Such a thing as “the wrong kind of school choice”?

posted at 3:51 pm on April 10, 2012 by Tina Korbe

Acton Institute senior editor Joe Carter thinks so. In a post on the Acton Institute’s blog, Carter responds to a piece in Christianity Today magazine that highlighted the microtrend of families intentionally moving to underserved communities and purposely enrolling their children in poorly performing schools. Carter writes:

Needless to say, this type of “school choice”—moving in a few white, middle-class Christian children into an impoverished minority public school—will do absolutely nothing to restore “a community struggling against generational poverty.” What it does, however, is reveal one of the perverse ironies of “educational choice.” Those of us in favor of broader educational choices often assume that parents will choose to maximize their child’s educational opportunities. The reality, though, is that if given a wide range of choices, some parents will choose to send their child to a particular school for reasons that have almost nothing to do with education. Some will choose a school based on the sports program or other extra-curricular activities. And some, like the parents mentioned in the CT article, will choose to send their children to a particular school in order to make a socio-theological statement. …

Unfortunately, while the actions they take are important—volunteering, mentoring, choosing to be teachers—they are individualistic stopgap measures for long-term institutional problems.

When these families leave these neighborhoods (as they eventually will) they will leave behind a still-broken school system. While their willingness to move to the struggling communities is noble, what their neighbors need is to be empowered to help their own children. They need the ability to make their own educational choices—and that’s not something that can be accomplished by this “new school choice agenda.”

At the outset of his response to the CT article, Carter voices his reluctance to criticize anyone for such mission-minded, sacrificial personal activism — and I share his reluctance. At the same time, I’m pleased Carter wrote the piece and find it thought-provoking.

Perhaps the pioneers of this new trend never intended it to be a means by which to effect education reform. Perhaps they’re simply trying to live out their particular vocation as Christians.

If the former, then it does constitute some kind of “new school choice agenda” — and needs to be responded to in much the way Carter responds, for it stands the central assumption that underlies the “old school choice agenda” on its head (that, when given the choice, parents will opt to send their children to schools that offer the best possible education) at the same time that it doesn’t solve the problems the old agenda would, in fact, solve.

If the latter, though, then it should be observed and commented upon as that – as an inspiring example of what it means to live out a vocation — and not as a means by which to effect education reform. The presence of the four flourishing families in a poor community won’t in and of itself solve the community’s poor school problem, but that doesn’t mean it won’t yield positive fruit of a different kind.


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Public Schools!

KOOLAID2 on April 10, 2012 at 3:55 PM

#1 in something!

KOOLAID2 on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

So what’s the problem? It’s not as though these choices are exclusive. Go with an “all of the above” policy and it’s win-win for everyone — except public teachers’ unions.

jwolf on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Perhaps the pioneers of this new trend never intended it to be a means by which to effect education reform. Perhaps they’re simply trying to live out their particular vocation as Christians.

Or they want their kids to be at the top of their class. Some states guarantee the top 10% of a high schools graduating class entry into the state university of their choice.

peacenprosperity on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Nothing like sacrificing your child to make one’s self feel better.

Pablo Honey on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Union protected!

KOOLAID2 on April 10, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I thought this story was going to go to a place where parents were enrolling their children in failing schools to be able to take advantage of a school voucher system and then send them to the real school of choice…a private one.

BobMbx on April 10, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Free to choose failure, as far as I’m concerned.

MeatHeadinCA on April 10, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Arne Duncan approved!!!!

search4truth on April 10, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Hmmmmm…my top of her class PharmD daughter went to an inner city middle school, and we didn’t have to move to the neighborhood for her to do so. It’s called “bussing.”

That being said, she received a very good education at that school.

kakypat on April 10, 2012 at 4:01 PM


And some, like the parents mentioned in the CT article, will choose to send their children to a particular school in order to make a socio-theological statement.

By all means, send your daughter. Your “socio-theological statement” just might get her raped – but, you’ll feel so good about yourself. And, in the end, that’s what something like this is all about – making sure that you feel good about yourself – regardless of the collateral damage.

