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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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137 Responses

  1. Avatar Mo says:

    We all know that National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System are grievously underfunded.

    They are? They seem to be doing reasonably well financially.Report

  2. Avatar Brian Murphy says:

    Your analogy is poor. Anyone can access private media, and consumption of public v private media isn’t zero-sum. I expected better from LoOG than poorly written snark. Given your defensiveness and poor reasoning skills, I hope your parents didn’t pay too much for your education.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      It seems likely that people who don’t consume public media are less likely to contribute to it. But people who send their children to private school have to continue paying taxes to support public schools.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        That is not necessarily true. What do you think vouchers are?

        In fact, one of the biggest goals of the charter school movement (which are not exactly private schools, but are close enough — especially in getting to cherrypick enrollment — even those running of a lottery are taken from a self-selecting sample) is to take that money to the charter school, away from the public school.

        I think Louisiana, for instance, is trying to to — or already does — try to make your ‘school taxes’ portable with your child.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          I fail to see why having my school taxes be portable is a problem as long as we insist on tying school funding to local tax rates.

          I mean, the fix is simple, all money for schools goes into a big pot & the state sends every school $X per student. It’s up to the school to decide how to spend the money (facilities upkeep, salaries, materials, etc.). I’d also allow for schools to have benefactors or other fundraisers who can contribute supplemental materials (e.g. somebody makes a donation to allow the school to buy all new musical instruments for the students, or a donation to allow for all new shop tools/equipment, etc.).

          Then, if a school is good/bad depends largely on how well it manages its resources and how involved the community is.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            That’s really awesome, but that’s not how it works now. “Take your money with your kid” breaks what we have now.

            Fix the system so that “take your money with your kid” does not break it, and I’ll be more supportive. Break it FIRST and say “But you can fix it if you change the root of the system” and just no.

            There’s also the problem of cherrypicking.

            In the end though, what makes your school good or bad is gonna boil down to how poor the parents of your students are. As I’ve said many times, it’s amazing how low education ranks when your home life is basically grinding poverty. Education is, in the end, secondary to survival.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              That’s really awesome, but that’s not how it works now. “Take your money with your kid” breaks what we have now.

              Fix the system so that “take your money with your kid” does not break it, and I’ll be more supportive. Break it FIRST and say “But you can fix it if you change the root of the system” and just no.

              Sorry, that isn’t parsing for some reason. My proposal (state pool of money) fixes the system, so I’m not sure what you are going on about.

              There’s also the problem of cherrypicking.

              Cherry picking is a feature, not a bug. I can see the issue with a school only choosing to educate successful students (thus boosting their rankings). That is what private schools & higher education do, but private schools are a pretty significant minority. Public & Charter (which are generally pseudo-public) should not be able to cherry-pick like a private school does.

              Lottery enrollment Charter schools, or magnet schools don’t cherry pick. The fact that the parents who are involved will make sure the population of the lottery is above the curve is not cherry picking & does not break things. Parents who care & are involved SHOULD have better opportunities get better outcomes, because they are doing the work for it. There is no value in damaging the opportunities & outcomes for those kids just because some kids live in grinding poverty, or abuse & neglect. Those kids, the ones for whom education takes a back seat, they have to be dealt with separately.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            At least in Colorado, the state constitution requires a system of public schools which will educate any student at no cost to the student, as well as this:

            Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever….

            One of the larger districts in the state created a program that sent public moneys to private schools owned and operated by religious groups (when the program was created, its language carefully made the payments “scholarships” rather than “vouchers”). Last month the state supreme court ruled that payments to schools operated by churches violated the clear language of the constitution. I believe the district board is still deciding whether to pursue this case with the SCOTUS.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Yeah I’d have a problem with a school sending money like that. I’m not entirely sure I like the idea of PS vouchers being used at parochial schools. I’d limit it to PS or Charter with few exceptions (like if a local religious school had an excellent special ed program).Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          That is not necessarily true. What do you think vouchers are?

          An entirely different issue from the one being discussed, which is people using their own money to send their own children to private schools.

          I mean, I do think it’s weird that the left insists on public provision of schools but is fine with vouchers for health care, housing, food, and just about every other element of the welfare state, but that’s not what this is about.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Actually no, you mentioned “people who send their kids to private school have to continue paying taxes for public school”. That is exactly what vouchers are supposed to do — your voucher is supposed to be roughly equivalent to your taxes paid, but given to your private school.

            So that, in fact, your tax money goes towards your private school.

            At least some vouchers are supposed to be set up that way. Jindal’s pushing that specifically in Louisiana, if it hasn’t passed already.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              But that isn’t how vouchers work everywhere.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                No, but it is a rather definitive goal for the voucher movement. Couched in exactly those terms — “Why should my tax money go to a school my child isn’t in?”Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                I guess this is a question of perspective and if it makes you feel better to see things this way, have at it.

                In reality, though, the voucher movement isn’t about denying public schools money, it’s about enabling working class parents to avail themselves of options.

                Rich folks who send their kids to very expensive schools don’t really care about vouchers all that much, because they can afford to send their kids to these schools without vouchers. Or they can just move to suburbs with better schools.Report

            • Most, if not all, voucher programs of which I’m aware only cover a percentage of the amount of a student’s per capita public school spending. When that is true, the effect, then, is to increase the per capita spending on students who remain in public school.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Your analogy is poor.

      Well, it is Vikram.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      …I hope your parents didn’t pay too much for your education.

      I was going to write some form of substantive response to this, but then I figured that this had to be some form of sarcasm.

      Commenting here is great, but it has the unforeseen effect of making it quite jarring when you see people commenting in the manner that you find just about anywhere else on the internet.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        If it’ll help, I’ll start replying to everything you say by comparing it to Hitler and/or Stalin.Report

      • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

        Considering the condescending tone of the OP, I hardly view my rather anodyne insult as an escalation. Also, given its defensive tone, I’d be shocked if he didn’t have rich parents who could afford to send him to a private school. When rich people get defensive about their privilege, they deserve to be lampooned.Report

  3. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    (Full disclosure: I receive small compensation for my freelance work from a for-profit media organization that rhymes with Scaley Yeast.)

    Should people stop paying for private lawyers and use only public defenders? Should we drop income requirements and make food stamps universal and morally (or legally) obligatory? If you keep going with this line of thought, you’re ultimately saying it’s immoral to be non-communist. Which is fine, but that comes with its own moral issues.

    Actually, I stopped donating to NPR when I saw the salaries they make. I’m not sure why I should support such lavish salaries when I make comparatively so little, although I do think they hire talented people. http://www.mediaite.com/online/report-non-profit-npr-to-make-a-modest-margin-this-year/

    Even though I’m reasonably sure schools would benefit from everyone opting for public schools, I’m far from sure NPR would benefit from the lack of competition. I could see a non-competitive news organization resting on its laurels. But then, I don’t see Vox and Slate as even non-Hitler evil. I often like stories in them.

    But let’s look at the principle itself with schools, where I am agree that schools would be better if rich local residents sent their kids to public schools and had the leisure to insist on better education for their kids. (I know this from my own anecdotal experience. I grew up in a town that was not exclusively rich folks, but had a number of ridiculously wealthy people. Only a few Catholics sent their kids to private school. The public schools were lavishly funded (we had a TV studio and flight simulator), and provided an excellent education.)

    Even though everyone would likely benefit from everyone’s participation in public schools, I’m still not convinced it’s immoral to send your kids to private school. (last disclosure: we just moved to a smaller house in a better school district to send my kids to public school – but I did not want to stay and advocate for change where I was). It’s this utilitarian idea of maximization of good acts that I have a problem with. It would be BETTER to go to local public school. But (unless you’re an act-utilitarian) I don’t think that’s tantamount to saying it’s immoral to send your kids to private school.

