Slate: Only bad people won’t sacrifice their children on altar of public education, or something

posted at 12:41 pm on August 29, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

We still have four more months left in 2013, but we may have found a winner for the single most vapid column of the year, courtesy of Slate. Allison Benedikt wrote a “manifesto” which appeared on their site today demanding that parents stop using private schools for their children, because — and I am not making this up — putting more children in failing schools is the path to improvement.  Benedikt begins her argument by pronouncing herself ignorant on education policy, and proceeds to demonstrate a nearly endless supply of ignorance throughout the rest of the article.

Actually, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.  She starts off her argument by pronouncing anyone who does not put their children in public schools a “bad person”:

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.

Take a moment to mull over that gem. Benedikt’s entire argument is that non-participants in an organization ruin it by their non-participation.  It’s not the actual participants who are to blame for the institution’s failures – not the teachers, not the administrators, and not the policy-makers — but the people who avoid the failure that should be blamed.  That argument conveniently lets the participants in this “most-essential” institution off the hook for their own failures.  We’ll get back to that in a minute.

With that in mind, Benedikt then pronounces her ignorance on the subject, while demanding that children get sacrificed in the failing institutions for generations on the off chance that things will improve … by osmosis, or something:

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.

Before we deconstruct the idiocies in that argument, let’s test that theory.  The worst-performing school districts tend to be those in densely-populated urban cores, where teachers routinely complain not of half-empty classrooms but of student-teacher ratios that are way too high. If Benedikt’s theory holds water, then those districts — where school choice is verboten and economic opportunities to provide alternatives are nearly as rare — should be models for educational improvement. Over the last 50 years, which direction have these schools taken?  According to every measure, it’s not the path of excellence.

Even more fundamentally, Benedikt argues that parents should have the welfare of the public sector as a higher ideal than that of their own children.  So what if they get a lousy education?  Kids fifty years from now might get a better one if parents today would only sacrifice their children’s future on the altar of the Public School Gods, whose beneficence can only be derived through complete sacrifice! And speaking of the common good, exactly how does producing a few generations of mediocre-educated children improve the communities and the country as a whole?  The only way this strategy makes any sense is we aim for a future that looks a lot like the film Idiocracy.

And exactly how does Benedikt envision the improvement process working?  To call this fantastic undersells the delusion and ignorance demonstrated:

And parents have a lot of power. In many underresourced schools, it’s the aggressive PTAs that raise the money for enrichment programs and willful parents who get in the administration’s face when a teacher is falling down on the job. Everyone, all in.

If that were true, we’d never have any failing schools at all.  Unfortunately, almost none of this is true.  It is true that PTAs raise funds to contribute to endangered programs, but the programs are usually endangered because the administrative costs in public schools have skyrocketed thanks to mandates from government, which means public funds — which do come from everyone — get increasingly spent on indirect costs rather than educating children. The results in this case speak for themselves, as even Benedikt implicitly acknowledges that public schools are mainly either failing or mediocre.

The part about “willful parents” forcing the administration to deal with failing teachers in public schools must have parents with actual experience in these districts doubled over with laughter.  It’s almost impossible to remove a failing teacher with tenure, even when they’ve been accused of far worse than incompetence — and even when an administration would like nothing more than to get rid of him or her.  Instead, they pay them to sit in so-called “rubber rooms” until retirement — New York City had seven hundred of them being paid not to teach in 2009 — which means even more funds being wasted on something other than basic education.  Shifting blame to non-participants isn’t just ignorant and laughable, it’s part of the reason for the chronic nature of the failures.

However, in private and parochial schools, that dynamic actually works.  Why? Private schools don’t get funding regardless of their success or failure in educating children. They only get tuition by demonstrating excellence and success, or else parents take their tuition elsewhere.  Teachers are accountable to parents, rather than just to their union, which means that parents can have a real impact on curriculum and educational strategies.

Finally, here’s Benedikt’s argument for why we should not worry so much about the education in schools as the experience, which sounds as though it came from The Onion rather than Slate:

Also remember that there’s more to education than what’s taught. As rotten as my school’s English, history, science, social studies, math, art, music, and language programs were, going to school with poor kids and rich kids, black kids and brown kids, smart kids and not-so-smart ones, kids with superconservative Christian parents and other upper-middle-class Jews like me was its own education and life preparation. 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.

Frankly, this is one of the most honest expressions of what liberals believe to be the purpose of public schools I’ve ever read.  It’s most certainly not about educating children, but about social norming … down to the lowest common denominator.  Rather than finding ways to provide poor children an effective and productive education so that they can compete better for jobs and wealth down the road, we just need to make sure everyone gets the same lousy education so, er, we can all have fond memories of puking our guts out before basketball games at the gym.  And let’s not miss the none-too-subtle assignment of responsibility for that drunkenness on the families from the trailer park.

The real question here isn’t why Benedikt would have thought this made a good argument for public-school education. The real question is how it got past Slate’s editors for publication.

Note: We had a lot of fun with this story on my show this morning from the fair.

Update: James Pethokoukis blasts this story, and quotes an important point from his AEI colleague Michael McShane:

3. Oh, by the way, do we have any data on the educational impact of helping lower-income and poor kids escape the public education monopoly? Like, say, data from the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program? Well, the US Education Department’s OSP study found the program, McShane points out, “produced $2.62 in benefits for every dollar spent on it. In other words, the return on public investment for the private-school voucher program during its early years was 162 percent.” What’s more, “The OSP increased the high-school graduation rate of students by 12 percentage points if they were lucky enough to win the annual scholarship lottery.”

