Sidwell Friends Middle School Building
“Brand new, but built to look obsolete and run down!”
(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Two weeks ago, Jay ruffled a few feathers by arguing that we shouldn’t care where President Obama’s children go to school. His point was that it isn’t necessarily hypocrisy for school choice opponents to send their kids to private schools, if they believe that private education is valuable (and thus something they’re willing to pay to acquire) but not the kind of thing government should subsidize to ensure equal access.
At the time, my response was that I totally believe Obama opposes school choice because he thinks government shouldn’t be in the business of ensuring that rich and poor alike have equal access to valuable goods and services, and I eagerly look forward to seeing this prinicple applied to his positions on welfare, health care, housing, labor policy, the environment, economic bailouts, entitlements, farm subsidies, taxes . . .
This morning, Jonah Goldberg argues that yes, Obama’s choice of Sidwell Friends while he opposes school choice makes him a hypocrite – but hypocrisy is overrated as a sin (this is a longtime hobbyhorse of Goldberg’s) and the real scandal is simply Obama’s (and other politicians’) opposition to choice. I couldn’t agree more.
But maybe school choice isn’t the only reason we should be interested in where the Obamas send their kids to school. This week, America’s Last Education Labor Reporter points out that Sidwell Friends is in abominable shape, and in desperate need of improvement:
It would be a shame if the Obama kids were to miss out on all these benefits, so we humbly submit these additions and subtractions to make Sidwell Friends the type of school the experts want all schools to become:
* Add a unionized workforce and a collective bargaining agreement. NEA asserts “that the attainment and exercise of collective bargaining rights are essential to the promotion of education employee and student needs in society.” How can the Obama kids have their education needs filled without agency fee, release time, grievances, binding arbitration and strikes?
* Add geographic enrollment boundaries. The Obamas will reside 3.5 miles from one Sidwell campus and 8 miles from the other, located in the state of Maryland. What’s next, flying in the next generation of Kennedy kids via helicopter from Massachusetts? Limit enrollment to those in the immediate neighborhood.
* Subtract weak teacher benefits. According to the Sidwell web site, teachers pay 10-40% of their health insurance premiums, pay into a defined contribution retirement plan, and receive only two personal days a year.
* Add diversity. The Obama kids will become part of the 39% of Sidwell students who are racial/ethnic minorities. But the DC Public Schools are 95% racial/ethnic minorities. How can the Obama children be denied so much of the rich cultural mix our nation’s capital provides?
* Subtract religion. The Quaker tradition is part of daily life at Sidwell Friends, including weekly worship meetings for all students, Quaker or not. This isn’t very inclusive of the Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans and animists among the student body. Religious beliefs should only be studied from an academic standpoint and never practiced within a school’s walls.
* Add to the curriculum. Grades PreK-4 emphasize things like phonics, handwriting, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, fractions, algorithms, geometry, and American history. Upper grades are heavy with English literature, advanced math, history, science, foreign languages and the arts. There isn’t much “getting information from television, film, Internet, or videos” or “Represent multiplication as repeated addition” for lower grades, or “Identify the countries, such as Italy, Poland, China, Korea, and Japan, where large numbers of people left to move to the United States at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries” for upper grades. We don’t want to saddle a 21st century President with an 18th century curriculum.
As patriotic Americans, how can we stand by while our president’s family gets such substandard services?
Or maybe we shouldn’t be worried. After all, family and environmental influences are the only real determinants of educational outcomes. And clearly the Obama children are well blessed in that respect.
Or maybe we should be worried. After all, the Obamas did pick this shockingly substandard school, even though they had the opportunity to go with the nation’s most lavishly funded and heavily unionized schools in the D.C. public system, so how smart can they be?