    It’s better, also, to adopt a child with disabilities in the foster care system than to make a new baby. You avoid the increased carbon footprint of a new baby and you can improve the life of a child who has already been born. However, I don’t think people are immoral for having biological children. It’s better to send the money you would spend on piano lessons for your kid to a charity that provides food for hungry children. But you’re not immoral for giving your kids piano lessons. In both these cases, you have a choice between doing something good and doing something better. It’s okay, sometimes, to just be good. Obviously, that’s not true if you’re a utilitarian, and I’m not going to get into arguing against utilitarianism. But if you’re not a utilitarian, you are not morally obligated to send your kids to public school.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Ah, see, you get to post “full disclosure”… I simply have to settle for “there may be conflicts of interest here.” (one of the first posts I did here turned out to have a conflict of interest that I didn’t even know about before posting!)Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      Rather, if utilitarianism isn’t true, you’re Not obligated to send your kids to public school.

      It also occurs to me that there’s no way NPR salaries would be so damn high if it weren’t for competing for-profit media outlets…Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      Actually, I stopped donating to NPR when I saw the salaries they make. I’m not sure why I should support such lavish salaries when I make comparatively so little, although I do think they hire talented people.

      I’m actually surprised at how little those personalities make. Ratings-wise, Fresh Air, Morning Edition and ATC are top 12 radio shows. The private sector equivalents make an order of magnitude or more in pay than their NPR counterparts.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor says:

        So it always is. Government pays most professionals both (1) more than most Americans make; and (2) less than the private sector. So people either react by saying (1) holy cow, that AUSA is making six figures?!? or; (2) holy cow, that AUSA is making 1/3 what they would in the private sector.

        Reactions differ based, primarily, on the reactor’s motivations.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          @nevermoor @mo

          Are NPR and PBS employees considered to be government or quasi-government employees? This is a serious question. My guess is that they are not officially considered public/government employees but I could be wrong. IIRC NPR and PBS don’t get that much money from the Government anymore, most of it comes from grants, sponsorships, and donations.

          I imagine that NPR hosts get paid well depending on their location and/or the popularity of their show.

          But @nevermoor is spot on. CA government lawyers seem to get paid pretty well and so do Federal lawyers. On the other hand, I’ve heard about government lawyers like ADAs in Boston making under 40K.Report

    • Avatar Brian Murphy says:

      Education might be different than other classes of goods. The gradual creep of private schooling poses a mortal threat to education as a public good. Although any given parents’ decision is rationalizable, the net effect of all these decisions is to erode public education so that only the rich can afford good schooling for their children. Perhaps the most pernicious part of this process is its positive feedback nature: poor schools > rich flight > worse schools > more flight.
      You can argue that one’s obligation to one’s own children outweigh one’s obligations to other people’s children. But make no mistake: when you send your kids to private school, you are fucking over everyone else.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        The gradual creep of private schooling poses a mortal threat to education as a public good.

        This stuff is great. Do you have a newsletter?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Brian Murphy:
        You can argue that one’s obligation to one’s own children outweigh one’s obligations to other people’s children. But make no mistake: when you send your kids to private school, you are fucking over everyone else.

        Thanks, Obama.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Brian Murphy: you are fucking over everyone else

        Yeah, you are going to have to do some fucking work to make that argument.

        Also, when do I begin fucking over everyone else. My kid is 3, I send him to private pre-school, am I fucking everyone else over yet, or does that not kick in until Kindergarten, or perhaps just High School?Report

      • Avatar Notme says:

        Sorry i wont sacrifice my kids’ education just to make somone feel better.Report

      • Avatar aarondavid says:

        “The gradual creep of private schooling poses a mortal threat to education as a public good.”

        Hmm, considering that private schooling was around long before public, I would say you have this argument backwards.

        That said, the biggest threat to public schooling is how much it is allowed to suck. Rich people are going to send their kids to private schools. Period. People who are of much more modest means are going to look around and see what the options are, and if the schools in the district suck, or if there is one good school, and getting in is a crap shoot, they will pull out, and while they will still pay the taxes required, they will invest zero time with that school. Now, the people in charge of education in that area, from the school board down, they are the ones making it suck and, as you say, fucking over everyone else.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Except public schools don’t suck. It is public schools in poor areas that usually aren’t good. In general public schools and charter schools get the same results. In the highest performing states public schools are on par with the rest of the high performing nations around the world.

          If we are talking ritzy expensive private schools, well they have always existed and are the provenance of the rich.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            And even then, it’s STILL cherrypicked.

            Public schools take everyone. They have to, by law. Private schools are selective. And charter schools are as well (even lotteries are done with selective samples — those with heavily involved parents). What’s amazing is that it appears that charter schools DON’T, on average, heavily outperform public schools. They should — they have, effectively, better students.

            Comparing private to public is very apples to oranges. Even charter to public is a difficult comparison.

            And then, of course, there’s the actual nut — the vast majority of public schools do just fine. After all, colleges are FULL of the graduates of public schools. Most of the engineers I work with? Graduates of public schools.Report

            • Avatar j r says:

              Public schools take everyone.

              Public schools take everyone in a particular district and that is a pretty meaningful distinction.

              What’s amazing is that it appears that charter schools DON’T, on average, heavily outperform public schools.

              This is not true. Charter schools tend to get similar results for less resources. If one engine produced the same RPM’s as another, but on less fuel, we would say that former outperformed the latter.

              All of this is sort of silly, though. Why does there have to be one kind of educational option? What is important is publicly provided education. Why does that have to mean a specific kind of public school? Empower parents to make decisions about what sort of educational experience would best suit their particular child and figure out a way to fund it equitably. Let a thousand flowers bloom.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                No there is a significant difference in who public schools take. Public’s do almost all the special ed that is out there along with taking kids with behavior problems and other special needs. Public schools serve the kids of homeless or MI or addicted parents. Public schools can’t easily toss out problem kids and if they do they usually end up in another public school.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                None of that speaks to my comment. A student still has to meet a residency requirement to get into a public school. And generally, the better the school the more significant the hurdle to get that residency requirement.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                That ignores the point that public schools have to take all kids. Yes all kids from their district but that still means kids with behavior problems, special needs, etc. Those kids often a lot more services, have worse performance for a variety of reasons and present challenges. Charter/private schools can weed those kids out. Unless we are talking a very rich district, where all the parents can pay for every extra support they wish, public schools will still have to work with the most challenging kids which private schools don’t have to.

                It doesn’t mean private or charter schools are bad. It is just a simple point about valuable services public schools offer and one way in which it is hard to compare public vs private.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                In the school district I’m in (which is a fairly rich one, like in the ‘top richest counties in America’ rich) if a student’s needs are beyond the ability of the district to handle, they will recommend – *and pay for* – a private program to take that student. (my source, as Kim would say, notes that this has only happened once among all the students they have encountered in their near 20 year experience with the school system)Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                In the school district I’m in (which is a fairly rich one, like in the ‘top richest counties in America’ rich) if a student’s needs are beyond the ability of the district to handle, they will recommend – *and pay for* – a private program to take that student.

                This is a federal requirement for all school districts.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                It is perhaps a requirement, but I wonder how much room a district has to determine what their ability is? If Special Ed kids are being essentially ignored by a given PS, then I would argue that the district was unable to provide for the child & should be paying to send that kid to a special program.

                The fact that I still hear stories of schools routinely failing such kids tells me that school either have too little oversight, or too much wiggle room in that regard.Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                @oscar-gordon As you might expect, such a determination can get litigious. I don’t know how frequent that is. I have an acquaintance whose son receives tuition credit to go to private school for this reason. The school district proposed it to her, actually. $90k a year.

                (Interestingly, this same woman complained about Obamacare and publicly funded services for families with disabilities such as respite hours, saying that she took responsibility for her own kid, thank you, and expected everyone else to do the same.)Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                OK, but none of that speaks to the point I was making in that comment, which as that public schools can be as selective as private schools depending on the circumstances. For example, it would likely be easier for a smart poor kid to get a scholarship to an expensive private school than for that kid’s parents to move to an expensive public school district.

                More importantly, saying something good about private schools should not have to be done at the expense of public schools and vice versa. This is not a zero sum game. This should not even be a competition.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                JR, often you have good points. This isn’t one of them. Public can’t be selective, they take everybody from their district. It’s not like a public school district can get tired for their poor kids and move the district to a different district for a better class of kids. How can public schools select out troublesome or difficult kids?

                Even the point that districts exclusive areas are exclusive doesn’t say anything about the public schools per se. It is the rich area that is hard to get into. It’s not like the school district can choose that, they are a by product of the area.

