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.”).
If a private employer tried to pull this kind of thing I expect there’d be an outcry:
Glendale school officials have hired a Hermosa Beach company to monitor and analyze public social media posts, saying the service will help them step in when students are in danger of harming themselves or others.
And with a private employer, you’d be there by your own choice.
People can’t stop gawking at this Manhattan couple’s lawsuit against a $39,000/year private school. The lad in question was in kindergarten: “On one occasion, plaintiffs’ 5-year-old son was relegated to the role of ‘door-holder’ and ordered to hold the door for all of the other students.” Mr. and Mrs. Heinemann also say they got stuck with an unplanned $50,000 winning “bid” for a finger painting at a charity auction, and are additionally suing for the cost of continuing to employ their child’s $60,000/year chauffeur, “whose job they want to save.” [New York Post]
Texas: “Two students say [their federally protected service-animal] rights were violated when the Denison Independent School District ordered them to remove the caps and gowns their service dogs were wearing for graduation…. ‘It’s not that he’s graduating, because he’s not; I’m aware of that,’ [Ms. Brashier] said.” [WFAA]
“Paying to Learn Nothing = Legal; Paying Nothing to Learn = Illegal” [Andrew Coulson, Cato, contrasting internship ruling with the general lack of a legal or political remedy against educational institutions should you "go into serious debt [but] learn nothing of value”; more on the absence of “educational malpractice” relief; earlier here, etc.]
I’ve now done a second post in Common Good’s symposium on education and fear of liability. Among the topics I discuss: assumption of risk, statutes of limitations, sovereign immunity, and the need for some more organized way of advocating the interests of public service entities against excessive or impractical liability demands. You can read it here.
I’m a participant in an online forum put on by Common Good this week about the age of zero tolerance for aspirin pills, bans on games of “tag,” and broken-thermometer lockdowns. From their description:
We entrust our children to teachers and principals with the expectation that they will be both educated and protected from harm. When, inevitably, incidents happen — especially when those incidents are tragic and well-publicized — communities often press for stricter rules and procedures. School administrations have reacted to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School with extreme protectiveness; one school suspended a six-year-old for “pointing his finger like a gun and saying ‘pow,’” while another suspended two boys for playing cops and robbers.
Also featured: Lenore Skenazy, Frederick Hess, Megan Rosker, and Nancy McDermott. From my contribution:
When they “err on the side of safety” in absurd ways, schools reflect trends in the wider society. … Already, by ten years ago, British commentator Jenny Cunningham could write that “A significant body of research evidence now indicates that there has been a drastic decline in children’s outdoor activity and unsupervised play. For example, it has been calculated that the free play range of children — the radius around the home to which children can roam alone — has, for nine-year-olds in the UK, shrunk to a ninth of what it was in 1970. Perhaps most damaging is that a climate has been created in which all unsupervised play is regarded as high risk, and parents or teachers who allow it are seen as irresponsible.” Cunningham notes that families now tend to see the risks of being hit by traffic or (far less likely) abducted by strangers as ruling out outdoor play. “Yet, despite the increasing levels of worry, in reality children have never been safer.” Sound familiar?
I go on to mention CPSIA, the wildly overreaching 2008 law regulating children’s products in the name of safety, and the proliferation of requirements that innocuous everyday chemicals be accompanied by material-safety-sheet paperwork. My conclusion: “If these are the trends in the outside society, how likely is it that schools will be able to resist?” (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)
The Colorado Supreme Court, wisely resisting a national campaign of school funding litigation, has turned down a lawsuit arguing that the state is obliged under its constitution to step up school spending. [Denver Post, KDVR, opinion in State v. Lobato]
I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty about the Colorado decision, noting that although school finance litigators make a lot of noise about educational quality, they are actually on a mission of “control —specifically, transferring control over spending from voters and their representatives to litigators whose loyalty is to a mix of ideologues and interest groups sharing a wish for higher spending.” I quote from a section on school finance litigation that I wound up cutting from my book Schools for Misrule about the enormous impact such suits have had in other states:
Vast sums have been redistributed as a result. Lawmakers in Kentucky enacted more than a billion dollars in tax hikes. New Jersey adopted its first income tax. Kansas lawmakers levied an additional $755 million in taxes after the state’s high court in peremptory fashion ordered them to double their spending on schools.
The results have been at best mixed: while some states to come under court order have improved their educational performance, many others have stagnated or fallen into new crisis. Colorado is fortunate not to join their ranks. (& reprint: Complete Colorado)
P.S. From a Colorado Springs Gazette report, Jul. 31, 2011:
“Putting more money into a broken system won’t get a better results. There are improvements that could be made without money,” says Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue. …
He points to a Cato Institute study that showed spending on education across the country has skyrocketed but test scores didn’t improve.
“That would mean that potentially every cent of the state budget would be shifted over to K-12 education,” says Blue, who heads the office’s legal policy and government affairs.
Ervin Mears Jr. has sued in Camden County, claiming his son Mawusimensah Mears, a sophomore, was kicked off the track team on the grounds of unexcused absences from practice. “‘Participation in extracurricular activities is a right,’ Mears said. Not allowing his son to participate constitutes bullying, harassment, and an ‘abusive school environment’ in which the sophomore’s rights to due process and freedom of speech were impeded, the suit says.” He wants $40 million. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Authorities have dropped charges against the Florida teen “who was expelled and charged with two felonies after conducting an unauthorized but harmless science experiment on the grounds of her school.” [Jesse Walker, earlier] And in the feel-good story of the day, former NASA astronaut Homer Hickam “awarded Kiera a scholarship to attend the United States Advanced Space Academy (ASA), a branch of the famous Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.” [Black Youth Project]
A Sixth Circuit panel declines to strike down a state law under which public schools will no longer withhold union dues from teachers’ salaries. The Michigan Education Association had claimed that Public Act 53 interfered with its First Amendment right to speak. [David Shepardson, Detroit News]
“No one was hurt. There’s no sign that [Kiera] Wilmot was up to something malevolent. The kid’s own principal [at Bartow High School] thinks this wasn’t anything more than an experiment, and he says she didn’t try to cover up what she had done. What punishment did you think she received? A stern talking-to? A day or two of after-school detention? Maybe she’ll have to help clean up the lab for a week? Nope. The budding chemist has been kicked out of school and charged with a couple of felonies.” [Jesse Walker]
More: “Scientists Back Kiera Wilmot by Tweeting About All the Stuff They’ve Blown Up” [Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times] Similarly: Ashutosh Jogalekar, Scientific American.