Sandrah Loh issues a cri de coeur in the opinion pages of the New York Times today as an advocate of public education. Despite Barack Obama’s extensive, if yet secretive, collaboration with William Ayers on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to improve public education, she discovered that the Obamas have opted out of the public system for private education. So has Joe Biden, despite his standard Democratic statements of solidarity with teacher’s unions and educational monopolists. In fact, only one candidate in the presidential campaign has committed herself to working within the system to improve it … much to Loh’s dismay:
I do not know why Barack and Michelle Obama cannot send their children to a nice public school in Hyde Park. You understand that I am a bit unstable this election season (I voted for Hillary) and I do my research by erratically Googling from home. And all I know about Hyde Park — and, readers, I’d love to be corrected if I’m wrong — is that even though real estate prices seem high, the brave little public schools in its ZIP code seem to be flailing. Their scores on www.greatschools.net are largely 2’s and 4’s (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best). When you read the tea leaves as manically as I do, those low numbers suggest that few children of educated, middle-class children are attending the local schools. Rather, they’ve withdrawn, with nary a ripple, into their whispery private enclaves.
Let us not even touch the term “community organizer,” so buffeted about, by both sides, like a balloon at a rock concert. Let us just say that if Mr. and Mrs. Obama — a dynamic, Harvard-educated couple — had chosen public over private school, they could have lifted up not just their one local public school, but a family of schools. First, given the social pressure (or the social persuasion of wanting to belong to the cool club), more educated, affluent families would tip back into the public school fold. And second, the presence of educated type-A parents with too much time on their hands ensures that schools are held, daily, to high standards.
Maybe this is a good time to bring up the notion of “community organizer”. After all, the school district is usually the most local and closest political unit in any community. Had Obama wanted to commit to improving communities, why not his own? And if Obama wants to protect the educational monopoly, especially in urban areas, why didn’t the Obamas opt to send their daughters to public schools in the upscale Hyde Park area?
Loh wonders the same thing:
So it is with huge grief-filled disappointment that I discovered that the Obamas send their children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School (by 5th grade, tuition equals $20,286 a year). The school’s Web site quotes all that ridiculous John Dewey nonsense about developing character while, of course, isolating your children from the poor.
Sarah Palin provided exactly the kind of role model that Loh wants from her party:
As a Democrat I am horrified that Sarah Palin is the one who snagged the deeply profound — and absolutely ignored by professional smart people — emotional real estate of “P.T.A. mother.” I too am, in fact, not just “my kids’ mom” but their Title I Los Angeles public school P.T.A. secretary. This unheard female howl is, for better or worse, what Ms. Palin has set out to tap into; it is real, and I am sick that we’ve let the Republicans charge this ground.
Palin actually started her political career as a way to improve the education her children received. She started with the PTA, and kept succeeding until she became governor. In terms of “community organizing”, Palin succeeded where Obama retreated, and she made a real difference in her community and the lives of her children.
Loh understands the power of that grass-roots appeal. Palin got into politics for the right reasons, and committed to education in a manner that Obama and Biden never bothered to match. Loh may be “horrified” by Palin’s story, but only because she recognizes how appealing it will be to those who are tired of Washington elites doing a lot of talking without putting themselves out in the least.