                Public schools, except for a very few cases, don’t have lotteries to get in. Even where there are public school lotteries the kids will still be educated in publics if they don’t get the special school of their choice.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                what there are in decent (and large) school districts are knock down drag out mostly metaphoric fights about individual school district boundaries.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I’ve gotta agree with Greg here, you need to explain how a PS can be selective in the manner you are implying?Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                Do you really all not see how residency requirements enforce a very high level of selectivity in the best school districts?

                You are all ignoring the forest for the trees. A rich city dweller who moves to an expensive suburb to put their kids in a high-performing school district is doing the exact same thing as a rich city dweller who stays in the city and pays for an expensive public school. In both cases, the rich person is availing themselves of an opportunity that someone with less money cannot.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                But the point i’m making isn’t about the choice of the parent. It’s about the ability of schools to pick and choose. Public schools don’t’ have that choice. Parents do and private schools do. Public schools take all comers from their district regardless of how easy or tough they are.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                This is a distinction without a difference.

                Public schools in wealthy, exclusive school districts are, in practice, every bit as selective as private schools.

                Look at the demographics of a high performing public school district, a charter school and an expensive urban private school. There’s a good chance that public school district is going to have the demographics that lean wealthiest and whitest, because the expensive private school is likely to have a number of students on scholarship.

                If that is not an important thing to you, then what the heck is the point of this whole discussion.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                A district (i.e. the people in the administration), can lobby for a redrawing of district lines, which affords them some degree of choice (gerrymandering at the PS level), and they can work to make themselves attractive thus drawing in wealthier &/or more involved parents to the district (provided there are not other factors outside their control that work against that effort). I wonder if you are not placing a bit too much ability on a district to establish tight residency rules such that gaming them is nigh impossible.

                But Greg is still right, if a family moves in and they have a special ed kid, the school district has to take the kid on, or pay the family to have the kid sent to a private school. Likewise if a poor family finds a way to game the residency rules, the district still has to take them, whereas a private school can tell the family to pound sand.

                Basically, even though a PS has some ability to be selective, it is still pretty limited when compared to a private school.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                Basically, even though a PS has some ability to be selective, it is still pretty limited when compared to a private school.

                Fine, that’s true in theory. I’ll be over here in the real world, where people are almost always segregated by how much they can afford to pay for housing.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                For example, when a new high school is added, there are new lines drawn about who goes where in balancing the student numbers. A principle (and parents, if they’re involved) may lobby hard to shrink the district on one side and expand it on another in order to evade serving “undesirable” areas or to include some richer areas whose parents volunteer in the classroom more often.

                Worth noting that those prejudices can be self-propagating, as the reputation of the high school can affect housing prices up or down somewhat. And as several others have noted, there are clear income-based effects.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              @morat20

              My experience though is that good and great public school districts will do a lot of zealous investigation to make sure that their students are proper residents.

              There are minor frauds like this all the time. The working class kids in my high school had a relative of some sort who was zoned for the district and the parents used that to get their kids into my middle and high school.

              There was also this story from Orinda, CA:

              http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27031372/orinda-district-says-2nd-grader-can-stay-after

              A wealthy Orinda family had a live-in nanny. The nanny was told that her 2nd grade daughter could not attend Orinda schools. The school hired a private investigator to do the investigation. There was an outcry and the school said the girl could stay but the hiring parents needed to become “official caregivers”Report

              • I don’t understand. If she was live-in, she lived there.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                But… but… my kids shouldn’t have to go to school with the children of the… the… help!Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                This reminds me of the time I was talking to a (white) mom whose kid went to a nearby school, the zone of which included an upper-middle class white community and a sliver of a poor Latino community. She complained that the Latino kids had formed “violent gangs” and were roaming the school damaging white children’s education opportunities. The school was K-2.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Look, as gang recruitment has gotten more and more competitive, the gangs have had to start recruiting younger and younger kids in order to stay relevant. It used to be that you had to get jumped and then shoot someone to be considered a member of the gang. Now these pre-K kids just have to get a noogie and knock over another kid’s Lincoln Log cabin.Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                It was a brutal day when The Ladybugs got into that turf war at the swing set with The Kangaroos.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              even lotteries are done with selective samples — those with heavily involved parents

              Just going to say it again, THIS IS NOT CHERRY PICKING.

              From Webster: to select the best or most desirable from (a population)

              A lottery system has an initial population that is self-selected to be above the mean, but the lottery prevents cherry picking from that population.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Lottery systems are not cherrypicking. However, lottery systems are NOT taking — at random — students from the pool of all students, but a pool selected from higher-performing individuals OR individuals who have more supportive parents or parents who are more heavily invested in their child’s education.

                Take marbles — most 50% are “blue” (average kids) 25% are “green” — (smart, motivated, with supportive parents) and 25% are “red” (special needs — on the bottom side, not the top side, troublemakers, etc). The public school is going to be looking at 50% blue, 25% red, 25% green. They’re taking from the whole bag.

                Private schools try to get “green” almost exclusively, taking some blue or reds — but are quick to kick out the reds when possible.

                Lotteries, however, choose from a bag that isn’t 50/25/25 — it’s more like 80% green, 20% blue and red. That’s because “green” students are more likely to enter the lottery.

                As such, even a charter school populated entirely by lottery will have a distribution entirely unlike that of a public school servicing the same area,Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Yes, I understand how the Charter lottery system works. And I am very glad you understand it, and can very plainly see that it is not, in any reasonable way, cherry-picking.

                There is nothing wrong with a lottery system that happens to draw from a better than average pool, as long as the development of that pool is not managed from the top down. The fact that the lottery pool inherently attracts better students is not a count against it, but rather evidence that involved parents feel that the opportunity the lottery offers is better than the opportunity offered by their geographic location.

                I’m not sure why you think this is a problem?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Comparisons between private and public or Charter and public schools often neglect to account for that.

                To use an analogy — when comparing the relative outputs, the fact that the Charter and private inputs are superior should be considered — and often isn’t.

                It’s often just “Ta-da! Charter school performs better!”. Well indeed. If I went through a public school and skimmed off the 10% that had involved parents, well — it’d be a freakin’ tragedy if you didn’t perform better.

                In fact, my real problem with Charter schools boils down to despite the fact that they have superior raw materials, as it were — they often don’t do that much better. Honestly, that seems a real problem.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                In fact, my real problem with Charter schools boils down to despite the fact that they have superior raw materials, as it were — they often don’t do that much better. Honestly, that seems a real problem.

                Only if you ignore the fact that they tend to do it with less money. Instead of turning this into an ideological fight, perhaps it would be better to (a) see if there is anything useful to be learned and (b) acknowledge the fact that people have different educational preferences.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            @greginak

            Exactly. The problem isn’t public schools. The problem is poverty and that we expect teachers to solve social problems.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              No, no, Saul, you don’ get it – unions having actual job protections in the problem.

              As we all know, if we just let principals be like any other boss, and be able to fire teachers for any reason they want, schools will improve immeasurably, and the customers will be perfectly happy – ya’ know, just like modern corporate America!Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            The joke is that America doesn’t have a public school system, it has a series of private schools and the real estate market. This joke is a bit too pat but American public education is much less centralized and much more locally funded than anywhere in the world. The results seem very fixed.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        @brian-murphy

        You seem to go from “might” to “make no mistake” quite quickly there. Would you care to describe which features of education make it problematic for private production?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @rose-woodhouse

      I am not against private school per se but I am against the condescending tone this guy took against his own students and the implication that all private school students are intellectually motivated and all public school students are lazy underachivers.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      @rose-woodhouse more or less makes the points that I might have made (I think), except makes them better than I would have. Sending your kids to private school may be “immoral”… but mostly in the sense that it’s immoral to buy an iPad when you could be giving that money to starving children in Africa. It’s morality defined in a way that I don’t find very useful.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I grew up in a town similar to @rose-woodhouse. In fact, we once discovered that I grew up only a few towns over form @rose-woodhouse

    I also know a lot of people who went to very expensive private schools before university. Not all of these people grew up wealthy but many did. Some found guardian angels/benefactors when they were very young who lavished expensive private educations on them. Others were similar to the writer of the Atlantic high school.