OhEssYouCowboys on April 10, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Some states guarantee the top 10% of a high schools graduating class entry into the state university of their choice.

peacenprosperity on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Welcome to Texas. Talk about p!ssing off the locals!

DanMan on April 10, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Nothing like sacrificing your child to make one’s self feel better.

Pablo Honey on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

I wouldn’t have bothered with my post, had I read your post first.

OhEssYouCowboys on April 10, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Public school teachers from failing schools aren’t crazy enough to put their own children there, but if some crazy parents choose to abort their child’s education, what can you do? That’s not a reason to take away choice from the sane parents.

RBMN on April 10, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Here’s the thing. No matter what you think of these people or what motives they might have, education is more than just what one finds in a textbook. There is something to be said for exposing those ‘white middle class Christian kids’ to a world outside suburbia where everybody pretty much looks and lives like them.

Happy Nomad on April 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

I thought this story was going to go to a place where parents were enrolling their children in failing schools to be able to take advantage of a school voucher system and then send them to the real school of choice…a private one.

BobMbx on April 10, 2012 at 3:57 PM

This was my first thought too.

Or they want their kids to be at the top of their class. Some states guarantee the top 10% of a high schools graduating class entry into the state university of their choice.

peacenprosperity on April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

I had not thought of this angle, but I could see how it would work. Hope the kids cooperate with the parents on this example.

My only question is how will these kids be able to retain their lunch money to eat?

PrettyD_Vicious on April 10, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Here’s the thing. No matter what you think of these people or what motives they might have, education is more than just what one finds in a textbook. There is something to be said for exposing those ‘white middle class Christian kids’ to a world outside suburbia where everybody pretty much looks and lives like them.

Happy Nomad on April 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

So send them to a boarding school in the Philippines, I guess.

MeatHeadinCA on April 10, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Public school teachers from failing schools aren’t crazy enough to put their own children there, but if some crazy parents choose to abort their child’s education, what can you do? That’s not a reason to take away choice from the sane parents.

RBMN on April 10, 2012 at 4:04 PM

I’m guessing these parents barely show up on the radar… they remind me of that pair of parents that wouldn’t reveal the gender of their son/daughter.

MeatHeadinCA on April 10, 2012 at 4:08 PM

The reality, though, is that if given a wide range of choices, some parents will choose to send their child to a particular school for reasons that have almost nothing to do with education. Some will choose a school based on the sports program or other extra-curricular activities. And some, like the parents mentioned in the CT article, will choose to send their children to a particular school in order to make a socio-theological statement. …

You mean if we give parents choices they might make choices others disagree with? Oh, the horrors! Clearly, what we need is for the government, especially the federal government, to take away all choice and tell these parents what’s best!

The point of school choice is not that we give it as long as parents make the “right” choices. The point is that it’s none of the government’s business, nor society’s business, what choices make about their children’s education. That is a parental decision, period. Some parents will make good choices, some will make bad and, yes, some children will end up better educated than others as a result. Such is life.

If those on the right start to get squeamish about freedom when people start making the “wrong” choices, then we might as well just hand the keys back over to the left.

Shump on April 10, 2012 at 4:13 PM

So send them to a boarding school in the Philippines, I guess.

MeatHeadinCA on April 10, 2012 at 4:07 PM

At least in the Philippines, they will learn to speak English.

PrettyD_Vicious on April 10, 2012 at 4:16 PM

families intentionally moving to underserved communities and purposely enrolling their children in poorly performing schools

Wow, I knew that some of these social libs were selfish, but using your kids to make a political point really takes the cake. I wonder if they bothered to ask the kids if they minded going to school in a dangerous, gang ridden, h*** hole on a daily basis. I guess as long as it’s their kids going and not themselves, then it’s no big deal.

Susanboo on April 10, 2012 at 4:18 PM

At least in the Philippines, they will learn to speak English.

