In which I take the Slate linkbait on private schools

by Walter Olson on August 29, 2013

Allison Benedikt is a bad person. Not bad like murderer bad — but bad like asking-actual-families-to-ignore-their-love-of-their-children-in-pursuit-of-her-ideology bad. So, pretty bad. I’m just judgmental.

Explanation here. To avoid sending more traffic to what is already shaping up as one of the year’s prime troll linkbait articles, here’s Benedikt’s already-notorious leadoff paragraph:

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.

It has been proposed that this is all actually a brilliant Swiftian satire. I doubt it, though, since Benedikt is the managing editor of Slate’s DoubleX, which is to humorless leftism what rural Australia is to bauxite. As far as whether the view outlined here is on some unheard-of fringe, few contemporary writers on education have been as widely praised or assigned as Jonathan Kozol, whose views Benedikt appears to track pretty closely. See Alex Tabarrok’s very pertinent comparison to the question of whether it was moral to escape from the former East Germany.

My guess: all the mirthless laughs are unintended. More: Ken at Popehat, Jason Bedrick/Cato, Ross Douthat (“Everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”).

{ 1 trackback }

Nothing Outside The State » Right Thinking
08.29.13 at 10:05 pm

{ 17 comments }

1 Black Death 08.29.13 at 1:48 pm

So I guess this means Obama is a Bad Person. Who knew?

2 Mandy 08.29.13 at 2:06 pm

I thought her earlier column on hating her dog and wishing he’d die, once she had children, was satire. It apparently wasn’t.

3 DEM 08.29.13 at 4:01 pm

It wasn’t long ago that Slate published a similar article, by Dana Goldstein, arguing that progressives should not home school their children.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/homeschooling_and_unschooling_among_liberals_and_progressives_.html

The two articles differ in some respects, but have the same “intellectual” foundation: children are a communal asset and parents have no business believing (much less acting) otherwise. As further evidence that this viewed is widely shared, there is also the somewhat famous Melissa Harris-Perry MSNBC commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qtpdSQox0

It’s worth calling further attention to these sorts of seeming link-bait articles, Walter, because they do expose what so many on the left actually believe.

4 aaaa 08.29.13 at 4:29 pm

The part where the author wrote about the (bad) schools she vent was revealing. If this is how you argue after being in weak school, no way I’m putting my kids into one.

5 Ernst Ghermann 08.29.13 at 5:37 pm

Their opposition to private schools and home schooling is evil in the way that evil is banal. [The banality of evil coined by Hannah
Arendt in her trial report of Eichmann in Jerusalem.]

6 John Fembup 08.29.13 at 5:39 pm

“Slate’s DoubleX, which is to humorless leftism what rural Australia is to bauxite”

Priceless!

7 Adam Smith Gal 08.30.13 at 7:48 am

Oh, c’mon. You can’t really believe that this poorly written article, extolling the benefits of teenage drinking in a trailer park, is anything other than a tongue in cheek rant actually supporting school choice.

8 Ron Miller 08.30.13 at 11:32 am

“Their opposition to private schools and home schooling is evil in the way that evil is banal. [The banality of evil coined by Hannah
Arendt in her trial report of Eichmann in Jerusalem.]”

Eichmann… we are getting closer guys. Someone mention Stalin and we will be one step away.

I disagree with the author’s conclusion here for several reasons, including some that include the law of unintended consequences. But she’s making a point that I think is worthy of discussing without going bananas.

When it comes to my children’s education and what is best for them, I probably take a rather low level of regard for the larger social impact of my decisions.

But I’m not crazy proud of this fact.

9 George Lund 08.30.13 at 3:41 pm

I think we’re run right into Poe’s law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

Personally I think it’s satire, but it’s hard to tell. Looking at her other articles, she generally seems to write with a dry sarcasm. But without a ;) at the end of it, or a follow-up by the author, we may never know.

10 Richard Nieporent 08.30.13 at 5:41 pm

But I’m not crazy proud of this fact.

Why is that Ron? Do you think that makes you into a conservative or, god forbid, a disciple of Ayn Rand? You brought them into the world. They are your flesh and blood. You should want to do everything in your power to see that then succeed in life. If you didn’t, you would be one sorry excuse for a human being. And to ease your conscience, Ron, the vast majority of the parents of students who go to expensive private schools are to the left of the political spectrum.

11 Bumper 08.30.13 at 6:41 pm

One of the purposes of a public education system is to turn the students into good little socialists. Can’t do that via home schooling, also explains why it is against the law to home school in Germany.

In America it is more about the money. At least that is the excuse that Herr Holder gave for suing Louisiana for allowing students to take the money and move to a non failing school.

12 Ron Miller 09.01.13 at 11:43 am

Richard, you left out the cite to your last fact. You should just call it “fact I made up but it seems to comport with my worldview so I’ll state it as fact.”

I think looking after your family but at the same time keeping a mindful balance of how it impacts the world is the better play than “I would shoot Richard in the back of the head if I could get my kid an inch and a half taller.” But I may be ambitious.

13 Richard Nieporent 09.01.13 at 1:11 pm

I think looking after your family but at the same time keeping a mindful balance of how it impacts the world is the better play than “I would shoot Richard in the back of the head if I could get my kid an inch and a half taller.”

Really, Ron? You have said some fatuous things in the past, but you have outdone yourself this time. Are the choices really between saving the world and shooting someone in the head? Are you really so afraid that by showing that you care for your family first you are going to lose face with your leftist friends?

14 Mike 09.01.13 at 1:36 pm

Ron Miller: starting to sound a little hostile, there.

15 Sara of the Hyper Bowl 09.01.13 at 1:41 pm

That’s right. Because being so evil as to send your kid to a private school is EXACTLY like shooting everyone else’s kids in the backs of their heads.

What if I keep my kid in public school, but hire an afterschool private tutor? Is that less grave, just sort of like throwing acid in the faces of all those kids whose parents don’t get outside tutoring for their kids?

16 Bob Lipton 09.01.13 at 3:03 pm

Ron Miller wrote:

“I think looking after your family but at the same time keeping a mindful balance of how it impacts the world is the better play than “I would shoot Richard in the back of the head if I could get my kid an inch and a half taller.” But I may be ambitious.”

I’ve twitted you before, Ron, on some of your choices of arguments which are not terribly pertinent to whatever is being discussed and which tend to weaken your overall argument. Here’s another example: you have equated sending your child to private rather than public school to shooting some one in the back of the head. I understand that you are trying to offer some extreme case of private vs. public good that no one would gainsay, but all you’ve done is sound hysterical.

I don’t have any children myself and I am rather too old and fat to be likely to have any. However, I will do what I can to help my niece get her daughter as good an education as possible under the theory that it will equip her to help the world more than would public education that would be available to her. However, if so equipped, she chooses to pursue her own private interests, I expect it will be with a greater understanding of her particular needs and abilities than some one thinking of six billion people can afford to accumulate.

As for the article which this thread is about, I have much to say about it. However, I am too busy preparing a roast of Irish baby for dinner.

Bob

17 Ron Miller 09.01.13 at 4:23 pm

Let’s not get to carried away on this Labor Day weekend. I’m just making a joke. Geez.

I think – and really everyone except ‘all would agree with this – is that you want to strike a balance. My extreme example shows that there is a line somewhere and we have to figure out where the cross should be. EVERYONE agrees with this. The question is where to draw the line and, obviously, the mileage varies on that one.

I wish I was more mindful. These comments are the only place in the world where someone would try to shame you for that.

I realize the temptation to attack the one person who is not singing the chorus with you is great. The urge to conflate appears overwhelming here.

Comments on this entry are closed.