    In my experience, a good number of private high schools (I don’t know how many) operate like mini-previews of college and university. The classes are small, they are often taught more in a discussion based or seminar style, the grades are based on papers and projects instead of standardized tests.

    So what people see in the Atlantic essay is hypocrisy and arrogance. This guy is basically pissing on his students. I went to public school from K-12. I think there are plenty of people who are uninterested in learning but attend exclusive private schools because their families have done so for generations.

    This is why people get really angry at Michelle Rhee. She advocates a system for public school students that is nothing more than test after test and rote memorization while she sends her kids to private schools that do anything but.

    An overwhelming majority (Kolohe once said around 90 percent) of Americans send their kids public school. Why should such a small percentage get so much of a beam?Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      In my experience, a good number of private high schools (I don’t know how many) operate like mini-previews of college and university. The classes are small, they are often taught more in a discussion based or seminar style, the grades are based on papers and projects instead of standardized tests.

      Yes, this is how my fancypants public high school was run, at least with electives and upper-level classes. We also had unusually wide leeway in course selection and scheduling. We all had decent amounts of unscheduled time, wherein you could visit teacher staff rooms and get one-on-one help. I’m surprised the model hasn’t taken off more – it worked very well, and the school had 1200 kids so obviously it’s workable in bigger schools.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @rose-woodhouse

        My high school had around 1000 students. We got more than 1000 students during our senior year in 1997-1998.

        I suspect that the number of public high schools that can do this varies partially by how much leeway state’s give to local schools. There might be less leeway now than when we went to high school.

        I also suspect that more high schools operate like this when you have college-educated parents who expect their children to go to college and beyond as well.

        Most of the people I went to high school with had college-educated parents. Many parents had advanced degrees as well. We were the children of lawyers, doctors, architects/engineers, academics, and various business types. The most modest students tended to have teachers as parents IIRC. My high school pretty much assumed that we would all be heading to university.

        The school put out a list every year that listed students by GPA, the colleges that they applied to, and the schools students were accepted into. So you learned from day 1 “I need grades in this range to get into Cornell or Vassar or NYU….” There was also a college night where the parents threw a party for graduating seniors and the gym was decorated with little college flags for all the schools students were accepted into.

        This sort of dedication requires a lot of parent involvement and expectation. New York State also has one of the least equal ways of funding schools because it is still based on local property taxes. California is more equal in school funding but parents are expected to throw in extra. Walnut Creek asks for 500 dollars extra a year per a student. Orinda is very close to Walnut Creek but much more wealthy. Orinda asks for 3000 dollars extra per a year per a student. Walnut Creek is not exactly a community I would call modest or poor. Median income in Walnut Creek is just under 85K. Median household income for a family in Orinda is 187K. Though Walnut Creek does have more housing/apartments that are appropriate for singletons and a fair amount of single, young adults do live in Walnut Creek. Orinda is more of a families only suburb.

        There doesn’t seem to be a good answer to how to fund schools and make them relatively equal in the United States.

        I went to a very good public high school. A probably abnormal number of students constantly get into and go to colleges and universities that are considered very good to elite. Yet some people I went to high school with still felt very unprepared for university work compared to their private school classmates in terms of what was expected.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    People love their own children more than they love the children of strangers. They love their own children more than they love the children of friends (though they might be willing to take one for the team every now and again in the latter case).

    If we want public teachers who send their kids to the public schools, we’re going to want to have smaller, tighter communities where teachers are friends with the people whose children they’re teaching.

    Of course, if we had smaller, tighter communities, we wouldn’t need private schools in the first place.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    There is an interesting public/private debate going on in my community now. Our water district, a publicly-owned private water company, had its watershed collapse a decade ago. This watershed had been a gift to the town from a wealthy benefactor; and his deed stipulated that, should the land ever cease being a public water supply, should be transferred to the state to become a public park.

    The state didn’t want it, and gave it to the town to become a park, which makes perfect sense, this being a an outdoor-recreation destination.

    The town, in turn, went through this multi-year process to develop a management plan — something that’s being overseen by the state’s attorney general per a court order because there’s a lot of messy history here, a the district that was mismanaged is some ways over a long period of time. That management plan calls for mountain bike trails, an outdoor-recreation need currently unmet locally; though the ski area on the other side of the watershed (it’s a steep watershed, remnant of a glacial cirque,) offers down-hill biking with access to the top by lift; but this isn’t the same as traditional mountain biking.

    At the same time, we’re seeing ever more bikers on the roads; biking is big now, and share the road is the rule.

    So the conflict springs fourth. The watershed was, previously, closed to the public to protect the water. A few locals basically treated it as their private hunting preserve. They are peeved, want it to remain an emergency backup, though it violates law to use open water without treatment or a boil order. And the loggers and transportation are peeved at the bikers which slow them down when they’re on the roads.

    So the mountain-bike park’s being billed as a for-profit industry (the park cannot charge a fee; it must be free to people per the deed, and there’s exactly one bike shop in town,) though it’s really a group of people who like to mountain bike and want a safer place to do it, and according to the opponents, who totally skipped participating in the multi-year planning process and repeated votes at town meetings, these greedy people are coming to use our roads and our woods for their own benefit, creating corporate welfare.

    It’s absolutely mind boggling.

    Share the road.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      I share the road with those that share it back. If you’re biking during rush hour on a one lane road, up hill doing 35 miles below the posted speed limit, you ain’t sharing, you’re hogging.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Semi-related, the white and Asian divide in Silicon Valley public schools:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/caixin/2015/07/silicon_valley_white_asian_divide_why_families_self_segregate_and_what_can.html

    Choice quote:

    ‘The Wall Street Journal came out with an article in 2005 documenting “The New White Flight,” a twist on the term used to describe the phenomena of white people moving out of poor neighborhoods, taking their tax dollars with them, and often leaving largely black schools derelict and underfunded. At Lynbrook and nearby schools, the Journal writes, whites weren’t quitting schools because the schools were bad. And they weren’t harming them academically when they left; more Asians just moved in.

    “Quite the contrary,” the article read. “Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurricular activities like sports and other personal interests. The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.”’

    This is interesting. The white parents still wanted their children to do well in school but they wanted schools with more balances between the subjects and not geared towards STEM, STEM, and more STEM.

    My girlfriend grew up in Asia and a lot of her friends did as well. I would describe their high school experiences as being STEM, STEM, and more STEM. When asked about what literature and history they studied in high school, the answer seems to be “What do you mean study literature and history?” A friend of mine grew up in Silicon Valley and is white. He said he begged his parents to send him to a Catholic private high school so he could get away from the STEM, STEM, and more STEM.

    Now what I wonder is whether this is permanent or in a generation or two, you will see Asian-Americans talk about how schools are not balanced enough and are giving too many STEM courses.

    FWIW my Asian girlfriend told me that burnout is fairly common because of all this pushing and drive.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      The research, from a couple decades ago, was that only the first or second generation kids whose parents had immigrated performed highly re: education. The differences in performance fade once by the third generation if not the second in general.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @greginak

        I wonder if that research needs to be revised. My evidence is anecdotal but most of my classmates were third generation Americans and were still expected to do well but maybe with more liberty with what we could study.

        I suppose the difference is that Asian countries even the more developed ones still feel like they have a lot of work to do to catch up with the West. So it is all very practical. I think part of the new emphasis on STEM here is out of anxiousness that anything else is falling in the dust.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          @saul-degraw Possibly, i was in grad school a long time ago. There can also be some differences in smaller sub groups.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      My girlfriend grew up in Asia and a lot of her friends did as well. I would describe their high school experiences as being STEM, STEM, and more STEM.

      I’m not surprised. Much (most?) of Asia is developing, and the governments there have committed to grabbing as much of the world’s manufacturing as they can. To succeed at that, they need infrastructure, and a huge range of equipment. Civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, software, etc. As they progress up the economic ladder, science sufficient to offset the huge disadvantage they’re at in the international IP game [1]. The governments want their brightest kids in technical fields. During the year I spent in a PhD economic program a decade or so ago, there were a number of Chinese students sent by their government. I recall one young woman who told me that what she really wanted to study was ballet; the government said, “We’ll pay for you to study economics, but not ballet.”

