We had a property-tax revolt that moved education to the state's general fund.

    "And the cost may be tax-deductible, but that's income tax. School districts generally rely on property taxes, at least around here."

    Not here.
    (Not quite sure why it makes a difference if the tax you pay gets labeled "property tax" or "income tax" when they take it from you, but whatever.)

  131. Xenocles says:

    "Sometimes, it means redefining what you want… instead of "everybody has an equal opportunity to make the basketball team" to "everybody has an equal opportunity to play basketball""

    And what aren't we going to do in place of equipping and coaching the extra basketball teams? Who doesn't get to do it? You can't say nothing, because even if you increase the budget to cover all desires the money comes from someone.

  132. nlp says:

    Somewhere I read something about the food rationing policy in Britain post WWII. Someone had complained about the poor quality of the cheese available, and whoever was in charge said something to the effect that it was more important for everyone to have poor quality cheese than it was for some people to have good cheese. This is exactly the same sort of reasoning that Benedikt uses. It is better for everyone to have a bad education than it is for some people to get a good education.

    I'm not sure if I understand how a generation of poor quality education will somehow magically turn into excellent education 25 years from now. If she can explain herself, I'd be willing to read it. Several years of poor-quality cheese in Britain did not magically bring about good cheese: lifting price restraints and taking things of rationing had more of an effect.

    However, one thing that I can see that she can't, is that stuffing classrooms with all the children in private and religious schools is going to bring more problems than she realizes.

  133. Shane says:

    @Xenocles

    … because even if you increase the budget to cover all desires the money comes from someone.

    Silly @Xenocles you are soooo stupid. Don't you know that there is a money orchard somewhere in the Maryland area. Workers trim and pluck those trees regularly so that we never have to worry about money. Seems that our needs over the years have gone up and they are planning on planting a new orchard somewhere in CA or NY.

  134. I don't think you're a bad person because you send your kids to private school.

  135. David says:

    @James Pollock: The income tax vs property tax thing was to show that the school would still have a net gain, because the property tax would not be reduced from the student not attending. That doesn't apply to your area; fair enough. But it DOES seem like the school should at worst be revenue-neutral if a student stopped attending. If that is not the case in your area, then I think the problem is with your funding mechanism.

  136. Jerry Beckett says:

    Am I the only one who read Benedikt's "manifesto" as one long message of "All your children are belong to us"?

  137. James Pollock says:

    "You seem to be misunderstanding my use of phrase."

    I don't think so… you were able to coast, and didn't get called on it until you got to a point where you couldn't anymore. You call on schools to catch the coasters and push them more. That part's fine. The problem is that it's NOT the right approach for people who aren't coasting.
    You seem to think there are far more people coasting than I do. That may be because the public schools I've interacted with recently are different from the ones you have.
    The danger is in one-size-fits-all, which is why one of the things that needs to happen with public education is to push for less monolithic, more nimble organization.

  138. Jason says:

    I really want to believe that this article is satire. If it is satire, then it is expertly written.

    However, it was posted at Slate which makes me heavily doubt that it was actually satire.

  139. James Pollock says:

    "But it DOES seem like the school should at worst be revenue-neutral if a student stopped attending. If that is not the case in your area, then I think the problem is with your funding mechanism."

    If by "problem" you mean "it fixes the problem you're describing", then sure.
    If you put your kid(s) in the public schools, you don't get the deduction for the tuition you're not paying but the school gets the money because your kid(s) are enrolled there. If you put your kid(s) in a private school, the public school doesn't get the money because your kid(s) aren't enrolled there, but you get a tax deduction for the tuition you spend.

    The people we shaft are the ones who don't have and kids at all. They don't get any deduction from their income tax. Of course, they'd also get shafted if we funded the schools from property tax, but income tax is better… if you have income, there's cash in hand. If you own property, maybe there is or maybe there isn't… if your neighbor sells his house for a huge profit, your property tax assessment goes up even though you didn't get any of your neighbor's profit.

    Plus, we don't have sales tax.

  140. Christian says:

    My daughters attend a public school and participate in that school's Japanese Dual Language immersion program. We had to apply to get into the magnet and felt lucky when we did. Every day when my wife drives by the school we are zoned for she describes it as "Lord of the Flies." I don't think avoiding having your children picked on and pushed around by other students is a bad thing.

    Good schools are available in our school district, but we still plan on moving up the hill by the time the girls are in middle school to high school. If we can't, then we'll be looking at private schools.

  141. Blah says:

    That whole Slate article is a pretty prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. "Oh, I drank in a trailer instead of participating in enriching and educational extracurriculars, and I turned out awesome. I've never been in a good, positive educational environment but clearly I'm an expert on why they're unnecessary!"

  142. James Pollock says:

    "And what aren't we going to do in place of equipping and coaching the extra basketball teams?"

    You don't need a coach to play basketball. You need a place to play (which we already have, if we have a basketball team) and a basketball (which we already have, if we have a basketball team).

    "Who doesn't get to do it?"
    Didn't you ever play basketball in P.E. class? Didn't pretty much everyone play?

    "Who doesn't get to do it? You can't say nothing, because even if you increase the budget to cover all desires the money comes from someone."
    Sometimes you adjust the budget to suit the desires, sometimes you adjust the desires to fit the budget.

  143. Xenocles says:

    Well of course you're going to coach the intramural teams, James. We can't have the feeling out there that we're not treating our basketball players equally, can we?

    "Didn't you ever play basketball in P.E. class? Didn't pretty much everyone play?"

    You misunderstand me. It's a given that everyone will play basketball. The question is what the opportunity cost of that choice is, and who will pay it.

    "Sometimes you adjust the budget to suit the desires, sometimes you adjust the desires to fit the budget."

    This, of course, is the crux of the problem. In any sort of equalization of opportunity, someone loses.

  144. David says:

    "Sometimes you adjust the budget to suit the desires, sometimes you adjust the desires to fit the budget."

    But the situation you are now describing where some kids get to play on varsity and some get to play uncoached pickup ball whenever the gym is free… that sounds very similar to having some kids in bad public schools and some in better private schools.

    Maybe they're all getting an "opportunity to play basketball" or an "opportunity for an education", but the opportunities do not seem to be equal.

  145. nl7 says:

    Do I also need to compulsively shop at the nearby dying malls instead of the nearby thriving malls? What about crummy local restaurants with mediocre food? It's arbitrary to say that we all must support existing crummy schools, but not existing crummy stores or restaurants or whatever.

    Lots of things are relatively crummy and so I don't use them. This seems like a perfectly normal reaction.

    Maybe the difference is people know when they subpar meals and subpar consumer goods (or prices), but it's harder to judge the quality of K-12 education if you ignore pricetag or reputation. So it can be easier to dismiss the importance of educational provider if the products are all equivalent black boxes.

  146. James Pollock says:

    "Well of course you're going to coach the intramural teams, James. We can't have the feeling out there that we're not treating our basketball players equally, can we?"
    We can't? Why is that?

    "You misunderstand me. It's a given that everyone will play basketball."
    It certainly is not. I hate basketball.

    "In any sort of equalization of opportunity, someone loses."
    That's a pretty strong assertion. I don't think you can back it up. But it doesn't matter… "is someone losing" isn't the right question. It's "should someone be losing?" and, if so, "is the right person losing?" is the right followup.