4. One more from McShane:

It’s also a proud tradition in America (since Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925) to recognize that children are not instruments of the state. They do not exist to promote the goals of the government or the community, they (and their parents) are free to (within limits) to be educated as they best see fit.  Obviously this person has no idea about the anti-Catholicism and anti-immigrant racism that lead people to make the same argument that she is making, albeit 100 years ago.

It’s safe to say that Benedikt doesn’t have any idea at all about this topic, history, public policy, and probably a wide range of issues.  McShane gets to the heart of Benedikt’s argument better than anyone, though, by pointing out that her view of children is that they are nothing more than fodder to be exploited in any way possible to support the liberal vision of public education.


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The country would therefor be better off as well, if we took all the brightest, say, top 1%, of physicists, physicians, mathematicians, etc and shipped them all off to the Malivinas.

WryTrvllr on August 29, 2013 at 2:46 PM

The real question is how it got past Slate’s editors for publication.

That is a rhetorical question, right?

Physics Geek on August 29, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Classic!

This dumb cluck demonstrates once again just how stupid you have to be to be a Democrat.

Adjoran on August 29, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Oh, and we shouldn’t be allowed to have any kind of intellectual discussions with our children either.

From now on ALL dinner questions and discussions will be limited to how much baby formula was used to cut your kids most recent cocaine purchase. (but no discussion of per weight or per volume!)

WryTrvllr on August 29, 2013 at 2:50 PM

To the contrary, what will improve public education is for legions of parents to take their children OUT of it. Voucher programs provide that option which is, of course, why the Dems and their teacher union buddies oppose them.

Competition is the answer. Give parents choices. This liberal dolt–vehemently “pro-choice” on abortion, no doubt–wants to take away all choice when it comes to education.

Too bad Milton Friedman is no longer with us. It would be wonderful to watch him take her apart on this issue.

Meredith on August 29, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Sure ‘they’ believe that. They also believe a heart patient should take a pill rather than implant a pacemaker…until it’s their heart.

socalcon on August 29, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Fascism on parade. This makes me sick.

bitsy on August 29, 2013 at 2:53 PM

By the way this seems to be a week for libtard ignorance doesn’t it?

dogsoldier on August 29, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Lunar cycle?

socalcon on August 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM

I skimmed the article and nowhere did I see the author state that she had children of her own. She has no educational background and seems to be completely ignorant of trends, fads, and the wretched federal move to nationalize education that is Common Core.

IOW, as a Lefty she thinks she’s completely qualified to pontificate and do her pseudo-moralizing.

BTW, this is the final line:

Don’t just acknowledge your liberal guilt—listen to it.

Having no liberal guilt, do what is best for your children.

Honestly, the libs turn real morality upside down, and their guilt over what is truly right and wrong drives them to do their Pharisaical rants over anything and everything else.

INC on August 29, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Lunar cycle?

socalcon on August 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM

I think we had something called a seasonal blue moon last week—an extra full moon during a season. That explains it!

INC on August 29, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Or, how about this, Ms. Benedikt?

Not only do I not send my kids to public school. Not only do I believe that no one should ever send their kids to public school. But I believe the entire public education system should cease to exist. Completely. No state-run education what-so-ever.

I suppose that makes me a super-bad person.

Oh well.

Shump on August 29, 2013 at 3:09 PM

I wonder if Ms. Benedikt would extend this “stay where you are and suffer for the greater good” argument to immigration.

Should we turn people from developing nations away and say, “Hey! We know you don’t have that many opportunities at home, but, if we keep letting you in, nothing will change. You and your kids and grandkids should all take one for the team. In the end, it will be better for everyone.”?

JadeNYU on August 29, 2013 at 3:11 PM

Can we shut down Harvard and Yale now?

WryTrvllr on August 29, 2013 at 3:13 PM

These kids have a person assigned to them the entire day…each kid equals one extra employee at the least. wsucoug on August 29, 2013 at 1:40 PM

When the govt involves itself where it doesn’t belong, then not only the problems it creates, but also the solutions to them, are harmful.

In the case you describe, compulsory education has led to one-on-one minders for certain students, because every child has a govt-given right to be in school, regardless of the cost, disruption, logistics, etc.

If all private schools were closed in accord with her tyrannical daydream, just think of the new revenue that would be needed.

So even without consideration of the despotic impulses on display, the shear stupidity of this author is breathtaking.

Akzed on August 29, 2013 at 3:24 PM

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.

This is what public education begets.

For the record, I am not an ant. I don’t exist to support the colony.

BobMbx on August 29, 2013 at 3:24 PM

The very fact that this author thinks the purpose of education is to know the dates of the Civil War and to check off books from a “must read” list demonstrates the value of an education (not usually found in public schools) where students are taught to think analytically and logically.

The pride she takes in her ignorance is exactly why parents try to avoid the institutions that foster the desire to fit in with the lowest common denominator.

Chitownmom on August 29, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Ed:

This is one of the best pieces you’ve written for this site to date.

Professor Blather on August 29, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Ed, you write:

Frankly, this is one of the most honest expressions of what liberals believe to be the purpose of public schools I’ve ever read. It’s most certainly not about educating children, but about social norming … down to the lowest common denominator. Rather than finding ways to provide poor children an effective and productive education so that they can compete better for jobs and wealth down the road, we just need to make sure everyone gets the same lousy education so, er, we can all have fond memories of puking our guts out before basketball games at the gym.