      [1] At one point, the Chinese government was literally threatening to develop their own national video compression scheme so that they wouldn’t have to pay the MPEG-LA licensing fees for domestic products.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        STEM also has the advantage of being explicitly non-political in the not very democratic or the democratic but apolitical Asian countries. Focusing on science and mathematical education is a time honored technique of non-democratic countries. Russia did it as a monarchy and communist country.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      This was incidentally why the children of Jewish immigrants were hated in the universities during the early 20th century. They were seen as grinds that only cared about grades and not the social stuff like football games or fraternity hijinks. The entire American system for getting into college was invented to decrease the number of Jewish applicants. Before that we had entrance examinations like everybody else.Report

  8. Avatar LWA says:

    [Extended snark, in the spirit of the OP]

    The concept of abolishing private media is absurd, except to anyone who is familiar with it.

    I’m not saying we should necessarily, but really now- would anyone miss it, if it were gone?

    Which Politico groveling puff piece would you hold up to demonstrate the superiority of private media, which Fox News “ISIS is Coming For Your Wimmen” feature would show space aliens why we treasure the 1st Amendment?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @lwa

      I don’t know if I would miss Politico but I would miss the New York Times, the Village Voice, Mother Jones, Slate, The New Republic, the Nation, and a lot of non-political private media.

      Even the BBC still had to deal with private media in the form of newspapers like the Independent and the Guardian.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        Hmmm, ok.
        I will advise the Soros Cadres to spare them.

        But not Slate.

        #Slatepitch- “Why Abolition of Private Media Is A Good Thing- And How You Can Profit”Report

  9. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Let me pose this to everyone. It has to do with special ed, but there’s an idea in here that might generalize.

    I visited the public school where my kid with disabilities would have gone had I not moved. It was truly sh***y. That is why we moved.

    Suppose, though, that (for whatever reason) moving was impracticable.

    Would I seriously be obligated to sit there and watch my kid get a crappy education, ignored and left in his wheelchair all day long? With impatient and inexperienced teachers? When there aren’t very many parents of kids with special needs who can even band together to demand anything, and who are largely too fishin’ busy to band together and demand anything? When school districts believe that I am lucky they are educating my child AT ALL? Letting the time when he could be learning to walk and talk tick by?

    Is it possible I would be failing in my obligation to my kid with disabilities to provide him with such an education?Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Let me pose a counter question to you: why are you starting this conversation on the defensive?

      All of the arguments against private education are facile at best and outright deceptions at worst. Before you have to defend sending your child to private school you should ask someone to give you an actual normative ethical argument against it, because all we have so far are a bunch of people trying to support their political preferences through a bunch of logical fallacies and poorly thought out claims of causality.

      If there is a coherent and convincing argument against private schools, let’s hear it.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

        @j-r @jaybird I didn’t think I was being defensive, I thought I was being argumentative.

        As I suggested above, I think a normative ethical argument in favor of the immorality of private school is at least possible along utilitarian lines (although special ed may be an exception). However, I’m not a utilitarian. I think private school would be at least permissible on other ethical theories.

        What I was trying to do is suggest that there may be times in which it’s not only morally permissible to choose private school, but your special obligations to family members might make it the morally better choice.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          As I suggested above, I think a normative ethical argument in favor of the immorality of private school is at least possible along utilitarian lines (although special ed may be an exception).

          Maybe, but that would imply that we know way more than we have any real ability to know. In some sense, all education is special education and “special education” is a particular case on the spectrum. That is, there is no one true educational model that maximizes learning for every kid, so even on utilitarian grounds, it makes no sense to impose one kind of school or schooling on every child.Report

          • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

            Maybe, but that would imply that we know way more than we have any real ability to know.

            Always the problem with utilitarianism.

            Here’s why I said it. I have an un-backed up gut belief that, contra Damon, it’s at least possible that the pain to kids sent to public instead of private school is outweighed by the benefits to all kids. As I said above, that was my own experience in high school. Rich kids staying in our school ensured the school received much more funding. They didn’t suffer too much, since the school was excellent, the poor kids clearly benefited.

            Because there are fewer special ed kids, and their parents are less agitate-y, and their educations more individualized, I suspect (with no evidence) that their remaining in a given school would be unlikely to benefit other kids as much.

            Be that as it may, I am not a utilitarian anyway.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              I missed this part of your discussion with @j-r before, @rose-woodhouse , so I was kind of bothering you to repeat it when I was asking if you credited the utilitarian case. Sorry about that, I know you’re busy.

              This definitely gives me a better picture of your thoughts on the question, which I could have gotten had I more thoroughly read the thread rather than furiously typing every stray thought that came into my head. I blame caffeine.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Are we talking from a utilitarian standpoint or a deontological one?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      The view from the perspective of a student with considerable special needs (that a particular public school, or for that matter a particular private school can’t meet) may be usefully illustrative for thinking about the potential obligations of all parents. Or – it may be too special a case to be that. The general case I think is clear enough to most people (most people are parents, and almost everyone spent their youths in the very institutions we are considering). It’s not like it’s an obscure part of life to the broad majority of the country. So if we are going to think about generalizing from the perspective of parents of kids with special needs, I think we need to think about why we would do that, and whether it really usefully illustrates certain important points, or whether in as far as thinking about this issue, it’s mostly a particular kind of case that is distinct from the general case with which most people are familiar. I.e. would it help us see the general situation more clearly, or is it, in fact, just a different situation in the important respects.

      I don’t have the answers to those questions myself at the moment. But I do think that if we were going to think about generalizing the situation of parents with disabilities of these purpose, we would need to spend considerable time on thinking about why that would be valuable and how the situations map onto each other before trying to gain insight into the general case from this particular one.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

        @michael-drew The reason I posed it was because it’s a general enough case to be recognizable to most people and illustrates the possibility that (I think) sometimes there may be an obligation on the part of parents to act in their kid’s interest.

        If there is an exception to be made in the special ed. case, then we can look at other cases where some of the relevant factors also apply. Here are the reasons I suspect special ed is an exception: too few of them, families less likely to agitate, the harms they suffer from being in crappy schools can be even greater than usual.

        If it’s possible that I might be obligated to pursue it in the special needs case, take a kid with a strong desire/ability for science zoned for school district where there is everyday violence and limited educational opportunities. Let’s say, too, that the school does not possess many budding scientists. So this kid’s parents are not going to be able to find many parents to band together and demand change, her staying in school is unlikely to benefit other kids much, and she will be greatly harmed by remaining in the school.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          I guess I don’t understand where anyone is coming from that doesn’t understand from the start that the issue from an individual perspective is at least a balancing between the obligation, or at least moral prerogative, to act in one’s children’s best interest, and an interest (if it even exists) in supporting and maintaining a system that provides free, quality public education to all kids – and that if the balance is going to swing one direction rather than the other, it’s going to swing toward acting in one’s own children’s interests. I hope we can assume this is a prior everyone comes to the discussion with – i.e. that no one thinks that to take actions to protect your kids interests is prima facie not morally permissible, even if it has some effect on the communal system. But that maybe there is a point at which you have done enough and can be expected to act somewhat in the communal interest again.

          The actual substance of the discussion then, I would think, would come down to how that balance cashes out under various particulars. If your kids has special needs, that might change the expectation. But also if the schools you face send your kids to are utterly disastrous, that would as well. Whereas if there are decent public schools and your kid is talented in science, you mitt have a bit more of an obligation to find a way to send them there (but I would think not an absolute one). I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure I think that, once you get down into particulars, certain particulars illuminate other particulars particular well compared to just examining each particular.

          I guess the question I would have based on your example would be, are you concerned about the effects if everyone who deemed his child talented in science chose to eschew even decent public schools because of a lack of particular science opportunities? I realize that’s not quite your example, but I do think it’s quite often closer to the reality. Not that what you describe doesn’t exist – parents with talented kids having to face the public schools being truly bad. But then at that point, are we only endorsing the decisions of parents with talented kids to get out? I don’t judge anyone who seeks to escape truly bad schools, special science aptitude kids or no. To be a little bit fair to Benedikt, I think she’s thinking about parents who think they have to get their kids out of even decent public schools because their special snowflake is smart in science (and I’m not saying they’re wrong to think that!).