    Start with the ultimate of unequal starts… an orphan has no parents to participate in their education, so it's quite likely (actually, it's documented) that they will underachieve. If we do nothing about orphaned children, they will underachieve in school, and be less likely to apply for, or gain entry to, competitive entry colleges. However, if we give these orphans foster, or, dare to dream, adoptive parents, they recover. They do better in school, and become more likely to apply to, and gain entry to, competetive-entry colleges.
    So, foster care creates losers (the barely-able-to-qualify student who loses their place in the competitive-entry school to the fostered orphan). So, yes, there IS a loser involved in fostering orphans. This, apparently, is where your analysis ends… you're opposed to fostering orphans because it causes some marginal students, somewhere, to not get into the competetive-entry college they applied to.

    The difference is, are equalization efforts geared to helping whoever's being helped to compete better, is it geared to changing the competition to favor someone different, or is it hobbling those already advantaged? (not discounting, of course, a whole range of unintended consequences, which are always present when making adjustments to a system.)

  147. Spud says:

    Benedikt wrote a piece about Israel that was controversial a couple of years ago. She was asked "Does she ask herself whether she has a responsibility to make Israel a better, more humane, place?" Her answer was no. She did say "I do think we all have a responsibility to make the world better", but apparently there are caveats… source: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/06/allison-benedikt-makes-her-anti-israel-case/240779/#comments

  148. James Pollock says:

    "But the situation you are now describing where some kids get to play on varsity and some get to play uncoached pickup ball whenever the gym is free… that sounds very similar to having some kids in bad public schools and some in better private schools."

    No, it doesn't. Here's why.
    What is the selection criteria for getting on the varsity team, with the coaching and the prime access to the practice courts? These go to the best basketball players who show up, and work hard at getting better. Space permitting, we also let in some who work hard, but don't already have talent, or have oodles of talen, but don't work hard. The resources are allocated to those who can best make use of them.

    Now, what are the selection criteria for who gets into private school? It's whoever's parents have the money and inclination to spend it on their children's education. (Note, here, that private education is not inherently better than a public one.. some people choose private because they prefer that their school inculcate the proper religious faith along with academic subjects, and public schools are at a disadvantage there… and of course, some of those religious schools, well, don't teach science in a complete and thorough manner.)

    Now, from one perspective, this is right and proper. The resources of a private school are directed at the children of the parents who can afford to put their kids in private education… because the resources in question are the parents' in the first place. If they invest in a better education for their children, those children should get a better education.

    From another perspective, however, it isn't, because it creates an opportunity cost. We lose out on the doctor, engineer, or even (shudder) lawyer an academically-talented but poor student could have become. If a private school siphons away the high-end of the bell curve, the public school won't have enough demand to offer advanced courses like IB or AP courses, which prejudices them when they apply to competitive-entry schools.

  149. Shane says:

    @Xenocles

    You misunderstand me.

    That would be true if I wanted to understand you in the first place. Otherwise, I would just be a malicious troll who wanted only one thing: to be right. And short of being right I would change the things that I responded to until you gave up in exasperation. See?

  150. James Pollock says:

    "Do I also need to compulsively shop at the nearby dying malls instead of the nearby thriving malls? What about crummy local restaurants with mediocre food?"
    Depends. Do you have an interest in the success going forward of your nearby dying mall or your crummy local restaurants?
    There's an argument that you DO have an interest in the success going forward of your local public-school system.

    Of course, you can make the same argument about keeping the dying mall alive that you can make about keeping the crummy local high-school alive… if you let them close, where will the teenagers go instead of hanging around inside the mall/high-school all day? You don't want them hanging around your house, do you?

  151. En Passant says:

    Dana Gower wrote Aug 29, 2013 @1:07 pm:

    Her “manifesto,” (definition: a public declaration of policy) seems intended to reference Swift’s "A Modest Proposal (for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country…)"

    This woman is much smarter (and better educated) than she would have us believe.

    If so, then a mountain's labor has brought forth a mouse, stillborn.

    If not so, as I suspect, then a more apt but still rough comparison is to Ms. Benedikt as soi disant Houyhnhnm. She finds that any Yahoo with a semblance of reason is a threat to Houyhnhnms' benevolent rule over those lesser beings, and so must be expelled to live with the rest of the Yahoos, thereby to improve the Yahoos' lot.

  152. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    The progress of civilization is marked by the gradual rise in the percentage of the population that has the ability to tell their 'betters' to go climb a tree.

  153. nlp says:

    Now, what are the selection criteria for who gets into private school? It's whoever's parents have the money and inclination to spend it on their children's education.

    Not necessarily. Most of the private schools have various criteria, including past performance in school, student capacity for learning, and so on. Having money does not mean that parents can automatically enroll their children. Public schools are required to take everyone who shows up. Private schools don't.

    There are also a variety of reasons why people send their kids to private schools. These reasons can include concerns about bullying or other threats to a child's safety, and not just the child's educational needs.

    The better public opportunities, such as charter schools and magnet schools, are generally awarded through a lottery system.

    And, believe it or not, sometimes private schools award scholarships to children from not-rich families. (They do not, however, award scholarships, or even entry to their school, to kids who hang around trailer parks getting drunk who then insist that getting drunk is a valid educational experience).

  154. Tarrou says:

    And I think any parent who doesn't homeschool is a bad person. Let her try that on for size, though I doubt she cares any more for my opinion than I do for hers, or those of the legion of tenure-grubbing pedophiles, pedants and ineradicable imbeciles currently "teaching" in America today.

  155. melK says:

    I see a few problems here…

    Public schools have to handle ALL comers:
    - developmentally disabled/disadvantaged
    - behaviorally disruptive
    - English as a second language
    … with…
    - inadequate funding for their mission
    - a vast legacy of regulation
    - teacher's unions (which IMO cause poor teachers to be retained too long, but who also defend the teachers salaries from the aforementioned funding pressures).

    Private schools:
    - can choose who to admit
    - have less scrutiny, fewer regulations, or at least DIFFERENT ones
    - more agility in their staffing decisions
    - funding levels they can set

    As I understand it, private school voucher systems move funds that would otherwise go to public schools to said private schools.

    I see at least two problems with this…
    - the people most able to effect change (monied and unhappy) are provided an out, removing incentive for them to promote change.
    - funding for the public schools is reduced, exacerbating the problem. (How many voucher systems are subtle enough to account for the per-student costs but still require the participant to pay the fixed institution costs?)

    I can easily see these two points lurking behind the rhetoric of the essay.

    Note the sneering disdain for "religious reasons."

    Hmm… nope. Called them (among others) "not compelling", in the same sentence as OTHER reasons. Is that a sneer? I see a counter sneer, but no argument for why religions reasons do form a compelling reason for private school. Rather, I see numerous "accommodation" regulations for public schools, and the ability for further such regulations. Also, "separation of church and state", so perhaps no religious studies courses for your particular religion – but not ruling out comparative religion courses, including intelligent design. :)

  156. AlphaCentauri says:

    Education is a particularly inappropriate place to start leveling society. It's not a "zero sum game." The more people who get high quality education, the more they can pass the benefits on to people around them. People who attended schools where there was great teaching are much more likely to become great teachers themselves.

    Benjamin Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon, was raised by a mother who was semi-literate and worked cleaning houses. But she noticed that in the houses she cleaned for successful people, books were everywhere. She took the hint and insisted her own sons turn off the TV and read. Had she been cleaning Ms. Benedikt's house instead, she would never have understood the value of reading.

    My kids went to private schools. It was crazy expensive. But part of the reason the fees were high was that they were very generous with providing scholarships. They considered having a student body with religious, racial and economic diversity part of the education they were providing our children.

