Being a Bad Person

Poe’s law, which states “Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.” That’s the first thing that popped into my head when I read this:

You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.

Considering the source of the article I’m left to belief the author is being sincere. The article can only be an attempt for the gold metal in mental gymnastics. What the author proposes, that any parent who doesn’t send their child to a public school is a bad person, is asinine. The author actually encourages parents to disadvantage their children in the hopes of improving public schools for their potential great grandchildren:

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)

It seems that the author hasn’t thought her clever plan all the way through. Let’s assume that you, a highly educated parent who wants to improve the public education system, decides to inflict a mediocre education on your children. Because your plan requires generations to work you must plan for your children to pick up the fight after you’re gone. How is a child with a mediocre education going to properly articulate the need for improving public schools? Where is that child’s motivation going to come from? If a mediocre education is all he or she knows then they are unlikely to fight for something greater. The author has the advantage of private schools to compare public schools to. This advantage would disappear if people actually followed her plan because private schools would disappear. After a generation or two without any alternative to public education the number of people fighting to improve the system would dwindle. Instead of creating a society of brilliant people the author’s plan would create an idiocracy.

Authoritarians often fail to see the inevitable outcome of their plans. While us anti-authoritarians often suffer the same failure we aren’t trying to force everybody to follow our plans, we simply state what we’re going to do and let any interested parties join us if they want. If our plans fail there are other plans that may succeed. If the author’s plan fails America becomes the society envisioned by Mike Judge in Idiocracy.

Instead of demanding every parent send their child to a public school, the author should be demanding every parent try something different. Perhaps public education isn’t the best option. Charter schools, private schools, Montessories, home schooling, and unschooling are all alternatives to public education currently being perused by parents. If one of these alternatives ends up failing then the others are still free to continue. Survivors can learn from the mistakes of the failures and improve.

You’re not a bad person for sending your children to a private school but you are a bad person if you attempt to inflict what you think is best on everybody else.