          But then I’d have the inverse question for Benedikt: I’d want to confirm she actually does recognize the moral prerogative to act privately in the interest of one’s own children. Or does every parent have an obligation first and foremost to act in the best interest of the public school system? I doubt that’s the case, and, as I’ve said, I doubt she morally condemns those whose options actually are truly terrible schools for seeking exit. She’s tacitly confining her condemnation to a certain band of parents much like her, I suspect. But I’d want to hear her describe more formally how she’s cashing out who deserves her harsh moral opprobrium for choosing private schools. Surely there are sue for whom it’s reasonable. So how is she discriminating?Report

          • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

            @michael-drew

            I hope we can assume this is a prior everyone comes to the discussion with – i.e. that no one thinks that to take actions to protect your kids interests is prima facie not morally permissible, even if it has some effect on the communal system.

            A reasonably pure act-utilitarian would think it not morally permissible. No moral reason to prefer your family and friends. I think Peter Singer admitted that he paid for some kind of nursing care for his mother against his own moral beliefs – at least I remember reading that somewhere.

            I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure I think that, once you get down into particulars, certain particulars illuminate other particulars particular well compared to just examining each particular.

            That seems reasonable. It just occurred to me to use it as an example because I had faced that decision, had thought about it, and realized that I felt it would not only be morally permissible to act in my kid’s interest, I felt obliged. It seemed generalizable-ish. I hear you that it isn’t though.

            The fact, though, that we need to hear the particulars in each case is part of the problem with the original argument, as you rightly suggest.

            I guess the question I would have based on your example would be, are you concerned about the effects if everyone who deemed his child talented in science chose to eschew even decent public schools because of a lack of particular science opportunities? I realize that’s not quite your example, but I do think it’s quite often closer to the reality. Not that what you describe doesn’t exist – parents with talented kids having to face the public schools being truly bad. But then at that point, are we only endorsing the decisions of parents with talented kids to get out? I don’t judge anyone who seeks to escape truly bad schools, special science aptitude kids or no.

            And I agree with this. Again, was trying to pick an extreme-ish example to show that there are cases in which even utilitarian calculus will point to private school. This is because utilitarianism seems the most likely moral theory for arguing that it’s immoral to send kids to private school. As I suggested above, as a practicing non-utilitarian, even if it were morally *better* in a given particular situation to keep your kid in public school, it isn’t necessarily *immoral* for you to place her in private school.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            @rose-woodhouse

            By “everyone,” in this case I meant, regular people discussing ed policy as they come to it in their real lives – parents, concerned observers, etc – not philosophers. (Not philosophers!)

            But realizing that the former group does contain a (very!) few of the latter (whether philosophers, or other people who know what act-utilitarianism is and actually consider that to be their operational ethical system and try to live by it), I am happy to amend: ” I hope we can assume this is a prior that nearly everyone comes to the discussion with…” 😉

            But on that point, are you saying/do you think that Benedikt actually has a strong utilitarian argument here? I’m guessing it really depends on the actual efficacy of the public schools, or what public schools we’re talking about (that’s kind of why I separate them into groupings – sort of a triage of the too-far-gone for it to matter much anymore, the well-appointed and immune, and then the critical middle, where if you leave with your caring and your smart kid, it can (maybe) really matter). But just potentially, do you credit the utilitarian case for keeping one’s kids in public schools on its terms, and resist it by advancing an alternative ethical framework, or would you (perhaps additionally) question the utilitarian case for it on its own terms along the way?

            Again, I realize this is probably mostly an empirical question to do with the efficacy of these systems, but I’m still interested in your take. When you’re considering these appeals (such as Benedikt’s, which rereading it now, was a stronger argument than I remembered, possibly because it’s more absolute – less parochial – than my recollection), are you thinking, “That’s a strong utilitarian case, but utilitarian cases aren’t on their terms always (at least) convincing to me,” or are you thinking, “Not only am I not moved by that argument simply because it’s the utilitarian argument and I’m not a utilitarian, but because in my view it’s not even a good utilitarian case in this instance?”Report

            • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

              @michael-drew I am agreed that philosophers are irregular people.

              It’s really really annoying that she calls parents who send their kids to private school bad people.

              I more or less credit the utilitarian case with the caveat that I have no real evidence for it. Neither does Benedikt. She just makes assertions based on her own schooling history. Based on my schooling history, I suspect she’s right. I also suspect she’s right that the goodness of schools matters much less than people think it does. But…no evidence. Or maybe it’s out there, and I’m unaware.

              One of my biggest beefs with utilitarianism is the notion that one must maximize the goodness of one’s acts. So yes, I’m going with another ethical theory for this. Doesn’t matter which, because I’d think any other one would consider it not immoral to send a kid to private school.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I’m pretty much with you on all of that. Or, at last, not against you, and I don’t have the evidence on the points you mention.

                I actually might be a bit more skeptical than you on the eidence being there for the utilitarian case for all of this (my sympathies run with the overall thrust of the argument, but more in the basis of thinking about visions of society we prefer, not on the basis of identifying morally compelled actions), but I credit it for plausibility at least far enough to argue about it, anyway.Report

  10. Avatar nevermoor says:

    I think the OP’s weak analogy and high level of snark is clouding what should be a pretty straightforward question:

    1) I think/hope everyone agrees that publicly provided education is important.
    2) I think/hope everyone agrees that parents with the resources to pay for private school are likely to benefit a public school if their children go there instead. (note: I’m not saying these are the ONLY parents who benefit a public school)
    3) I think/hope everyone agrees that the benefit in (2) will not be limited solely to those parents’ children
    4) Thus, we have a positive externality of those children going to public school.

    If a parent in that category instead decides to send their children to private school, they’re definitionally making the choice that private school is better for their children. They’re also doing some measure of harm to other children by removing a positive externality, and nothing animates parental wrath like harm to one’s children. Why can’t we just leave it there instead of having to argue about whether the selfish choice is justified/evil/whatever instead of pretending this is all about communism and whatever other nutty assertions the OP makes?

    Also, if you want a better analogy, how about vaccination? Anti-vaxxers believe (incorrectly) that they are making the better choice for their children, and that choice imposes costs on everyone else.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      1) I think/hope everyone agrees that publicly provided education is important.
      I don’t. An education is important. It doesn’t have to be public, and in fact, shouldn’t. Frankly, I don’t see why I should pay for any kids education except my own.

      2) I think/hope everyone agrees that parents with the resources to pay for private school are likely to benefit a public school if their children go there instead. (note: I’m not saying these are the ONLY parents who benefit a public school)
      Sure, but why should I sacrifice a better education for my kids by sending them to public school if the private school is better? You get better playing against opponents that are better than you, not worse.

      3) I think/hope everyone agrees that the benefit in (2) will not be limited solely to those parents’ children
      See response to 2 above.

      4) Thus, we have a positive externality of those children going to public school.
      So what? See response to 2.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor says:

        1) Bless you and your unrepentant FYIGM.
        2-4) You’re skipping to the decision. I’m not saying those costs must PREVENT the decision, only that they exist. Do you disagree or just refuse to write the word “agree”?Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          I’m saying that they aren’t “costs”, but otherwise agree that there would be positive side effects to the kids in public school having “private school kids in their classes”. Are you agreeing with me that the “private school kids” would be getting a negative? Like I said, you don’t get better playing against worse opponents. “Private school kids” would be more likely to be bored.

          I’ll dispute you claim about “FYIGM” again. I didn’t “IGM”. I don’t have kids, and I still don’t see why 1) childless people should have to pay for other people’s kid’s education, and 2) While as I parent, I should have to pay for other people’s kid’s education.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor says:

            Are you agreeing with me that the “private school kids” would be getting a negative?

            I think parents sending their kids to private school are making what they think is the best choice. I don’t think public vs. private is an answerable global question. For example, if I had stayed in SF and not won the public school lottery (seriously, it’s a nutty system), we would have gone private. Now that I’ve moved, public is easily the better choice for my kids. Also, at lower levels I don’t think it’s about smart/stupid (i.e. “Private school kids” would be more likely to be bored) but rather about private schools having better facilities (PE/Art/field trips/etc.).