    I do question the general idea that there is a single goal of education, to get kids into the best colleges which will primarily serve the purpose of providing them high paying jobs. We have pushed that idea so hard that we are completely undervaluing skilled trades. (And then we need services like Angie's list because we assume the vast majority of tradespeople we might want to hire will be incompetent.) I have a great plumber, and he absolutely loves his work and prattles on about the quality of fixtures. And I know people who clean for a living and enjoy it so much that cleaning their own houses is something they consider fun. We don't need a world full of people with identical educations stuffed into schools that serve the least common denominator. We need a world full of people who look forward to going to work every day to do the best job they can. The current system of stratifying based on students' parents' incomes isn't going to get us there, but throwing out the standardized testing and looking at things like drop out rates will tell us which schools are giving students a reason to show up every day.

  157. Chris says:

    In England (and I suppose elsewhere) we call that kind of defensive bullshit 'inverted snobbery'. It's more clearly a class issue here though. The 'What's good enough fer me is good enough fer mine' sophistry is rife in poor council estates. I think those are called projects in the US?

  158. TomB says:

    Geez, I go away for a while and James is already off the rails. Is abusing a keyboard a crime where you live JP?

    Anyway:

    Telling a kid "I expect better academic achievement than you've been showing" will produce results if that kid is one who's been coasting or not putting forth all the effort they are capable of. However, it will not produce results (at least, not the desired one(s) if that kid is already working at his or her capacity.
    For kids who are already working at or near their capacity, if you want them to achieve more, you have to give them access to the tools they will need to achieve more.
    Usually, what's needed is additional attention (tutoring) or materials (computer, calculator, Internet access, library access) and sometimes it's even more fundamental (food, shelter, clothing, safety).

    I already told you that where I live, keeping my child out of public school reduces class size while allowing the school district to keep the property taxes I pay.

    What does anything that you wrote have to do with the issue of sending a child to private school being a selfish (well, bad) choice?

  159. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    A big part of what's wrong with the public school system is that the old (and by old, I do mean half a century or more) unspoken agreement between the schools and the parents has been broken beyond repair. Throughout the history of Public education, the parents have known that their children would be indoctrinated according to the desires of the upper classes, but they would learn to read, wrote, and to basic math. Since the benefits of the education were worth tolerating the propaganda, parents backed the teachers in almost all cases, and discipline was far less of a problem.

    I won't go into who broke the agreement and how. I have opinions, but they don't matter. The fact remains that parents no longer trust teachers to discipline, and so teachers mostly can't. I see no practical way to fix this short of allowing parents to choose the schools to which they send their precious snowflakes, with the attendant understanding that said little snowflakes can get expelled for a clearly defined list of offenses.

  160. Aonghus says:

    When reading this screed, did anyone else hear the opening line from Randall Jarrell's "The Ballad of the Ball Turret Gunner?"

    "From my mother's sleep I fell into the State…"

  161. grouch says:


    I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm not a big-L Libertarian, although I have small-l libertarian leanings. If you asked me to summarize my domestic political outlook, you could do worse than this: I want to minimize the ability of people like Alison Benedikt, who tend to encrust government, to tell me how to raise my family or live my life. I believe in free expression, free worship, free conscience, personal responsibility, the rule of law, strictly limited government (and the strict limitation of people with clipboards and people with guns and badges, thank you very much), and that the best society is one in which free people make free choices, not one in which you allow the Alison Benedikts of the world to make the best interests of your children subservient to the best interests of a collective imagined by a smug self-appointed elite.

    – A Bad Person

    Imma sue. That's my philosophy. You just ruined my chance at getting a patent on that. I'm not a lawyer, but I've read some of Ken White, Esq. and Charles Carreon, Esq., so Imma sue. You're admittedly, irrefutably, undeniably A Bad Person, so malice may be presumed and therefore you maliciously interfered with my expectations of getting rich off my intended patent.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

    We threw money at the USSR problem until it went away. Yet, we're told that throwing money at the educational problem won't work. Let's try it until we have as much graft and corruption in educational contract industries as we have in defense contract industries.

    Socialized education (and socialized health care) makes as little sense as socialized defense. Let's all have private schoolmarms, private doctors and private armies. Oh. We tried that, way back when.

    Basing public school funding on local property taxes is idiotic if the intention is to attain some universal level of educational opportunity for citizens. Calling for an end to private schools as a means to improve public schools is even more idiotic.

  162. princessartemis says:

    I went to read the linked article and noticed this: "DoubleX: What Women Really Think About Blah Blah…" Claiming to speak for 50% of the world's population is…well, maybe what one would expect from someone who thinks her rotten education didn't do her any harm.

  163. En Passant says:

    Aonghus wrote Aug 29, 2013 @6:04 pm:

    When reading this screed, did anyone else hear the opening line from Randall Jarrell's "The Ballad of the Ball Turret Gunner?"

    No.

    But I did detect a distinct whiff of a compulsive quest worthy of Poe's "Eldorado" disguising an underlying logic not unlike that of Lear's "The Jumblies".

  164. Xenocles says:

    @James-

    It's only a hard assertion to prove if you don't accept that resources are limited. Maybe you really are going to put those resources to the best possible use, but you are still taking them from someone. That person loses.

    @Shane-

    I've been through this many times.

  165. James Pollock says:

    "What does anything that you wrote have to do with the issue of sending a child to private school being a selfish (well, bad) choice?"

    Well, the piece you quoted addresses something else, the notion that all the public schools need to be better is to demand more of their students. (I argue that this is true for some students but not all).

  166. James Pollock says:

    "Maybe you really are going to put those resources to the best possible use, but you are still taking them from someone. That person loses."

    Unless you find a win-win. There isn't always one to be found, of course, but they're really hard to find if you don't even bother to look for one.

  167. Kat says:

    Yeah, if your kid is gifted, they'll be FINE in public school. No one will pick on them for engaging in the material and asking questions. They'll never finish their pitifully easy assignment quickly and spend the rest of the time bored or doing more pitifully easy worksheet busy work just to keep them sitting at their desk.

    They'll never get beaten up in the hallway just because they happen to be intelligent and enjoy reading books.

    They won't pick up on the other kids' attitude that being smart is bad, and want to do anything to avoid being called "Teacher's Pet" again, including blowing off schoolwork. They won't develop any social anxiety or other emotional handicaps.

    No. They'll be FINE. After all, the school has a "gifted" program where the kids who finish their work too quickly are all taken to a separate room where the "teacher" puts on an old video of "Unsolved Mysteries" for the kids to watch. Everyone knows that's the key to helping "gifted" students feel challenged and successful in school. Duh.

  168. Mercury says:

    I'm sorry, why aren't crappy government schools the government's fault?

  169. Bob Brown says:

    @Tarrou "those of the legion of tenure-grubbing pedophiles, pedants and ineradicable imbeciles currently "teaching" in America today."

    I haven't figured out how actual quoting works here, but let me say, "Chuck you, Farley."

    I am a teacher; someone with advanced degrees and industry experience. I earn about as much as a newly-promoted Army major. I earned about three times that before I retired from "industry" to become a teacher.

    I teach because I delight in watching my students have the Aha! experience.

    If you think I teach for any other reason, then chuck you, Farley!

  170. Xenocles says:

    @Bob Brown-

    You may wish to work on your comparison, since I earn exactly as much as a senior navy lieutenant and that's enough to support a family of four on its own.

  171. lDave says:

    Spot on, Ken. Your kids are lucky to have you.