That’s the reason for CommonCore State Standards. This same equity argument is the reason for Obamacare. Destroying the educational system for the small percentage of failing school districts is equivalent to destroying the healthcare system for the 30 million who couldn’t get insurance so everybody is common.It’s really not about improving education and it’s not about improving healthcare.

You also write that this is a liberal idea. I would say it is a progressive idea and not confined to the Democrat side of the aisle. Read about Lamar Alexander’s plans for education at an NGA meeting in 1989:

http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/2012/05/are-arne-duncans-educational-reform.html

manateespirit on August 29, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Jonathan Swift,“A Modest Proposal”.

Mason on August 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM

I don’t know. I think we’re being had. If this isn’t actual satire then the entire leftist/progressive line of thinking has morphed into a living satire, unbeknownst to itself. A genuine “we are through the looking glass, people”, embarrassing and almost too sad to be funny kind of self-parody.

When you have to pretzel-twist stupidity into a quarter-way intelligent argument in order to toe a political line, it’s time to give up and start over. Seriously.

somewhatconcerned on August 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Slate is really caught up in the Stupidnado today.

Haiku Guy on August 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

When Common Core was first coming out a few years back, I remember reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education which quoted someone as saying that Common Core “enshrined mediocrity”.

I wouldn’t mind the insistence on non-fiction in English quite as much if they’d also insist on grammar. As it is, non-fiction tends to be written at an even lower level than a lot of fiction, hence the mediocrity.

I’m so glad my girls are almost done with the public school system (we can’t afford the one local private school), and we have a good stem magnet high school willing to put kids in classes based on ability.

LibraryGryffon on August 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

The only time my children see the inside of a public school, is when I bring them with me to vote.

Haiku Guy on August 29, 2013 at 4:15 PM

I wonder if Ms. Benedikt would extend this “stay where you are and suffer for the greater good” argument to immigration.

Should we turn people from developing nations away and say, “Hey! We know you don’t have that many opportunities at home, but, if we keep letting you in, nothing will change. You and your kids and grandkids should all take one for the team. In the end, it will be better for everyone.”?

JadeNYU on August 29, 2013 at 3:11 PM

And we have a winner!!!

OccamsRazor on August 29, 2013 at 4:22 PM

I wonder if Ms. Benedikt would extend this “stay where you are and suffer for the greater good” argument to immigration.

Should we turn people from developing nations away and say, “Hey! We know you don’t have that many opportunities at home, but, if we keep letting you in, nothing will change. You and your kids and grandkids should all take one for the team. In the end, it will be better for everyone.”?

JadeNYU on August 29, 2013 at 3:11 PM

And we have a winner!!!

OccamsRazor on August 29, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Excellent.

slickwillie2001 on August 29, 2013 at 4:25 PM

I remember my 7th grade science teacher who somehow got on the subject of our vision and stated that our eyes are so powerful that we can see the sun which is 93 million miles away.

I knew then I needed to escape.

Bishop on August 29, 2013 at 4:32 PM

You are a bad person if you send your children to private school.

So now we’ve gotten liberals to agree that Barack and Michelle Obama are bad people? We’re making progress!

I went K–12 to a terrible public school.

And it shows. Oh, boy, does it show.

Hayabusa on August 29, 2013 at 4:33 PM

We send our kids to a private school, and thus don’t access the public school system at all. However, we still pay full-boat on property, income, and sales taxes that pay for the services we aren’t using. Doesn’t that mean that we are actually doing MORE for the public school system by NOT using it?

Solly on August 29, 2013 at 4:41 PM

“My colts and fillies and I shall work harder,” Boxer replied upon hearing the news….

bandarlog on August 29, 2013 at 4:42 PM

If your child is a complete failure in those public schools there still is an upside, they can always write articles for Slate.

RSbrewer on August 29, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Why post anything from Slate? It is an intellectual cesspool. You’d be better off reviewing the rantings of a drunken hobo.

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on August 29, 2013 at 4:47 PM

I skimmed the article and nowhere did I see the author state that she had children of her own.

INC on August 29, 2013 at 3:02 PM

She does, but she was woefully unprepared for them. She’s the same idiot who wrote that article about not loving her dog anymore now that she has kids.

James on August 29, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Benedikt sent her child to a private pre-school:
Slate Writer: You’re a ‘Bad Person’ if You Send Your Kid to Private School
http://newsbusters.org/blogs/ken-shepherd/2013/08/29/slate-youre-bad-person-if-you-send-your-kid-private-school

StewartIII on August 29, 2013 at 5:01 PM

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.

LOL!

Well this is why she is writing columns for Slate…

William Eaton on August 29, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Subsidized public education in the US was largely designed to undercut Catholic schools, because of the rampant anti-Catholic bigotry at the time. Lookup “Parochial Schools Under Attack” in this article on Anti-Catholicism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Catholicism_in_the_United_States

The hatred still burns bright against the Church.

theCork on August 29, 2013 at 5:06 PM

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.

Allison Benedikt

.
Vive le “pretty bad”.
.

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.

Allison Benedikt

.
Yeah ….. how about all of the political elite? Where are they sending their children?
.

Also remember that there’s more to education than what’s taught. As rotten as my school’s English, history, science, social studies, math, art, music, and language programs were, going to school with poor kids and rich kids, black kids and brown kids, smart kids and not-so-smart ones, kids with superconservative Christian parents and other upper-middle-class Jews like me was its own education and life preparation.
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.

.
Getting drunk with kids, who lived at the trailer park near your house did the same for you, as reading Walt Whitman ….. got it.
.
Yep, thank God for Public Education, and Allison Benedikt. Where would we be, without ‘em?

listens2glenn on August 29, 2013 at 5:08 PM

I totally thought this was satirical at first. Yeah, I realize its Salon, but then again I still find myself amazed at the stupidity of the left. Silly me.