PrettyD_Vicious on April 10, 2012 at 4:16 PM

:O

OK, yeah, you’re right ;)

MeatHeadinCA on April 10, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Have any of you bashing the moves by these parents stopped to think that perhaps these parents are supplementing the atrocious education provided in the public school with home-schooling. It is entirely possible these parents are educating their children properly outside the failing school and sending their children into the school as good influences and missionaries.

I would not be so quick to assume they have just fed their children to the public school system. They are busy setting up mentoring and tutoring programs up for the other students, so why would you assume they’ve abandoned their own childrens’ education?

I read the original article and don’t find specific mention to education outside the public school, but being a Christian reading an article by Christians about Christians, I would assume it.

Lost in Jersey on April 10, 2012 at 4:22 PM

My mother has spent the better part of the last 40 years teaching in poor, black schools. Both in rural Mississippi and in urban areas. She is retiring this year. But when we were children we always went to the best school my parents could get us into. I can’t understand putting your children into a failing school to make a point.

darcee on April 10, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Have any of you bashing the moves by these parents stopped to think that perhaps these parents are supplementing the atrocious education provided in the public school with home-schooling. It is entirely possible these parents are educating their children properly outside the failing school and sending their children into the school as good influences and missionaries.

I would not be so quick to assume they have just fed their children to the public school system. They are busy setting up mentoring and tutoring programs up for the other students, so why would you assume they’ve abandoned their own childrens’ education?

I read the original article and don’t find specific mention to education outside the public school, but being a Christian reading an article by Christians about Christians, I would assume it.

Lost in Jersey on April 10, 2012 at 4:22 PM

Do you take your family to brothels for missions work? No? What about to the crack dealer down the road? No?

Parents that take their kids on these, oh let’s be honest, field trips, are wasting their kids’ time just for starters.

MeatHeadinCA on April 10, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Single payer would work great – as opposed to what we have now for public schools.

Vouchers now. Anyone who supports the public school monopoly, is supporting the few beneficiaries of it (the employees), over children.

NoDonkey on April 10, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Wow,

Did anyone even read the original source article? These families have fully invested THEMSELVES in these neighborhoods. It’s not a “trend” so much as a pact within a group of christians.

ALL the ulterior motives supposed on this blog are tripe of the worst kind.

logdogsmith on April 10, 2012 at 4:37 PM

It isn’t our business. The freaking government makes wrong choices every day of the week. Let parents alone.

JellyToast on April 10, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Education is the responsibility of the parents. If we advocate for a free market in the field of education, then we have to take even the choices we personally disagree with.

Oh, and, I suspect MeatHead is trolling for fun…

Ace ODale on April 10, 2012 at 4:39 PM

I find myself not really caring. Tough titties if Carter or anyone else thinks these are the “wrong” choices. Before school choice we were living with the one “right” choice for decades and it didn’t seem to satisfy anyone. Now people are going to piss and moan over the fact that parents are making choices they wouldn’t make? Well ain’t liberty a bitch.

Stop worrying about other people’s choices and worry about your own instead.

NotCoach on April 10, 2012 at 4:41 PM

We learned earlier today that homophobes are actually closet homosexuals. The root cause was strict and disciplined upbringing. Obviously these parents are attempting to avoid that eventuality; what homophobes!

kpguru on April 10, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Needless to say, this type of “school choice”—moving in a few white, middle-class Christian children into an impoverished minority public school—will do absolutely nothing to restore “a community struggling against generational poverty.”

They should read John Derbyshire’s last article at NR before they make the final decision to send their children to a minority-majority school.

Jurisprudence on April 10, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Homeschool.

Game over.

serenity on April 10, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Lost in Jersey

Yes, you are.

bw222 on April 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Wow, just wow, imagine that, feeding your children to the beast.

I guess it just painfully points out that Liberalism is a mental disorder.

AT Tapman on April 10, 2012 at 4:54 PM

My mistake. John Derbyshire’s article that caused the uproar and his firing at National Review was at Taki’s Magazine.