  172. Bob Brown says:

    @Xenocles: Nah! The comparison is between teaching and private industry. The comparison to military pay is because I grew up as an Army brat. So, I fall into the fallacy of believing everyone knows what that means. The military comparison was unnecessary, for which I sort-of apologize, but not incorrect.

  173. Xenocles says:

    I mean, even relatively speaking, it might not do for your case what you think it does. An O-4 at ten (which is roughly "newly promoted" in the Navy) makes $78K per year in base pay alone.

  174. Tarrou says:

    @ Bob Brown

    I'm convinced no one knows how the quoting works here, it's one of the great mysteries of the blog.

    As to your taking of my description personally, I can only say that if the shoe fits…..

    To be fair, I did meet a good teacher one time. Long ago, and only once. So hey, maybe you're that .0000000000000000001%. Not likely, but hey, it's a big universe, everything is possible. I've no doubt your intentions are pure and noble. Because that's what "teaching" is in America today, where good and noble people of impeccable intention, limited intellect and nonexistant education go to ruin the next generation. I note that you immediately defend not your expertise, but your credentials, income and motivations. One wonders why.

    I don't give a rat's ass why you teach, or what else you could be doing, or how much money you make doing it. The only question that matters is "Do you further the education of your pupils more than you retard it?"

    I'm not one to often quote the Bible as a source of direction for modern life, but Jesus did have some great ideas relating to the care of children, and the punishment for failing in it, involving millstones.

  175. Bob Brown says:

    @Xeoncles: Try O-4 at 2 for a teacher in the University System of [state redacted.] May we please call a truce?

    I teach because I delight in watching the Aha! experience, not because I'm a pedophile. (I lust only after women of post-graduate age.) Not because I'm tenure-grubbing; I'm too old ever to get tenure.

    I pro'ly have to plead guilty to pedant, but I shan't confess in public.

  176. Bob Brown says:

    @Tarrou: "I don't give a rat's ass why you teach"
    But, of course, that's the most important thing there is! Those of us who delight in teaching do so because we delight in helping others learn.

    Jesus: Hummph! I decline to participate in argumentation involving religion. Either one believes or one does not.

  177. Xenocles says:

    @Bob-

    That is indeed a horse of a different color, and it's tangential anyway. I withdraw.

  178. En Passant says:

    Tarrou wrote Aug 29, 2013 @8:23 pm:

    I'm convinced no one knows how the quoting works here, it's one of the great mysteries of the blog.

    No mystery. At least for the simple stuff. Just substitute broquets ("") for the brackets ("[" and "]") in the examples below. Your text will appear as described.

    [blockquote]This will appear indented, with a different background color, and a line thingamy along the side.[/blockquote]

    Like this:

    This is a blockquote.

    [em]This will appear in italics.[/em]

    [strong]This will appear in bold.[/strong]

    [strike]This will appear with strikeout line through the text.[/strike]

  179. Gerardo says:

    "I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm not a big-L Libertarian, although I have small-l libertarian leanings. If you asked me to summarize my domestic political outlook, you could do worse than this: I want to minimize the ability of people like Alison Benedikt, who tend to encrust government, to tell me how to raise my family or live my life"

    That is a genuinely great sentence and sentiment.

  180. Sew Kraits says:

    In the U.S., there are more than one way to improve the quality of educational outcomes for one's child. Among them are choosing to live in a public school district's boundaries because of the quality of education students achieve therein, choosing a non-public school because of the quality of education, etc., (which does not require residency anywhere in particular), and perhaps the single most powerful decision of all factors involved, becoming regularly involved in the life and activities of the school that your child attends. Choosing a particular school means that your child will benefit from the efforts of other people. Volunteering and serving in the many ways that schools need parents means that your child and others will benefit from your efforts today and in the future. Nothing is a greater predictor of a school's success than the amount of parental involvement (including levels of funding, class size, calendar, public/private/charter, employee organized/unorganized status, SES, geography, or any other characteristic).

  181. Jyjon says:

    She talks about sacrificing the children for the better good of society. What about sacrificing the teachers? My Grandmother was a teacher back in the 30's. I once got to see her first contract with the school she taught at when she was 17. If the morality clause that was in her contract was applied to teachers today, very large parts of the problems with education would disappear, that is once you have actually found teachers willing to take the jobs.

    Think of the children, bring back the morality clause of yesteryear.

  182. Cat says:

    Hey, here's an idea… how about we not let textbook sales volume dictate curriculum in public schools?

    Or, you know, we could just force everyone into public school systems and hope our various governments decide to improve them because we want them to do so.

    Yeah… that could work out. I mean what everyone wants has always been what governmental interests do, right?

  183. That Anonymous Coward says:

    "But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve."

    If all of your friends jumped off a a bridge, please join them.
    It seems to be that sending children to a crappy underfunded system to become barely functional drones is an idea for someone who just needs a manual labor force.

    Here is an idea, how about we declare war on education, then we might spend enough money to improve it now and not in a few generations.

    Sacrificing the future for every child on the altar of this will make it better shows that the education system has been failing for much longer than feared.

  184. Palimpsest says:

    Having been to a declining public school and switching to a private school on scholarship, I am grateful for the decent education I got instead of the crap one I was getting in a public school.
    I don't have children, but where I live now, the standard dodge is not to private school, but to move to an suburb with an expensively funded school system. If you want your children to be like Allison Benedikt make sure that you don't go to one of those good schools and make sure you send them to a poorly funded urban school.

    As for you Ken, congratulations on sending your children to private school. There is an increased risk to you that your children may decide that they must have ponies. My brother who sent his two daughters to private school in New York was told by his horse mad daughter that weekly four hour treks to Long Island for horse riding were not enough. What the real enthusiastic riders were doing in the winter was flying down to Florida on three day weekends to the extra house their parents maintained with a stable so they could ride year round. For some reason my brother found it easy to say no to her request to do the same.

  185. AlphaCentauri says:

    @Tarrou

    To be fair, I did meet a good teacher one time. Long ago, and only once.

    I'm sorry you've had such poor luck in the teacher-assignment lottery. I suspect part of it is the same bureaucracy that protects the jobs of poor teachers in public school systems also frustrates good ones. I had some very good and very underpaid teachers in the Catholic schools I attended, and the private schools my kids attended snarfed up the best teachers and didn't let them go. On parents nights, the usual reaction of the parents was, "Can we go back to school here, too, and get a do-over?"

  186. barry says:

    I read this one about five minutes after seeing the interview with Mike Tyson where he said he went back to visit his old school and it most reminded him of prison.

  187. James Pollock says:

    "I'm sorry you've had such poor luck in the teacher-assignment lottery."

    It's not all luck. Some places value public schools and the teachers who work in them, and some do not. The places that value public schooling the most offer the best pay, benefits, and social prestige to teachers. This causes more teachers to apply for jobs in these areas. This allows those schools to pick and choose the best. Places that do not value public education offer lower pay, fewer benefits, and lesser social prestige to teachers. They get the teachers who couldn't get hired in the better-paying districts.

    It's a self-reinforceing cycle… if you grew up in a place that didn't value public education, you were less likely to have good teachers, and if you were less likely to have good teachers, you'll come out with a low opinion of public education.

  188. Tarrou says:

    @ AlphaCentauri

    On the bright side, I've managed a thorough if eccentric education, starting with my early homeschooling. Imagine my surprise on attending public high school to find that none of my fellow pupils could even speak or write English, much less Greek or Hebrew. None of them spoke a foreign language, or played an instrument, or had a job. No one had read a single Classic, not the students, not the teachers, not the principal. Virgil who? What had they been doing for ten years, one wonders?