I was bemused until she stated religious reasons were not compelling. Them I got the chills. These people are deranged….and dangerous.

quiz1 on August 29, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Damn fingers on iPhone – sorry folks

quiz1 on August 29, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Why not apply the same inane argument to De’-troit? I ask rhetorically . . .

BigAlSouth on August 29, 2013 at 5:12 PM

The only way this strategy makes any sense is we aim for a future that looks a lot like the film Idiocracy.

Point of order: no one really has to aim for Idiocracy.

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 29, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Ed:

This is one of the best pieces you’ve written for this site to date.

Professor Blather on August 29, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Agreed . It seemed your last few weren’t up to the standards we expect from you. This article was great, flawless logic. One I will remember .

itsspideyman on August 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM

After reading from some that it was a satire, and taking another look at it, I believe that is the case.

bmmg39 on August 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Benedikt has a completely valid point, statistically, from the school district’s perspective.

You can improve a school’s scores if you fill it with higher-achieving students.

That doesn’t mean the failure-track students who were already there are going to do any better, it just means you’ve upped the school’s scores by bringing in a bunch of students who’d succeed at any school.

What really happens in a situation like this is that the school and its staff are now subjected to the demands of a cohort of parents who aren’t going to accept the same bullcrap that the parents of the failure-track students have been fed.

Sometimes it works and the staff starts to do their jobs, often it doesn’t.

JEM on August 29, 2013 at 5:38 PM

I skimmed the article and nowhere did I see the author state that she had children of her own.

INC on August 29, 2013 at 3:02 PM

From other stories she’s written, she has three sons and a dog. My heart goes out to all of them.

Maddie on August 29, 2013 at 5:40 PM

The progressive imperative: All your children belong to us. We are working for greater good. You will be assimilated through your children. We are the Borg.

thatsafactjack on August 29, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Due to the limits if talent, intelligence, and ability, the egalitarianization of societies can only be achieved by forcing mediocrity. Own it lefties.

anuts on August 29, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Wait… so doing what’s best for your child is “bad” now?
What kind of twilight zone screwed up world did I wake up in??!

Sterling Holobyte on August 29, 2013 at 5:53 PM

I read this article twice. I don’t think it’s satire. She’s trying to make the case for improving public schools through parent investment and participation.The problem with that is the state run school system doesn’t give a damn what a parent says or wants.

The school, in as many ways as necessary for you to get the point, will tell you: You’ll take what we give you. And you will feel privileged if we aren’t rude when you ask to speak to us about the curriculum, conditions in and around the school, and your child’s education. Period. And we will continue to demand more money for lower test scores and larger drop out rates…and then we will maintain that this is your fault, too, because… you didn’t increase salaries and vote in new school bonds.

One of the most appalling slights in this article is implicit in the suggestion that if more parents who could afford private school sent their kids to ‘crappy’ public schools and then spent all their time at PTA meetings, raising money for the school, and ‘getting in the face’ of school administrators, this would make all the difference in the quality of the public school system… hence…apparently… those parents who can’t afford to send their kids to private schools and are participating in the public school system just aren’t capable of turning these schools around on their own.

The convoluted logic of the left is astonishing… when it comes to the welfare and education of children … it is dangerous.

thatsafactjack on August 29, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Oh look, an ignorant liberal, espousing idiot feelings-based ideas that are roundly refuted and flatly contradicted by not only common sense, but readily available data and reality.

Nothing new to see here, just another day in paradise.

Midas on August 29, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Step 1: Steal underpants.

Bruce MacMahon on August 29, 2013 at 6:11 PM

JEM on August 29, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Except, as pointed out, in districts where choice is *NOT AN OPTION*, those schools are *NOT* doing better, *NOT* showing the influence of kids who will succeed no matter what school they are at, etc. Is that correct, or no?

*Are* public schools where choice is *not* an option performing better than public schools in districts where choice *is* an option?

Midas on August 29, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Why post anything from Slate? It is an intellectual cesspool. You’d be better off reviewing the rantings of a drunken hobo.

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on August 29, 2013 at 4:47 PM

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

We’re pretty much there.

talkingpoints on August 29, 2013 at 6:16 PM

She does, but she was woefully unprepared for them. She’s the same idiot who wrote that article about not loving her dog anymore now that she has kids.

James on August 29, 2013 at 4:56 PM

From other stories she’s written, she has three sons and a dog. My heart goes out to all of them.

Maddie on August 29, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Thanks! I pity the children and dog as well.

I have no idea why she would think she can’t love her dog anymore. But then libs seem to have illogical minds and shriveled hearts.

INC on August 29, 2013 at 6:22 PM

You first dearie.
As for me I will stick with the educational system that pre-dates the public education system in this country, namely parochial schools.

txmomof6 on August 29, 2013 at 6:24 PM

Given that I teach in a private school, I’m probably an exceptionally bad person in Benedikt’s eyes. Maybe even like murderer bad.

But many others go private for religious reasons, or because their kids have behavioral or learning issues, or simply because the public school in their district is not so hot. None of these are compelling reasons.

Since I’m undoubtedly a bad person already, let me double-down: F@ck you, you judgmental, secular b!tch. I will raise my children with the values I see fit and educate them in their faith as well, if I so desire. You have no right whatsoever to a say in this matter.

You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it.

Again, you have no say in what any hypothetical children of mine may or may not need. They do not concern you. They are none of your business. You worry about the results of your own reproductive activities before you butt in about the results of mine.