The link to the article:

http://takimag.com/article/the_talk_nonblack_version_john_derbyshire/print#axzz1rfmiyapX

It should be read and considered if parents are going to send their children to a minority-majority school. Safety first.

Jurisprudence on April 10, 2012 at 4:57 PM

When you endorse the freedom and liberty to allow a choice… you have to accept some people will make the “wrong choice” (which is apparently any choice you wouldn’t have made)

That’s the thing about freedom, people actually get to choose from multiple options; not just one.

Claiming to want freedom and choices and then complaining about the choices people make and thinking you should control their options and make them make “the right choice” that’s not freedom; that’s dictatorial action under the guise of freedom.

Don’t we have enough of that already?

gekkobear on April 10, 2012 at 5:10 PM

The only reason I can imagine putting my kids, if I had them, into such a situation would be to toughen them up. I certainly wouldn’t entertain any notions that they would make a big difference in the system. It’s already beyond making a difference institutionally, even in the better public schools, so they certainly can’t be thinking that.

If it’s for missionary purposes, then it’s sort of like sending them to a foreign country to evangelize when your own country’s backslidden.

Cleombrotus on April 10, 2012 at 5:15 PM

…a microtrend piece… these four couples

Much ado about four couples and their children.

My mom taught in inner city schools, too. Many “poor kids” dressed better than we did and they had cable TV when we couldn’t afford it.

We went to public schools that were pretty crappy unless you were able to test into the college track classes. In which case, you were pretty much isolated from the general population, except for the bathrooms. You had to really be careful in the bathrooms. Ah, fond memories…

Fallon on April 10, 2012 at 5:18 PM

There is something to be said for exposing those ‘white middle class Christian kids’ to a world outside suburbia where everybody pretty much looks and lives like them.

Happy Nomad on April 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Like what? Go ahead…say it. Doo it…just doooo it, uh?.

BobMbx on April 10, 2012 at 5:29 PM

The presence of the four flourishing families in a poor community won’t in and of itself solve the community’s poor school problem

This is true tina. Why? Well, the family is the source of good education. Children get a better education when parents (2 of them, a man and a woman) are involved in a child’s education. The presence of this same family, within a failing school district, will do nothing to solve the community’s poor school problem. Poor school problems are symptomatic of poor family problems.

ted c on April 10, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Also, some parents might recognize that it’s easier for a good student at a bad school–where they can easily be in the top percentiles of the class–to get into a top college, than a good student at a good school-where they will end up with a lower class rank.

HakerA on April 10, 2012 at 5:35 PM

I think education for children should be left to the parent/parents. That said, I homeschool. Sorry, I do not wish to unteach indoctrination/false theories. I hear all the time how I should allow my children to attend public school so that they can be the ‘salt and light’. My children would not be that way if I had not saw to their education. Homeschooling is not the answer for everyone but it was for our family. Ted c. I agree the break down of education starts with the family.

4reds on April 10, 2012 at 5:45 PM

When these families leave these neighborhoods (as they eventually will) they will leave behind a still-broken school system. While their willingness to move to the struggling

I read this, and think “Peace Corps” or whatever they’re calling it nowadays.

LtGenRob on April 10, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Hmm – let me weigh this – on one hand I can send my children to a failing school with large classes, sucky teachers, poor physical plant, drugs & gang violence and a school body where a majority of the children come from dysfuctional schools versus not. I can feel righteous and sanctimoneous versus not. Guess I’m in the not category.

katiejane on April 10, 2012 at 6:07 PM

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8.

mabryb1 on April 10, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Just “who” is making the sacrifice in order to ‘feel good’. The child, subjected to a sub-standard education; or the parent trying to ease their conscience?

GarandFan on April 10, 2012 at 6:19 PM

The New York Times published an error of sorts this week. No, I’m not referring to their loony-left editorial positions. In the Times’ “Bestseller List” of published tomes, they did not show the real biggest-selling book. This book outsells everything else, week after week, year after year, century after century. This book has shaped the English language. We quote it or allude to its passages every day. It has impacted many other languages. I think this book has influenced Western Civilization more than anything else. Yet the average school does their best to ignore this book.