    I may have unloaded on teachers earlier, but trust me, my scorn of and hatred for the pedagogic class is matched only by my derision for parents and journalists. They all give lawyers a good name.

  189. Burnside says:

    James Pollock wrote, "I think that you got that wrong it is: 'Each according to his ability, each according to his need.' There all better.

    "That's not quite how the Bible says it, but close enough.
    'Matthew 25:14-30: And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his ability.'"

    What a HORRIBLE mangling of both phrases. Dear God, please please please don't ever try that again. The Marxist phrase, "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs" means that if Joe can make five apples but only needs one a day to keep the doctor away, the government should take the other four to give them to other people.

    The Parable of the Bags of Gold is about investing in talent. The man given five bags makes five more and so the master invests him with more. It's the exact opposite of the Marxist phrase.

    *shiver* Public schools…

  190. fred zeppelin says:

    Bravo! Hand-wringing blowhards with inferiority complexes should be shown the error of their brown-shirt ways…

    You make your choices, I make mine – our choices should effect only us, not the Borg collective. Don't like it, move to Fwrance…

  191. Shane says:

    @Xenocles

    I've been through this many times.

    You are a braver man than I :)

  192. Shane says:

    @Tarrou

    I'm convinced no one knows how the quoting works here, it's one of the great mysteries of the blog.

    &ltblockquote&gtI'm convinced no one knows how the quoting works here, it's one of the great mysteries of the blog.&lt/blockquote&gt

    No great mystery
    &lta href="http://blog.world-mysteries.com/"&gtNo great mystery&lt/a&gt

  193. Shane says:

    @Tarrou

    Bahhh Again

    I'm convinced no one knows how the quoting works here, it's one of the great mysteries of the blog.

    <blockquote>I'm convinced no one knows how the quoting works here, it's one of the great mysteries of the blog.</blockquote>

    No great mystery

    <a href="http://blog.world-mysteries.com/">No great mystery</a>

  194. Shane says:

    @Burnside

    What a HORRIBLE mangling of both phrases. Dear God, please please please don't ever try that again. The Marxist phrase, "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs"

    So from and to changes the meaning of this sentence entirely. Really this is a translation, so some meaning may even be lost in the translation.

    … means that if Joe can make five apples but only needs one a day to keep the doctor away, the government should take the other four to give them to other people.

    OMG talk about public schools.

    The other four should be given away by the doctor, not taken by the government. The reason that the government is needed is because the doctor won't give away the other four apples.

  195. Xenocles says:

    @Burnside-

    Indeed, the parable ends with the line "For to everyone who has [ability] will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away." Rather different than the Marxian idea.

  196. grouch says:

    I want a voucher system which allows me to divert my tax dollars from the War on Terrorism, the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, the War on the Constitution (e.g., NSA, FBI, Executive, Legislative, Judicial branches) and apply those tax dollars to the War on Criminal Cops, the War on Porky Politicicans, the War on Patents and the War on the MaFIAA (music and film industries associations of America).

  197. Dan Weber says:

    In my public school history, I had both some extremely awesome teachers (I can still name them, more than half a lifetime ago) and some who were just marking time until they could retire (I can name those, too).

  198. Burnside says:

    @Xenocles,

    And it bring it back full circle…

    The man who has nothing at the end was not a person who tried hard with what he was given and failed. Rather, he was a person who didn't even try. In other words, he "was a lazy fuckup coasting on no effort to get Bs because [he] could."

  199. babaganusz says:

    Dan Weber observed:

    That's the problem with posting dumb things — if you pass a certain level of dumb you get people so flustered with you that you get invited to present your side.

    which reminded me of a recently-enjoyed read (Charles Pierce's Idiot America):

    This is a great country, in no small part because it is the best country ever devised in which to be a public crank. Never has a nation so dedicated itself to the proposition that not only should people hold nutty ideas, but they should cultivate them, treasure them, shine them up, and put them right up there on the mantelpiece. This is still the best country ever in which to peddle complete public lunacy. In fact, it's the only country to enshrine that right in its founding documents.
    [snip]
    … To win, untested, the approval of the great masses, whether that's indicated by book sales or by, say, conventional political success, is to make American cranks into something they never should be – ordinary. The value of the crank is in the effort that it takes either to refute what the crank is saying, or to assimilate it into the mainstream. In either case, political and cultural imaginations expand. Intellectual horizons broaden.
    The crank is devalued when his ideas are accepted untested and unchallenged into the mainstream simply because they succeed as product. The more successful the crank is in this latter regard, the less valuable he is to America. There is nothing more worthless to the cultural imagination than a persistently wrong idea that succeeds despite itself.

    (semi-tangentially, has anyone yet spotted Tarrou not (a) smugly comparing itself to a monolithic mass, and/or (b) talking-point trolling with a chip on its shoulder and/or an axe to grind?)

  200. babaganusz says:

    what on earth convinced my fingers that 'b' was short for blockquote? and the little bastids apparently mangled the italics closure after 'not'. dear oh dear…

  201. rice says:

    She's obviously not that good at math either. If we took her suggestion literally and we rounded up all of the roughly 6 million private school students and shoved them into public schools, where is the money going to come from? Wouldn't we have to raise taxes to hire more teachers and build more public schools?

    The way I see it, people who send their kids to private schools are helping public schools by not adding the additional burden. She should be thanking these parents.

    But maybe that's what she want's anyway, more taxes and bigger gov't.

  202. babaganusz says:

    again, from Dan Weber:

    In my public school history, I had both some extremely awesome teachers (I can still name them, more than half a lifetime ago) and some who were just marking time until they could retire (I can name those, too).

    ditto (modulo one's "half a lifetime" metric). i graduated from my "inner city" high school in 1990, the year before they started sending the jazz band to Montreux and the orchestra to Tokyo and Vienna.

  203. babaganusz says:

    Here is an idea, how about we declare war on education, then we might spend enough money to improve it now and not in a few generations.

    well played! we've certainly improved drugs and terror over the years…

  204. Clark says:

    @rice

    She's obviously not that good at math either. If we took her suggestion literally and we rounded up all of the roughly 6 million private school students and shoved them into public schools, where is the money going to come from? Wouldn't we have to raise taxes to hire more teachers and build more public schools?

    Taxing people more?

    Sending more money to patronage teacher positions, when the teacher unions always support left wing politicians?

    Sending more money to the "prevailing wage", unionized workers, who will remember which side their bread is buttered on?

    Those aren't problems, those are features.

  205. Joe Pullen says:

    I live in one of the most expensive school districts in the State and the school taxes I pay for that privilege are no small thing. I don't begrudge those taxes if it buys a better education for someone else's children in our public education system, but I'm not yet convinced that it does.

    We send both of our kids to private school because we don't feel the local school district is able to take their education to the level we are looking for in preparing them for college but mostly because we felt they weren't teaching our children critical thinking skills versus rote learning. Sorry but neither Alison Benedikt or anyone else gets to determine what is best for my kids. Society be damned.