This is not a humblebrag!

Yes it is. Your previous statement about how awesome you are for landing a job with Slate disproves this statement.

Besides, I’ve never met anyone who ever used the word “humblebrag” who wasn’t a Leftist d@uchebag.

You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine.

No, sweetie, you’re not. You lack a basic education. The fact that you have a job with Slate says much more about their hiring standards than about how smart you (think you) are, despite your admitted ignorance.

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.

That’s exactly what the Soviet Union would tell their people who lived in abject poverty. Your children will starve today so that 25 years from now, no children will starve in the Soviet Union.

But you wouldn’t know about that, because you went to a crappy school that didn’t teach you history, and didn’t bother to rectify the gaps in your education after you left, because, hey! You got a job with Slate, so you must be pretty smart, right?

1) Your child will probably do just fine without “the best,” so don’t freak out too much, but 2) do freak out a little more than my parents did—enough to get involved.

Indeed, I encourage parents to freak out just enough to pull their kids out of public school, particularly if they think their kids might turn out like you.

Whatever you think your children need—deserve—from their school experience, assume that the parents at the nearby public housing complex want the same. No, don’t just assume it. Do something about it.

I am doing something about it. I teach in an affordable private school, so parents can give their children a quality education without the risk of their kids, at best, turning out like you, and, at worst, getting killed in the crossfire of a gang-related shootout on school property. We also provide this education for a cost that one does not have to have the financial means to live in an upper-middle class suburb to afford.

Don’t just acknowledge your liberal guilt—listen to it.

Liberal guilt is something I lack.

A quality education is something my kids will not lack.

So there.

(Whew! That felt cathartic.)

JimLennon on August 29, 2013 at 6:25 PM

“The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in the common people.” Walt Whitman

This troglodyte would do well to learn that!

grumpy_old_soldier on August 29, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Should we just check “The Onion” for our news stories now?

It sure seems like it.

PappyD61 on August 29, 2013 at 6:41 PM

If we stuck every American kid in Japanese and German schools, they’d still suck as a group. Our best is as good as their best, but we have way too much dead wood that don’t want to apply themselves and the best teachers in the world can’t fix stupid nor lazy.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 6:43 PM

…for the eventual common good.

…you can stop reading Ms. Benedikt’s screed right there…those are usually the last words heard in freedom as a society is plunged down the rabbit hole by some tin-pot dictator or would-be totalitarian….

…and, what makes a totalitarian a totalitarian? Why, it’s the urge to do good or do ill by making everybody’s decisions for them.

Heaven forfend that someone would make, much less act upon, a decision not vetted by the people’s soviet, the party cadre, the board of directors or the Borg Collective. Why…where would that lead us?

Where would that lead? Accustomed to having our “betters” decide for us, we might end up with an elected faux aristocrat who feels empowered to decide to initiate a foreign war without the any consultation….

…but, now I’m talking crazy…even I can hear it….

Puritan1648 on August 29, 2013 at 6:52 PM

It is amazing to me that in my lifetime Marxism has taken root so strongly in America.

KMC1 on August 29, 2013 at 6:56 PM

It is amazing to me that in my lifetime Marxism has taken root so strongly in America.

KMC1 on August 29, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Definitely. But it hasn’t taken root everywhere, or at least not as strongly in some places as in others. I realize that the good and excellent public schools aren’t going to be reported here for political reasons, but they do exist in great numbers. Also, thousands upon thousands of public school teachers are Conservatives, many are Christians and I know for a fact that they reject this nonsense that Leftist Academia has been forcing upon them.

The worst school districts can’t be fixed because the surrounding communities are broken and most of their denizens don’t give a hang about education.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 7:01 PM

I remember my 7th grade science teacher who somehow got on the subject of our vision and stated that our eyes are so powerful that we can see the sun which is 93 million miles away.

Bishop on August 29, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Didn’t think you’d ever frighten me.

Congratulations.

wolfsDad on August 29, 2013 at 7:04 PM

It’s safe to say that Benedikt doesn’t have any idea at all about this topic, history, public policy, and probably a wide range of issues.

…Ms. Benedikt doesn’t seem to have much of an idea which stretches beyond the narrow limits of the little conformist “common good” HO-scale train-set village which runs between her ears…*TOOT-TOOT*

…her view of children is that they are nothing more than fodder to be exploited in any way possible to support the liberal vision of public education.

…as with most of her ilk, it’s not about the children…it’s not about the “society”…it’s all about MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

She sees the world a certain way, and sees how it SHOULD be…and it just bums the little darling out that we humans, in our willful disobedience to her minutely-crafted dreams, don’t behave as we ought to….

…for my part, I’d take the words “ought to” out of the dictionary, wad ‘em u and throw ‘em away, never to be uttered again…to fiddle with the words of the great and powerful Yoda, “There is ‘is’ and there is ‘is not’. There is no ‘ought’.”

Puritan1648 on August 29, 2013 at 7:05 PM

Hayabusa:

So now we’ve gotten liberals to agree that Barack and Michelle Obama are bad people? We’re making progress!

Just what I was thinking.

Olo_Burrows on August 29, 2013 at 7:13 PM

I remember my 7th grade science teacher who somehow got on the subject of our vision and stated that our eyes are so powerful that we can see the sun which is 93 million miles away.

Bishop on August 29, 2013 at 4:32 PM

LOL. Did you all call him “coach” by any chance?