I can’t afford the private schools that give due attention to this banned book, so my children will only learn the dogmas that the establishment permits. And those who can shell out the bucks to send their kids to private schools have to keep paying for tax-funded public schools as well. Anyone (except leftists) can see that it’s unfair to pay for school twice. And it’s not fair for those in poor neighborhoods to be stuck in underachieving schools.

Even though the U.S. spends more per capita on education than any other nation, our kids are regularly surpassed by at least a dozen other countries in science and math test scores.

The solutions: Privatize every school. (Even now, private schools typically outperform public schools, with less money) Vouchers for every child. A bare minimum of government regulation–and that should be local, not federal regulation. Abolish the Department of Education, a money drain which bogs schools down with red tape and squelches innovation. Minimize the influence of the National Education Association (misnomer), which is only interested in accumulating power. The result: the poor will be able to afford good schools. And there will be as many varieties of schools as there of restaurants. If you want to send your child to a school that emphasizes history, you’ll be able to find one. Need more language arts and less P.E.? It will be somewhere. And if you happen to be one of those Bible-lovers (gasp!), I’m sure there will be some schools to cater to you (and me).

itsnotaboutme on April 10, 2012 at 7:11 PM

“Missionaries” in American Public schools rather than Africa. WE have many schools that could use them.

Grunt on April 10, 2012 at 7:13 PM

Isn’t this what Jimmy Carter did to his poor daughter Amy? She spent a lot of years looking like her eyes were caught in the headlights.

jaimo on April 10, 2012 at 7:28 PM

Send my child to a school where she is guaranteed to be picked on (or worse)? Not!

It may be a Christian thing to put yourself in harms way, but your child? Not mine.

Plus, how come white Christians can move in and out of the ghetto, but you assume black people can’t? Typical leftist racism to boot!

Squiggy on April 11, 2012 at 5:51 AM

It is only a ‘choice’ if the equation is level: the States kick back on a per pupil basis to schools, and if you home school you can’t get the kickback.

Make the kickback about actually learning and achieving and not where you go to school or which district it is or who taught you and hand the homeschooling parents the money that would normally go to the school district, and you then have some real ‘choice’ in the matter. Is it worth having money going to failing school systems or is it worth it to set up an alternative learning center that uses the best of new technology and committed parental involvement to teach children?

Until all options are given equal treatment under the law, it isn’t about ‘choice’ but which institution benefits from State funds. Put parents on a level playing field so they can decide if the payment for education is worth their time and effort, and let the school districts compete with their own local residents who care about education to the extent they will compete with the schools for money.

It’s nice that people can get some choice in a failing set of institutions, but this isn’t addressing the fact that the institution of school based education isn’t up to snuff for the 21st century. Competition will create better educational opportunities that can span from traditional schools to self-paced interactive learning systems. One of these is from the 13th century, the other from the 21st: let them compete on a level playing field.

ajacksonian on April 11, 2012 at 6:37 AM

…when given the choice, parents will opt to send their children to schools that offer the best possible education…

They make decisions.
Some will be right, and some wrong.
But more right than wrong…

You give parents the ability to make their own decisions, and they will, in the main, make decisions in their own best interests. Schools will respond to this by catering to their interests, and education improves.

It is this way with every other commodity, but why not education?

Sure, a small percentage of families will make bad decisions and some children will suffer because of that. But we will never be able to protect these children from their stupid parents, anyway. Why hold back 98% of children just because we feel bad that 2% have stupid parents?

Haiku Guy on April 11, 2012 at 7:52 AM

You’re either for school choice or you’re not. It makes no sense for one to say “I’m for school choices as long as people make choices I agree with.” Choice which does not include the right to be wrong, at least in the eyes of some, is no choice at all.

Jeff A on April 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM

What is difficult to understand? Christian missionaires go everywhere to spread their particular brand of gospel. Simple enough for those looking for something to argue about?

dahni on April 11, 2012 at 12:36 PM