  206. David says:

    As suggested, I agree that the author of the Slate piece has suffered from her education, in that she writes pieces like this…

    I had the benefit of being in a public school "gifted" program, I suppose since not all municipalities can afford such programs it was wrong to be in such a program? Even before that program I had some excellent teachers at good public schools (e.g. I read Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn by grade 4, and I mean full unbowdlerized versions, Animal Farm in grade 5, etc.), should my parents have made an effort to transfer me to worse schools? Were those students in elite sports or artistically-gifted public school programs or their parents bad people? If I had accepted a scholarship to a private school (based on a math contest, my parents considered the issues and asked my opinion, given I was already in a good public program with good marks and education they acceded to my preferences to stay in the public school) would I or my parents have been bad people? Hah.

    Not only my own inclination, but studies I've read indicate having competition – an alternative to public schools – helps improve public schools. If public schools are bad enough, people will be encouraged to make the sacrifices to pay for private or use vouchers if available or homeschool etc., and that this encourages public schools to get better so they don't lose too many students and funding and jobs etc. When there is no or less competition, there is not that "force" encouraging public schools to get better.

    I read some studies re Ontario Canada (for historical Canadian Constitutional reasons, there are publicly-funded Catholic schools in some provinces and if space is available non-Catholic students can attend, they are exempt from the religious classes) that in areas where parents had choices of which (publicly-funded) school they could send their children to, it tended to improve the performance of both schools (school boards want their share of the public funds etc.).

  207. Martin says:

    I swear I thought Ms. Benedikt's piece was satirical. I didn't read past the first two paragraphs because it didn't have the kind of wit you'd expect from the genre.

    Well, I guess it makes sense – she was being serious. Good grief!

  208. Morgan says:

    While the DEM's were trying to pass ObamaCare, Obama kept saying that the insurance was being run by private industry and it would be good for it to have Government Competition. I believe that same competition would be good for the Government/Union school system. It needs competition from the private sector. Unfortunately, the DEM's will never be consistent in their logic.

  209. Lucius Severus Pertinax says:

    Allison Benedikt has GOT to be writing Satire. ala Jonathan Swift.
    NOBODY could ACTUALLY be so gob-smackingly, drool-in-their-lap Stupid….

    ….could they?

  210. redvoter says:

    Slate has really gone downhill.

  211. Brian in MA says:

    Presumably, the same arguments apply for Higher Ed? All those evil Ivy-leaguers! Of course it would be terribly gauche to point out that both Barack and Michelle O were private school and Ivy League pretty much all the way through their education.

  212. willy lenski says:

    It's Labor Day weekend. The rest of the editors are away. Time for odd Stalanist rants here and other publications.
    I tried to find her CV on the web but couldn't. Love to know who pulled strings for her when she was a kid getting out of school….

  213. BTCG says:

    I have a question to all: How is Allison's diktat that "all children must go to public schools" any different than "All able bodied people over 18 must serve in the military or perform national service"? Anyone?

    One of the arguments supporting the draft involved exactly the same points Ms. Benedikt makes: diversity, mixing smart ones with slow ones, etc. It didn't carry the day then, is surely won't now.

    Other than 1984-style indoctrination, why else would she want to nationally draft all children into NEA camps?

  214. I love how she said "I'm not proud of my ignorance." The simple fact is this entire diatribe IS her showing pride in her ignorance. She's perfectly content going through life NOT knowing the things she could have learned in school.

    Wow… Critical thinking 101 was another class she missed out on.

    Cheers!!

  215. Aaron says:

    Public school is not meant to be the best. It's meant to be a baseline public service for everyone. The fact that there is no admissions policy other than geographic location for public school means that the school will only be as good as its population. There are honors and AP at most public schools, but private's BIGGEST advantage is screening its students. Simply the fact that it costs money and time to apply is a screening mechanism.

    Benedikt is right to some extent. Sending your kids to a private school is a form of self-segregation. Those private school kids would improve the public school system by being in it. But you don't want your kids around the "riff-raff." I get that. You want your kids around other high achieving kids so doing well in school is "cool" not getting involved with drugs, etc… That's a gross generalization, but I digress.

    However, I don't see sending kids to private school as "hurting" the public school system. Not paying your taxes or trying to cut funding for the public school would hurt it.

  216. NotAChosenOne says:

    Matthew Iglesias, like all Ruling Class JournoLists, went to an elite private school. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dalton_School

    The Ruling Classers hate the guts and livers of ordinary Americans.

  217. Sami says:

    … I had incisive comments to make, but then I got derailed by YOUR KIDS ARE SO ADORABLE OMG that little girl has the BIGGEST SMILE IN THE UNIVERSE too.

    *ahem*

    So now I'll just say: I think the problems with people with guns and badges get a lot worse when you also have a lot of people with guns and *no* badges.

    In my country, it's very difficult to get a gun if you're not a competitive shooter, a cop, or military. (If you want to buy *automatic* weapons, and you're not the Australian Defence Force, you're pretty much out of luck.)

    Our cops are still armed, but in my life I have known exactly one incident in which someone I knew personally actually saw a cop take his gun out of its holster. It was a couple I knew who'd hit a black horse on a pitch-dark country road that they hadn't been able to see, driving at night.

    The cop who attended the scene used his gun to dispatch the mortally-wounded-but-not-yet-dead horse. (Without going into needlessly graphic detail, I can assure the most dubious reader that this horse was absolutely beyond saving, and it was the most merciful of mercy killings.)

    I don't fear the police where I live, but part of that, I think, is because the police don't fear me.

    On education:

    Benedikt is just wrong.

  218. suibne says:

    K-12: Time For A Total Recall
    By Arianna Huffington August 02, 2001
    If K-12 public education system, which, despite a seemingly endless run of highly visible disasters, staggers doggedly on. It's defended, for the most part, by people without a stake in the system, by people who no longer have anyone they care about left in it.
    The horror stories are so plentiful, "Tales from the Crypt" could do a decade's worth of blood-curdling "after-school specials" and still not run out of material…….. Who knows, maybe if enough aggrieved parents, students and teachers follow suit — literally — the system will finally collapse under the weight of its own incompetence.
    It's time to demand a recall. The American public vs. the American education system. It's got a nice ring to it.

  219. InnocentBystander says:

    It is admirable that Ms. Benedikt wants better public schools. It is not admirable that she wishes you to sacrifice your children for that purpose. I, too sent my children to private elementary and middle schools. When my children were born, I sold my business to be a stay at home father. After they went off to school, I went back to college and got a teaching certificate. I ignored a job offer to teach in a wealthy suburban school and took a very low paying job teaching mathematics in a Title One Urban High School. Please forward this advice to Ms. Benedikt, If YOU want to help public education, don't sacrifice ANY children, sacrifice yourself.

  220. Jon Burack says:

    I thank you for this article. It enabled me to read parts of Benedikt's idiotic screed, which I could not bring myself to do past the first paragraph on Slate's site. Now that I see some of what else she wrote, I can only hope she was writing a satire. That, at least, would prove her schooling did not hurt her. Otherwise, she is a walking advertisement for school choice.

  221. ww40 says:

    Ms. Benedict clearly has a lower IQ than most of the house plants I have had. Tho I will say she has provided concrete proof, by her mere existence, that not every human life has value. Slate should stop publishing her, but they won't. However, I CAN stop reading her.

  222. Ellen K says:

    I'm a teacher in a public high school in Texas. I have taught in private and public schools. There are good and bad in all schools. Urban public schools deal with the rampant scourges of drugs, gangs and politicians who would rather grandstand than enforce laws. Private schools have many issues such as drugs that are swept under the rug. The problem is not with the schools per se, but with a society that has sacrificed its children for a type of insular, arrogant lifestyle of things over family. I teach in a fairly affluent area, but money is no assurance that parents will pay attention. If you want to improve things, stop giving your kids cell phones as a substitute for supervision. Turn off the TV. Read a book. Visit a museum. Stay in a stable family relationship. Our kids are damaged and this is shown every day by another incidence of feral violence. All the great schools and good teachers in the world cannot counteract bad parenting and a society that rewards mediocrity.