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 7:14 PM

Thus proving that logic is not required to be a liberal progressive. If getting your child the best education possible serves the common good, then it would be illogical to do otherwise.

pgrossjr on August 29, 2013 at 7:20 PM

1. Only bad people send their kids to private school.
2. Public school teachers are twice as likely as others to send their own kids to private schools.

Therefore, public school teachers are twice as likely to be bad people as compared to the general public.

Furthermore, knowing that public school teachers are so likely to be bad people, when a good person willingly place his or her child into their clutches.

I think what Slate is really arguing is that only home schoolers can be considered good people.

malclave on August 29, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Does she know that at one time there was no public education in America? Her comment about drinking beer as a student gave her as good a perspective on life as did reading Whitman. Perhaps. But that did not happen during school, but after school with kids in her neighborhood she would have interacted with regardless of where she went to school. Wait until this genius has kids of her own. Liberalism truly is a mental disorder

stop2think on August 29, 2013 at 7:43 PM

I think what Slate is really arguing is that only home schoolers can be considered good people.

malclave on August 29, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Well, that’s the other extreme. I’ve run into some who seem like good, level-headed folks trying to do right by their children, and I certainly can’t blame them if they have concerns about their public schools.

But a lot of them are just plain nuts. They gave me this feeling that one day they may show up on my doorstep with religious “literature” and wanting to have a little talk. If they ever get put in charge, they’d be the Christian version of the Taliban.

I don’t think our plan for our children’s future and solving our nation’s problems should consist of waiting around for the Rapture.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Well, if private schools are bad, public schools are bad because of the teachers, home schooling is bad because of some possible extremists… what other choice is there?

No education at all, and hope for a $15/hour job at McDonald’s?

malclave on August 29, 2013 at 8:16 PM

We send our kids to a private school, and thus don’t access the public school system at all. However, we still pay full-boat on property, income, and sales taxes that pay for the services we aren’t using. Doesn’t that mean that we are actually doing MORE for the public school system by NOT using it?

Solly on August 29, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Like ✓

Pork-Chop on August 29, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Wow, she’s a real two-fer. Evil and stupid.

S. D. on August 29, 2013 at 8:38 PM

Well, if private schools are bad, public schools are bad because of the teachers, home schooling is bad because of some possible extremists… what other choice is there?

No education at all, and hope for a $15/hour job at McDonald’s?

malclave on August 29, 2013 at 8:16 PM

How about no education at all and hope for $150/hour job at…well, anywhere?

Somewhere along the line we started to worship the Almighty Dollar and abandoned our desire to be a truly educated, enlightened society. We collectively allowed the Marxists and various nincompoops to take over everything from the Federal government on down.

We’ve had it good in this country for a heck of a long time. I feel that we haven’t lived up to the expectations of the Founding Fathers. They were well-educated, intellectual men who wanted us to follow in their footsteps. But we allowed our prosperity to dull us somehow.

Working hard, working smart and making money is awesome. But I feel that American Conservatives have abandoned intellectual curiosity. We as a group have come to value earthly trappings over learning. We abandoned Academia and other fields because they weren’t Capitalistically sexy or whatever it is…so of course the Marxists filled the vacuum. You’re welcome, Comrades.

If you have some kind of plan for reversing at least 100 years of slow, steady infiltration and social decay, seriously, I’m all ears. But I’m not seeing how attacking institutions that our wiser forebears began in the first place as being inherently evil is in anyway productive.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 8:49 PM

You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine.

Only by the standards of a hip, post-modern metrosexual who drives a Lexus at high speed through alleys while yakking on a cellphone, thinks pot is a vegetable, and believes all history began with the Ascension Of The One.

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.

No, it means that in less time than that there will be no AP Calc for anyone, as it is “elitist”.

Also no engineers, architects, physicists, organic chemists, etc. You may cheer that, bunkie, as you think that means we will no longer be able to oppress Holy Mother Gaia. What it really means is that when you hit seventy, babe, no pacemaker or triple-bypass for you; no AP calc means no thoracic surgeons, or medical technology designers, either, dumb-butt.

I’ve always maintained that progressives are, by nature, utterly incapable of understanding the concept of Cause and Effect. Their either get it backwards (CO2 and “global warming”), or simply deny that it exists at all (believing that the good things they can’t do without are somehow generated spontaneously, like a Star Trek replicator minus the gee-whiz “magitech”.)

And that they would never understand a book like Connections by James Burke. Let alone The Day The Universe Changed.

This essay pretty much proves it.

clear ether

eon

eon on August 29, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Showed the piece to my 15-yr old daughter. She summed it up perfectly with, “I can’t stand to see anyone else be happy.”

Nailed it…

Ace ODale on August 29, 2013 at 9:00 PM

You are helping the public schools if your child goes elsewhere, gets better grades, learns more, can read and write and do and teach these things. Your child might grow up to be a teacher someday and pass along the forgotten education that has slipped away in public schools. My own daughter was hired at her college freshman year to work in the Writing center helping other freshman learn to write, which was not taught in the public schools.

My private school educated daughter helps the students in public school today who pay her company a pretty penny, to learn the math they don’t teach during the day in class. If my daughter did not attend a real independent day school with real math textbooks, there would be no one to help the kids in public school who don’t have teachers that learned any math when they went to public school…

It isn’t enough to show up at public school every day and collaborate and have a social experience…and learn that recycling is the most important way a person can help their community.

Fleuries on August 29, 2013 at 9:09 PM

She says she went to public school. Here’s what Benedikt says about her own education:

“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. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine.”

So I guess the moral of this story is that even if you go to a terrible public school, don’t learn much there, and don’t learn much in college, you can still get a job writing stupid essays on a famous website.

