Even worse than the tedium of lame election coverage is the tedium of lame post-election coverage. Did I really have to hear 10,000 news stories on what kind of dog Obama will get? Or how about the 10 thousand million gzillion stories about where the Obama children will go to school? Ugh.
Even worse, education bloggers have joined this lame-fest offering endless opinions and interpretations about the significance of whether the Obama children will attend public or private school. We’ve seen postings over at Flypaper, Eduwonkette (the posting was actually by Aaron Pallas, a grown man and otherwise respectable scholar who chooses to call himself “skoolboy”), Jay Matthews at the Washington Post, Joanne Jacobs, …. The list goes on but I got so bored typing it that I dozed off for a while.
So why is the topic of where the Obama kids will go to school politically irrelevant? Supporters of choice try to use the fact that anti-voucher presidents choose private schools rather than DC public schools as evidence of hypocrisy. I don’t buy that argument. There is no more hypocrisy in saying that public dollars should only go to public schools even if I choose to use my own dollars at private schools than in saying that public dollars shouldn’t go to think tanks even if I donate to them with my private dollars.
Folks hostile to vouchers worry that the Obamas choosing a private school is part of a broader problem where the public purposes of education are being undermined by private consumption. Skoolboy goes so far as to worry that private education might be contrary to the public goal of “producing citizens prepared for life in a democracy” and entertains the “provocative” proposal from one of his students to “eliminate private schooling altogether [to] reduce both the temptation and the capacity for members of privileged groups to use their resources to maintain their advantages.” He dismisses the proposal as not “feasible” but we could only imagine how wonderful everything would be if skoolboy and his students ran the world. Not only could we do away with private schools but we could also all have really cool blogger rapper names, like The Notorious JPG and DJ Super-Awesome.
Skoolboy seems to believe that private education undermines the public purposes of education, while public schools do not. And I can only assume that the airtight logic behind his view is that both public education and public purpose have the word, public, in them. Because if he bothered to familiarize himself with the empirical evidence on the relationship between private education and the production of citizens prepared for life in a democracy, he’d find that private schools better serve that purpose. Patrick Wolf has an excellent summary of that literature.
Folks may want to score points for or against vouchers with the Obama children, but let’s just leave them alone and ignore them like we did during most of the campaign.