  223. Shane says:

    @Sami

    Are you trolling on purpose? Is there some reason for you gun rant, cause it really doesn't belong on this thread.

  224. Careless says:

    ok, so her high school and college educations were lacking

    Her college was the University of Michigan.

  225. Bill says:

    > You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.

    Uh, the Obamas are sending their two daughters to private school…

  226. Ranulfo says:

    Matt Y twittered: "Outside NYC isn’t it mostly about people wanting to indoctrinate their children in obscurantist religious doctrines?"

    I love these types of comments. Its just proof that public schools are indoctrination centers every bit as much as those supposedly evil private religious schools. How dare you choose how your child is educated, you must join the collective!

  227. Zelig says:

    I read the Benedikt piece and thought that it was complete satire. Surely no reasonable thinking person could hold the ridiculous views expressed in her column.

  228. Careless says:

    It's a fact, however, that U.S. public schools have a lower per-capita than many other industrial countries.

    Really? Not a fact I've ever heard before, nor is it one that I can find any support for with a single country spending more per student than we do (though I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out something like Luxembourg does)

    Oh, looks like Switzerland does, sometimes, depending on exactly what you look at and where the exchange rates are at the time

  229. D says:

    Nice piece. Could have been summed up as: "Fuck off Benedikt, you collectivist slaver."

  230. Aonghus says:

    Congrats to Ken and the rest of Popehat! This post made the main feed over at Real Clear Politics!

  231. csmats says:

    Why is everyone going all ape-sh*t over this "article"??? In reading it (and Ms Benedikt's other writings), can't you see she's purposely going over the top just to push buttons and generate web traffic? Either that or she, and Slate, who made her a "managing editor", are just mambo-stupid.

    In either case, why respond? She's laughing at both those who disagree with her and get all earnestly uptight over it, and those who agree with her and thereby show their blind adherence to ideology no matter how insane and over the top it gets. And generating wev traffic all the way to the bank.

    Why is this piece o' crap, blatantly manipulative article generating so much unwarranted attention? It only legitimizes it. What's up with that?

  232. Anony Mouse says:

    No mystery. At least for the simple stuff.

    I blame Dreamweaver for the death of basic HTML scripting knowledge. Back in my day, I coded a personal webpage with nothing but Pico!

  233. Mel Kreitzer says:

    One wonders how Ms Benedikt would feel if the public school choice was The Bronx High School of Science?

  234. Que says:

    Alison Benedikt's logic: Everyone should buy Blackberry phones instead of iPhones or Android because that will make Blackberry a better company. If you not buy Blackberry phones, you are a bad person.

  235. James says:

    Do we care about a) all kids getting access to good education or b) about govt delivery of education to all kids? If a) then vouchers, if b) the pass a law making private education illegal.

  236. Joules48084 says:

    Thank heavens for web-sites like Slate. Otherwise, under-educated twits like Alison Benedikt would be either swelling the unemployment rolls or on strike for $15 per hour wages at some fast food joint!

  237. Bryan says:

    "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

  238. David Oakes says:

    It is a good and just thing that the Rich can buy off the draft board and that only the Poor are sent to war. Because that gives the Poor the incentive to want to be Rich, and the Rich more free time to change this horrible, unfair system.

    (Is she being silly? Yes, yes she is. But "I got mine" has been failing as public policy since the 80s. And all of these well educated children in the comments haven't bothered to change it.)

  239. babaganusz says:

    "Surely no reasonable thinking person could hold the ridiculous views expressed in her column."

    as/more surprising that some folks seem to be taking Yglesias' tweet literally/seriously.

    there just might be an Erudite* Troll Movement out there…

    *no offense to genuinely erudite non-trolls; more in the spirit of the Sandra Boynton Turkey "I am eruditer than you" pin we came across in the '80s.

  240. Jason says:

    Hate to sound like a McCarthy-era asshat, but doesn't this sound like communism, and a particularly starry-eyed version? "Give up everything until everyone can have it" sounds wonderful on paper, but unless you're living in a society where NOBODY is a selfish prick or an egotistical moron, it simply won't happen.

  241. Shane says:

    @Anony Mouse

    I coded a personal webpage with nothing but Pico!

    Back when I was coding, I coded all of my corporate client sites with Notepad … hrrrmph. And I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to do it.

  242. Shane says:

    @David Oakes

    But "I got mine" has been failing as public policy since the 80s.

    The 80's … gonna need to go back further than that. I suggest about 4,000 years.

  243. Careless says:

    But "I got mine" has been failing as public policy since the 80s.

    You're describing an unwillingness to send children to dangerously unsafe schools as "I got mine"?

  244. LJM says:

    Our kids are damaged and this is shown every day by another incidence of feral violence.

    Since this violence has been decreasing since the 90's, does it follow that kids are less damaged?

  245. En Passant says:

    Shane wrote Aug 31, 2013 @10:08 am:

    @Anony Mouse

    I coded a personal webpage with nothing but Pico!

    Back when I was coding, I coded all of my corporate client sites with Notepad … hrrrmph. And I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to do it.

    Why are we hiding from the police, Daddy?

    Because we use emacs, Son. They use vi.

  246. Kaisersoze says:

    Great post and great picture, Ken. I live in Hollywood and did a lot of due diligence before deciding on the right school for my 5 year old. It turned out to be a public school but the public/private debate wasn't part of the decision. At all.

  247. stljoe says:

    This article wasted way too many paragraphs. It should have been far more succinct.

    Alison Benedikt is a moron.

    See how easy that is?

  248. James Pollock says:

    "Back when I was coding, I coded all of my corporate client sites with Notepad … hrrrmph. And I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to do it."

    Come back when you're ready to whine about EDLIN.

  249. Lucy says:

    "But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve."

    I got this far. Any further and my brain would start leaking out my nose.

  250. Matt says:

    I was just reading an article the other day about how Germany requires public (?) schooling for socialization reasons, and just took away children from a family that was homeschooling, and how there's another one seeking asylum in the US because of this same issue. Naturally, I thought of this, and how Ms. Benedikt would probably think that the Germans have a really good idea there…

  251. Andrew Roth says:

    After reading this essay, I think I've finally figured out Slate's shtick.

    The straightforward part is its graphics. Slate's font and layout are very effective at conveying gravitas, even when there's none to be had.

    The enigmatic part, the one I couldn't put a finger on for years, is the house style that pervades many of Slate's articles. I doubt I'd be able to duplicate it if I tried. It's preternaturally flat and often really fucking meretricious as well. Years ago, I decided that the average quality of Slate's prose was too crappy to be worth the bother of reading on more than an occasional basis, but I gave little thought as to why.

    Alison Benedikt's piece, however, is a more blatant example than usual of Slate's style of packing together successions of rhetorical questions, speculation, baseless assertions, cherry-picked anecdotes and data, and the like, in no particular order but with an impressive subtlety. Most writers putting together pastiches of journalistic suck with such underwhelming prose sound blatantly sophomoric. At Slate, they somehow sound over their readers' heads, as if the casual layman doesn't understand their arguments because he just doesn't have the same depth of analysis, not because those arguments are obtuse, illogical and poorly articulated.