J.S.K. on August 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM

So it was her “terrible school’s” fault she didn’t read more than one book? What, she couldn’t find the friggin’ library?

These Leftists are generally too lazy and arrogant to learn any hardcore stuff like history, science, and math…classic literature doesn’t interest them unless it impresses others in their socially elite Libtard circles. They really don’t care about some long-dead author’s feelings or insights.

Even then, I think they rely on The Bathroom Book or Wikipedia synopses rather than actually reading them. But given what those in socially elite Libtard circles consider “intellectualism” and “literature” I guess I can’t blame ‘em in a way.

They use social engineering (sleeping around, golfing, joining elite fraternities and sororities, lying, cheating, stealing, covering for others…) to get what they want. Libtards are all amateur psychologists who think they’re more clever than everyone else.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Besides, it’s my birthday and I need a good laugh.

tommyboy on August 29, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Happy birthday to you, ha…
(that’s the limit of fair use on a copyrighted piece of famous doggerel).
Congratulations on making it through another year!

AesopFan on August 29, 2013 at 9:16 PM

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve.

You’re also an idiot. Public schools are NOT about education of children; if they were, they WOULD be better already because the counterproductive stupidities they engage in constantly would’ve been STOPPED generations ago. In truth, what the public schools actually ARE for the most part is a JOBS PROGRAM for adults as well as a patronage system for those in charge and a source of money for the unions and the politicians. THOSE are the things that the system is actually GOOD at which is why they persist at doing them. Only the willfully obtuse and/or hacks with an ideological agenda don’t understand those realities.

Marxism is for dummies on August 29, 2013 at 9:26 PM

The convoluted logic of the left is astonishing… when it comes to the welfare and education of children just about anything … it is dangerous.

thatsafactjack on August 29, 2013 at 6:03 PM

“A” for effort.

AesopFan on August 29, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Somewhere along the line we started to worship the Almighty Dollar and abandoned our desire to be a truly educated, enlightened society. We collectively allowed the Marxists and various nincompoops to take over everything from the Federal government on down.

We’ve had it good in this country for a heck of a long time. I feel that we haven’t lived up to the expectations of the Founding Fathers. They were well-educated, intellectual men who wanted us to follow in their footsteps. But we allowed our prosperity to dull us somehow.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 8:49 PM

It was not prosperity, but ENVY that has brought us to where we are now. Those “well-educated, intellectual men who wanted us to follow in their footsteps” were prosperous and wealthy and well-propertied. They just weren’t envious of their fellow man, but out of a Christian sense of love (of God and neighbor) they wanted liberty for all. The envious, on the other hand, do not want liberty but license for themselves and slavery for their fellow man.

TXJenny on August 29, 2013 at 9:32 PM

*oops…meant to block quote that

Somewhere along the line we started to worship the Almighty Dollar and abandoned our desire to be a truly educated, enlightened society. We collectively allowed the Marxists and various nincompoops to take over everything from the Federal government on down.

We’ve had it good in this country for a heck of a long time. I feel that we haven’t lived up to the expectations of the Founding Fathers. They were well-educated, intellectual men who wanted us to follow in their footsteps. But we allowed our prosperity to dull us somehow.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 8:49 PM

It was not prosperity, but ENVY that has brought us to where we are now. Those “well-educated, intellectual men who wanted us to follow in their footsteps” were prosperous and wealthy and well-propertied. They just weren’t envious of their fellow man, but out of a Christian sense of love (of God and neighbor) they wanted liberty for all. The envious, on the other hand, do not want liberty but license for themselves and slavery for their fellow man.

TXJenny on August 29, 2013 at 9:33 PM

And that they would never understand a book like Connections by James Burke. Let alone The Day The Universe Changed.

This essay pretty much proves it.

eon on August 29, 2013 at 8:54 PM

You, sir (or ma’am), get major brownie points for the Burke references. :) Those are two of the most thought-provoking TV series I’ve ever seen. They utterly changed my view of history when I saw them for the first time as a teenager.

JimLennon on August 29, 2013 at 9:45 PM

Nah. Its actually genius.
Step 1. Write a troll article.
Step 2. Wait for sites like HA to link and drive mega click views.
Step 3. Profit.

SunSword on August 29, 2013 at 9:49 PM

“Even more fundamentally, Benedikt argues that parents should have the welfare of the public sector as a higher ideal than that of their own children.”

^ That’s perfect.

Axe on August 29, 2013 at 10:00 PM

And this, dear friends, is Liberalism defined.

Kenz on August 29, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Liberal Rhetoric 101

1. Proclaim ignorance of a subject
2. Make profoundly ignorant statements about how to improve said subject.
???
3. Potato!

King B on August 29, 2013 at 12:51 PM

lol — “I’m just a caveman. Your modern world confuses and scares me. But, in my day, after foraging for food, we took the time to care for our children. Shouldn’t you care about children too?”

*pause for effect*

Axe on August 29, 2013 at 10:04 PM

And that they would never understand a book like Connections by James Burke. Let alone The Day The Universe Changed.

Burke’s The Real Thing about the human mind was excellent as well.

It was not prosperity, but ENVY that has brought us to where we are now. Those “well-educated, intellectual men who wanted us to follow in their footsteps” were prosperous and wealthy and well-propertied. They just weren’t envious of their fellow man, but out of a Christian sense of love (of God and neighbor) they wanted liberty for all. The envious, on the other hand, do not want liberty but license for themselves and slavery for their fellow man.