            The “IGM” is that if you had kids you would be able to pay for their education. The reason not to rely on parents to provide it is that we as a society benefit from an educated populace. I know there’s some debate (and not without merit) about the public benefits of extremely post-HS education, but people need to learn to read, to add, to write, and otherwise to be a productive member of society. And that happens in schools.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              “The reason not to rely on parents to provide it is that we as a society benefit from an educated populace.”

              Yes, and there’s a social benefit from mandating that every car on the road have a speed limiter that prevents it from going over the posted speed. There’s a social benefit from installing alcohol sensors and vehicle interlocks so you must prove you are sober to start the engine. Vikram just had a post on why it’s a social benefit to eliminate private media. There are ALL kinds of benefits we have or could have benefit society. Some we do some we don’t. Frankly, I don’t see the granularity. They all infringe on our freedoms.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                “They all infringe on our freedoms.”

                When libertarians wonder why they can’t expand out of a small circle of white guys with decent to great jobs, it’s because you compare paying for public education to mandated breathalyzers on cars.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Two things:

      2) I think/hope everyone agrees that parents with the resources to pay for private school are likely to benefit a public school if their children go there instead. (note: I’m not saying these are the ONLY parents who benefit a public school)

      Generally, when you construct an argument, the premises ought to be strong enough to stand on their own. This premise is an assumption. It may be true in any number of cases, but it is also going to be false in any number of cases.

      They’re also doing some measure of harm to other children by removing a positive externality, and nothing animates parental wrath like harm to one’s children.

      More importantly, this is where your reasoning breaks down. Not doing something that may provide someone else with a positive externality is not the same as doing harm. If that were the case, then we would all, everywhere at every time, be doing harm to everyone else.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor says:

        So we are clear: do you dispute the existence of a positive externality there?

        I’m not sure why trying to create a positive externality is any different than trying to prevent a negative one. I see you asserting as much, but without support. And, at some comically minor level, it’s almost certainly true that we are all, everywhere at every time, harming/helping everyone else.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          So we are clear: do you dispute the existence of a positive externality there?

          Where is there?

          If you are making a universal claim, then yes, I dispute it. If you are not making a universal claim, then it fails as a premise. It’s just an assumption that may or may not be true depending on the circumstances.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor says:

            Ok, if you need it expressed in formal logic terms, the universal claim is that schools are likely to benefit from those parents electing to send their children, and that the aggregate good to public schools from involvement of those parents greatly exceeds the aggregate costs.

            I do not (and need not) claim that every such parent will become an engaged benefactor of the public schools.Report

            • Avatar j r says:

              the universal claim is that schools are likely to benefit from those parents electing to send their children, and that the aggregate good to public schools from involvement of those parents greatly exceeds the aggregate costs.

              Yeah, that just doesn’t work very well as a logical argument. It can be likely or it can be universal. It cannot be both.

              It might work as a statistical argument, but we would need some empirical observations to test to know whether it is a good statistical argument.Report

  11. Avatar Damon says:

    “choice imposes costs on everyone else.”

    What cost? There is no dollar cost. And you’re going to seriously argue that any dubious benefits to the public school kids by having private school kids in their classes is greater than the harm the private school kids receive by having to be in public school?Report

    • Avatar nevermoor says:

      And you’re going to seriously argue that any dubious benefits to the public school kids by having private school kids in their classes is greater than the harm the private school kids receive by having to be in public school

      Where do I do that? I pretty clearly argue only that there are benefits in the former (contra the OP’s dismissive tone). What a parent should do is a different question, and one that requires any number of unique inputs that are impossible to assess.

      Also, as for dubious, here’s an example of an organization that wouldn’t exist if all the rich parents opted for private school in my area. Explain to me exactly how its benefit is “dubious.”

      There is no dollar cost.

      Why is that the only kind of cost you think matters?Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        “Where do I do that?” It’s implied.

        “Why is that the only kind of cost you think matters?” You want to quantify non dollar costs? That should be interesting. Please do so. If you can’t quantify something, how do you expect to measure it?

        “Also, as for dubious,” Way to dodge the question. My point is that that “costs” for sending “private school kids” to public school is a much more negative impact to those kids than the positive impacts public school kids would have by them being there, education wise.

        ergo the whole “play above you” comments.Report

        • Avatar nevermoor says:

          It’s implied.

          In other words, “you don’t, but I wish you had.” My point is not to echo the “private school is evil” articles. It’s to push back on the “there is no reason not to choose private school” one. There is a reason. It may or may not determine an individual choice.

          Costs/Dodging:
          How is it dodging the question or avoiding costs. If Mill Valley weren’t a community that chose to support its public schools, those schools wouldn’t have art/music/PE/etc. because the people who donate to that foundation would instead be paying private school tuition. And “not getting PE” is both a real cost on a child and not measured in dollars. I really don’t understand either objection.

          Private school costs:
          Again, this flows only from your desire for me to be making a different point than I am. Maybe going to private school is going to keep a specific kid from being board. Maybe it’ll introduce him to the bazillionaires’ kids who developed coke habits at 12 years old. Depends on the situation. Which is why I’ll (again) state explicitly that a parent’s ultimate choice isn’t one anyone can make in the abstract.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            Never,
            It’s how I read your post. If I read it wrong, my bad. But based upon what you wrote, it’s seems clear that’s what you’re suggesting. Meh. “It’s to push back on the “there is no reason not to choose private school” one. There is a reason. It may or may not determine an individual choice.” Sure, I’ll go along with that.Report

  12. Avatar Drew says:

    Ah NPR. Nice Polite Republicans.Report

  13. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Whatever anyone might think about the process that is underway in which public schools slowly lose out on resources as more and more affluent parents choose private schools, I do not understand and have not understood since I first saw a few of those pieces (the Benedikt one in particular) what it these public school advocates think they are accomplishing, nor how they don’t realize how destructive it is to their cause, by demonizing the parents who make these choices. Most of them, after all, from their perspective are not choosing over-the-top lavish spa-schools for their kids, but merely trying to find someplace that offers a decent education. There’s no reason to demonize them; they’re not demons, and demonizing them is never going to be part of any solution.

    We can lament the aggregate effects of their decisions, and, more importantly, seriously think about ways to mitigate and reverse them. And granted, that is hard, since a big part of the effect is simply the transformation that occurs in a school when the more engaged families leave them, simply by their absence (rather than through a funding mechanism or other institutional response).

    But demonizing parents who send their kids to private school does nothing to help the situation. Not least because the public school districts most in need of engaged parents are those that we would not condemn any parent for trying to escape – the least well-resourced and most challenging schools in the poorest parts of the biggest cities. I don’t get the feeling that it’s the parents in those districts who manage to get their kids into private schools whom Benedikt is calling bad people. It’s people in districts where she probably lives (or not), where she believes the schools to be on a kind of knife-edge between okay-to-good and bad, whom I suspect she is condemning. A certain slice of parents in the middle who, in her view, don’t “have to” send their kids to private school, but who, by doing so, in aggregate significantly affect (in her view, and I would concur) the quality of those schools. I just can’t imagine her condemning parents whose choices are private schools or truly bad or dangerous schools for their kids.

    So this ends up being a very narrow, parochial condemnation that doesn’t really deal with the broad issues facing public schools at all. It would help if fewer parents in this segment where there are decent public school options, and withdrawing from them can hurt that quality, chose private schools. But the entire situation is not their fault, and they’re not individually doing anything worse than trying to get their kids a good education. There’s just nothing to demonize there, even if you genuinely and with good reason wish they would make a different choice (which I do agree is a justified position). But, as others have said, some families are just predisposed to private schools, and more broadly what’s needed is to focus on what will make more public schools good enough that parents will not feel the need to exit the system in order to get a good (enough) education.

    I realize, and it’s a legitimate point, that part of that is the need for parents not to do that when they don’t truly need to (at least, parents with any good will toward the project of having quality public education available to all children), but my main point is that, even fully accepting the need to make that case as part of the solution, demonizing parents who are currently doing that doesn’t help the project at all. It just shuts down openness to an appeal to valuing public schools to call parents bad people for doing what they feel they need to do for their kids. Try to convince them some other way. Don’t call them bad people. In most cases, they aren’t.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Has affluent parents sending their kids to private schools really become more common?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        That’s a fair question and it occurred to me as I wrote that. I’m sort of just proceeding from the increased consternation about it.