    Slate employs some of the finest tautologists in the land. At heart, all Benedikt is doing is guilt-trolling the yuppies again. Salon pulls that kind of shit all the time, although usually with a generational emphasis. Where Salon differs is that when it trolls the Boomers and the Millennials, it unabashedly pulls out all the stops and runs shrill screeds ("Hipsters on Food Stamps;" "I grew up at 22. Why can't you?"), while Slate dog-whistles at its audience because it prides itself on its flat affect.

    It's rather like the way David Brooks is so milquetoast in his racial and class bigotry, but usually less extreme. Where Slate differs from major syndicated columnists like Brooks is in its frequent failure to lay out any kind of obvious, coherent narrative arc in its articles, probably because coherent storytelling wouldn't look erudite enough. At least Brooks and Friedman offer coherent narratives, even if they're specious. Their garbage, and Salon, can be enjoyed ironically, like Kid Rock. Slate can't.

    It's nice to finally consciously understand why reading Slate is a huge waste of time. The suckage.

  252. Anony Mouse says:

    It is a good and just thing that the Rich can buy off the draft board and that only the Poor are sent to war.

    Nobody's been drafted for 41 years.

  253. grouch says:


    Why are we hiding from the police, Daddy?

    Because we use emacs, Son. They use vi.

    vi is for the viciously insane.
    Its demented offspring, vim, is for viciously insane masochists.
    emacs … well, since every possible key combination is assigned to some command or macro or function, you can't actually use it to type a document. It's a great way to stress-test your computer, though!

    Through simple QEdit-style configuration files, Joe can be set up to
    emulate editors such as Pico and Emacs, along with a complete imitation of WordStar, and a restricted mode version (lets you edit only the files specified on the command line). Joe also has a deferred screen update to handle typeahead, and it ensures that deferral is not bypassed by tty buffering. It's usable even at 2400 baud, and it will work on any kind of sane terminal.
    Homepage: http://joe-editor.sourceforge.net/

    mcedit works, too.

    Why do most U.S. public schools teach monopolist mouse clicks?

  254. James Pollock says:

    "Why do most U.S. public schools teach monopolist mouse clicks?"

    The short answer is "network effects".

    In other words, the same reason that schools teach people to type on a QWERTY keyboard.

  255. AlphaCentauri says:

    Speaking of trying to convey gravitas, when are the 24 hour AM newsradio stations going to figure out that none of their listeners know what that typing sound they play in the background is supposed to mean?

  256. I was Anonymous says:

    @Xenocles…

    Regarding your LeBron analogy… "equality of opportunity does not imply equality of results".

    Unfortunately too many people (most likely including Ms. Benedikt), seen to believe the that it is.

  257. grouch says:


    The short answer is "network effects".

    Unfortunately, the short answer is sufficient only if the goal is to mass produce drones. May as well have classes on Selectrics, Dictaphones and ASR-33s.

  258. James Pollock says:

    "May as well have classes on Selectrics"

    I spent a year tapping away at a Selectric (9th grade) and, amongst the many, MANY things I am, "drone" is not on the list. I worked in a vocational college that had mandatory typing (it's called "keyboarding" now) for all students and typing-from-dictation was mandatory for some programs.

  259. grouch says:


    I spent a year tapping away at a Selectric (9th grade) and, amongst the many, MANY things I am, "drone" is not on the list.

    Would you admit to being slightly disingenuous with that remark?
    You didn't learn "Selectric"; you learned to type, which learning would carry over to any standard QWERTY keyboard.


    I worked in a vocational college that had mandatory typing (it's called "keyboarding" now) for all students and typing-from-dictation was mandatory for some programs.

    Learning skills specific to specific vocations seems entirely reasonable for a vocational college. There are fewer vocational schools in my area than there once were, sadly.

    Teaching middle school and high school students how to use Microsoft Office (even so far as requiring it for some homework) is not so reasonable. The skills learned do not readily transfer to the usage of even other versions of the same program.

    As I always say, people who know Windows *don't* know about computers and operating systems – what they've learned is an arbitrary set of Microsoft abstractions that are subject to change by fiat and have little to do with what the computer is really doing.
    — Les Bell

  260. James Pollock says:

    "Would you admit to being slightly disingenuous with that remark?"
    No.

    "You didn't learn "Selectric"; you learned to type, which learning would carry over to any standard QWERTY keyboard."
    Or would, if every typewriter worked exactly the same way and had exactly the same key layout. Why did I learn to type on a Selectric (actually, a Selectric II)? Because it was the most popular typewriter model in America. Yes, some typing skills are transferable between different kinds of typewriter/keyboard, but the Selectric was the typewriter of choice for education for a reason, and that reason was network effect, just as the reason why a Selectric has a QWERTY layout was also a network effect.

    "Teaching middle school and high school students how to use Microsoft Office (even so far as requiring it for some homework) is not so reasonable. The skills learned do not readily transfer to the usage of even other versions of the same program."

    That's not even vaguely true. First off, there are organizational consistencies that are consistent across different versions. Secondly, learning one Windows program provides skills that are transferable to other Windows programs (also true for Mac, OS/2, and Unix/Linux GUI. Less so for DOS or Unix/Linux shell). The common user interface is one of the major selling points for GUI operating systems… once you learn one program, some of what you learned applies to programs you haven't learned yet. This is because the GUI forces a consistent menu structure and hotkey scheme.

    Why teach Windows instead of, say Mac? Well, many schools actually teach both. Linux is considerably more rare, but that's because A) few students have it at home, and B) so few businesses use it, so skills are less valued, plus C) it changes so rapidly. Mostly, though, it's D) few teachers were taught with Linux, and they don't use it themselves.

  261. James Pollock says:

    "As I always say, people who know Windows *don't* know about computers and operating systems – what they've learned is an arbitrary set of Microsoft abstractions that are subject to change by fiat and have little to do with what the computer is really doing.
    — Les Bell "

    As for this, I'm pretty sure I DO know about computers and operating systems (I go back to when Microsoft didn't sell operating systems, just developer tools; the programming language option I chose when I got my AAS was assembly language).
    In any case, the vast majority of people DON'T WANT to know computers or operating systems, they just want to get their work done. Microsoft and to a lesser extent Apple have made huge piles of money by recognizing this simple fact. By analogy, most drivers don't have the foggiest idea what all the bits of their automobile do, and they shouldn't have to.

  262. Tamfang says:

    Benedikt's position is akin to an argument that someone in Congress has made for restoring military slavery: that way, whenever Congress declares war it'll be the people as a whole going to war, and therefore it will have popular support.

    "But many others go private […] because their kids have behavioral or learning issues […]"

    Back when I paid a bit of attention to the school choice debate, one of the bad things about private schools was that they cherry-pick the children that are easiest to teach, leaving the costlier problem children to the public system. Has that changed?

    As for exposure to human diversity, I reckon it wouldn't suffer from reducing the amount of time children spend within a system that rigidly classifies them by age. Why must children's entire social life has to be managed by the schools? Why, indeed, must a child go to the same school all day, five days a week, rather than several schools specialized for different subjects?

    naught: The California voucher bill of 1994(?) proposed to pay half as much for private school students as for state school students; if the overall ed.budget is fixed (as I believe California's constitution requires), each transfer to private school obviously increases the state schools' budget per capita. (Opponents didn't deny that; they objected to reducing the unionized schools' total budgets.)

  263. Derrick says:

    I am jealous. Your boy looks like Spock. My kid looks like a cross between Godzilla and Mrs. Potatohead.

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