TXJenny on August 29, 2013 at 9:33 PM

I can see your point and don’t disagree about envy. Good point. But I think you may have missed my point. I guess I was trying to say something along the lines of “man does not live by bread alone.”

But you bring out another point and that the Founding Fathers were mostly wealthy propertied men, thus among the most educated of their time. In order to have the America they envisioned, education for those without wealth and property was important to them, but was supposed to be on the community and state level. The various states and cities began public education as soon as the Revolution had been won…some I believe before that.

We must be careful not to make higher education the sole realm of the wealthy, and they thought the same back then. Education must be beyond the 3 Rs that at best insures a society of functionally literate workers and consumers. By focusing on gaining wealth and status, we have forsaken the idea of learning for learning’s sake, and have failed (apparently) to educate our populace in order to keep what has been happening from happening. The Saul Alinsky crowd are well aware of the importance of education. We as a group have mostly ignored its value beyond what salary it can gain for an individual-that is, the “practical” aspect of an education.

We can no longer accept technical prowess or monetary success as being “good enough”. “Good enough” attitudes have allowed the Communists to take over. Too many Americans are not aware of our history and our Constitution to make informed decisions, and that’s true on both sides of the fence.

Being a well off slave living in a nice house, driving a big shiny truck is not, to me, what being an American was meant to be about.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 29, 2013 at 10:23 PM

I read this article and this thread and…for the longest time, I just sat here, staring at the page.

Just when you think it just can’t get more stunningly stupid out there, it suddenly does.

GeeWhiz on August 29, 2013 at 10:30 PM

“Even more fundamentally, Benedikt argues that parents should have the welfare of the public sector as a higher ideal than that of their own children.”

^ That’s perfect.

Axe on August 29, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Well, according to that dingbat on MSLSD, your children belong to the collective anyway.

CurtZHP on August 29, 2013 at 10:43 PM

I read this article and this thread and…for the longest time, I just sat here, staring at the page.

Just when you think it just can’t get more stunningly stupid out there, it suddenly does.

GeeWhiz on August 29, 2013 at 10:30 PM

Yup. You nailed it. Still shaking my head at the Slate article in disbelief.

The stupid. It just oozes.

PatriotGal2257 on August 29, 2013 at 10:57 PM

My God, have we not learned anything in the last 50 years? I remember my mother predicting this happening to the schools in the ’60s when the Federal government took over the schools and implemented the tenure program. She called them government schools back then and refused to send me and my sisters to them. Everything she predicted has come true, and these stupid liberals are now blaming the parents who had the good sense to not participate in public indoctrination. The schools and teachers are doing exactly what the liberals wanted them to do, so he should just get over his jealousy of the kids that are actually getting an education in private schools.

It’s bad enough our property taxes go towards government schools whether or not we send our kids there, but you can’t even fire a teacher for fear of being sued by their union if your child is molested by one of them.

lea on August 29, 2013 at 10:57 PM

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

.

Satire or not, an institution that fails to help children achieve all they can is not an essential institution. Education in the USA is wonderful, just not so much the public portion. Maybe the author should understand that all education is an institution, and all students are part of that institution, whether publicly or privately taught.

I used to live in a county that has almost 90,000 public school students and about 30,000 private school and home-schooled students. Just imagine how much poorly the poor public school kids would be taught if those 30,000 students suddenly showed up at the doorsteps of the 100 or so public schools? Their parents are already paying taxes into the school system, so there won’t be any new money unless from the feds. So the cost construction of 25 to 30 new schools, or the leasing of abandoned private school campi, would have to come out of that existing revenue. Then, the money left for education has to be spread out over 30,000 more students. Lastly,the parents of those 30,000 kids will take over every PTO and the school board itself, given their keen interest in their kid’s education, something the author clearly lacks.

I’d like to see a public school system that teaches the three R’s through 5th grade to every child, but then past that the students must test into higher level classes and then maintain performance and behavior to keep their places. Otherwise, parents of bad students will have to pay for private education to bring their kids up to par. That way, the public schools have the best students and the private schools are each organized around a specific problem or group of problems that underachieving students need to overcome AND can be religiously-oriented. Parents are incentivized to stay on top of their kid’s education and demeanor with the threat of having to pay for their education should they not make the grade. This is how America should be educated.

shuzilla on August 29, 2013 at 11:00 PM

Very well written piece.

justltl on August 30, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Showed the piece to my 15-yr old daughter. She summed it up perfectly with, “I can’t stand to see anyone else be happy.”

Nailed it…

Ace ODale on August 29, 2013 at 9:00 PM

And that might be one of the best summations of leftism/liberalism I’ve seen on the internet.
That’s a very insightful kid there.

justltl on August 30, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Or, how about this, Ms. Benedikt?

Not only do I not send my kids to public school. Not only do I believe that no one should ever send their kids to public school. But I believe the entire public education system should cease to exist. Completely. No state-run education what-so-ever.

I suppose that makes me a super-bad person.

Oh well.

Shump on August 29, 2013 at 3:09 PM

.
Yo … HEY ! . . . . . (jumping up and down, waving arms wildly)

Me too, me too !

listens2glenn on August 30, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Does she explain how society – and thus, education – will be better one or two generations from now if people sacrifice a quality education in this one?

We’ve had a Department of Education for 150 years. It’s been part of a cabinet-level department for two generations. It has been its OWN cabinet for the last generation. You’ve had more than enough time to get public school buy-in, and a ton of kids are in the system, now including my oldest. If it was going to make everything better than it is now, it would have done so by now.

The Schaef on August 30, 2013 at 11:54 AM

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