        My strong suspicion is that the answer is actually yes, though, yes. But I will look into it.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          …Nope, I guess I’m wrong.

          It really is unfortunate for the likes of Alison Benedikt to get this shrill over a declining phenomenon. That it’s declining doesn’t still mean she can’t make a sober, civil case against choosing private schools under certain circumstances because of the benefits to public schools from the choice to stay in them. But, man, for the proportion to be declining and for her still to come out with this shriek of outrage is really a bad look. Have some perspective.

          Now, it may be the case that the story is very different in certain pockets. I suspect maybe it is in places like, oh, Brooklyn? Which might have (and have had) decent schools, but they’re not the schools that “my kind of people” send their kids to anymore – but dammit they still could be if they just would!

          I just have an increasingly dark suspicion about the kind of place and interest the attitude behind a piece like Benedikt’s is really coming from. Parochial!

          It would be entirely different if she had published a sober piece of analysis detailing ways that, despite the national trends, in particular places higher rates of private school attendance can still have negative effects on public school quality, which could be a viable argument, if it could be shown, regardless of broad national trends. But that’s not what she wrote, at all.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            @michael-drew @will-truman

            Here is how it works in NYC at least among college-educated parents as I see it.

            1. A lot of people are pretty okay with sending their children to public elementary school in NYC.

            2. The numbers thin out for people who are okay with sending their kids to public middle school in NYC.

            3. They really thin out for high school. There are only a handful of high schools in NYC which are considered really good and competition for a spot is fierce. The number changes based on who you ask but I would say there are 7-8. Those schools are Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Edward R. Murrow, Cardozo, Stuy, Hunter, and Performing Arts. These are the big ones. Here is a more complete list of the selective public high schools:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_high_schools_in_New_York_City

            Most people even die-hard NYC partisans think the whole thing is insane and often will go to the suburbs with nice school districts. I have friends who went to the selective public high schools. They had siblings who did not get in and I remember hearing stories of parents doing mad dashes to find an appropriate private school when the results come out.

            A good number of my friends are trying to make a go of raising their kids in NYC though. I am not sure if all of them can afford private school tuition. I am deeply curious to see if I will see people head to the suburbs once their kids reach kindergarten, middle school, and/or high school.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              I actually think NYC officials should be held to answer for the vulgarity of having these few jewels of the public system, and then so many big, old, unreconstructed shitholes (and then quite a number of aspiring, small upstart/charter-type enterprises, one of which in the Bronx I have some familiarity with, though I believe it’s now defunct).

              From my perspective, choice within public schools (i.e. within one district) is great, but it should be choice from among institutions that The System is at least trying to present as Equals, not as clearly superior and more desirable. here should be selective programs, but those should be available to everyone in each school; they shouldn’t be separated out so that essentially the programs for talented and diligent students are all at a few schools, and the rest of the system is either shitpile, or small green shoots growing out of shitpile.

              And my problem with what I saw of NYC, and I may not have taken enough of it in to really get it, is not so much that that’s the situation, because that kind of situation can kind of evolve, and if they were working to change it, okay. It’s that this seems to be entirely congruent with the actual vision for public education that guides the system there! There should be these few, flagship selective public schools! Kids should compete to get into them (not just compete to get into various programs within a set of at least notionally equalish larger high schools that you go to either via address or via choice)! If a kid can’t get into one of the few jewels of the system, the kid should get a little bit screwed – if she actually is talented enough to be at one, then she or her parents didn’t do what was necessary to get in, and if she isn’t that talented, then we want her in one of the “other” schools anyway.

              This all kind of seemed like what NYC actually advanced as the way public education in a big city should be done or at least inevitably will be – skim the creme off the top, because they’re the only ones you can do anything with anyway. Probably unfair, but it’s how it seemed to me. And again, not as the inertial default, but as the actual guiding philosophy.

              Well, anyone who has a problem with mass patronage of private education in that environment is just out to lunch. Thankfully, I do think that viewpoint in the public schools is slowly changing in NYC.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                @michael-drew

                I think a big problem with NYC (and maybe other urban school districts) is that they are just too damn large. More than anywhere else, urban school districts are expected to be miracle workers with the social problems of urban poverty. They provide hot lunches, they never close during extreme weather so kids have a place to go because parents have to work, they work as de facto parents when real parents are in prison or nowhere to be found, etc.

                An examination of the demographics seems to show your point. The really good high schools in New York seemed to have been created for striving immigrant kids. Wikipedia said this about Stuy High School:

                “For most of the 20th century, the student body at Stuyvesant was heavily Jewish. A significant influx of Asian students began in the 1970s. For the 2013 academic year, the student body was 72.31% Asian and 21.44% Caucasian, 1.03% African American and 2.34% Hispanic.”

                I bet other top high schools in NYC have similar demographics.

                I know there is a big issue with Lowell in S.F. because the school is overwhelmingly Asian. Asians alleged that it is harder for their kids to get into Lowell and non-Asians are angry about the demographics.

                I couldn’t find demographic data for Bronx Science but I did find an article titled “Bronx Science: A Safe Place to Be Smart.” This is how the high schools are seen probably in a cynical way by admin. How can we keep our smart children in public school and make sure that they are not beat to a tar every day?

                The NYC Board of Ed has a local version of Teach for America or did. The ads are very inspirational with slogans like “Take your next business trip on a big yellow bus” or “You remember your 2nd grade teacher’s name. Who will remember yours?” What happens is that they jam pack people in their early 20s with a summer of training and then send them woefully unprepared to the worst schools in NYC. The lucky people might just not have students who speak English. But I know some real horror stories, stories of assault, etc. I’ve seen this program turn people into private school snobs.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Yes, my sense is that whatever philosophy was invented to animate NYC schools while maintaining the superiority of the jewel/flagship buildings was just simply that – an attempt to retcon a justification for maintaining the superiority of those schools within the public system. I suspect essentially as a matter of legacy, so that the NYC proletariat has something for academically-motivated (AcaMo they called it at my school) students and families to aspire to within the NYCPS.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                @michael-drew

                I don’t think it is retconning. I think they were always supposed to be for the smart kids. My grandfather was born in 1913. He attended Stuy from 1927-1931. At the time Stuy was an all boy’s high school on 15th Street. This was relatively far from his lower east side flat.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                Grandpa lived on the Grandcourse in the Bronx. The other one grew up in Crown Heights.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …My familiarity with the (I think, charter) school in the Bronx I mentioned came because my girlfriend’s sister was a Teaching Fellow there, leading to my girlfriend becoming business manager of the school, btw.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Thanks for that, Saul. That’s the other possibility I had in mind – that it’s simply unreconstructed old-school elitism. I still somewhat suspect that it lives on, though, in part through a need to retcon a justification for maintaining the extreme superiority of these few institutions to exist within a public education system otherwise nominally committed to the value of equal opportunity.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Thanks for looking that up. I had thought “more and more kids are being sent to private school” was kind of like “crime just keeps getting worse” but I wasn’t sure. I think you might be right about Brooklyn and such, though, and that may be why the phenomenon gets a lot of coverage.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            I will say that as I re-read Benedikt and was reminded she went to what she deems a pretty bad school, my suspicion of where she’s coming form in this lessened a little. Overall, it’s a case that still kind of demands suspicion of true motives, though.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              @michael-drew

              This raises the question of what is a bad school. I went to a public high school that many schools would be envious of in terms of financial support, after school programs, parent involvement. The only way to get better is to go to the really posh private schools.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Right, and Benedikt implies she went to one not like that, but in the truly bad category. I’d be interested in seeing for myself, though.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                @michael-drew

                Maybe. I find that a lot of middle class or upper-middle class suburban or urban kids develop inferiority complexes when they hear about posh private schools of their college and grad school classmates. Allison Benedikt is listed as the news director at Slate. Her high school education was fine.Report

  14. Avatar Notme says:

    Wrong thread.Report