Some years ago, I learned that my son, 13 at the time, didn't know basic algebra. He was attending a public school in North Seattle. He is black, his classroom was stuffed with students, and his teacher had a vague idea of who he was. His parents decided to send him to a private school.
In a year, his grasp of mathematics was normalized. And five years later, he was able to master Mathematical Applications for the Management, Life, and Social Sciences. And I'm certain if he had remained in the public school system, this meaty book would have been Greek to him.
But despite the sacrifice my family made (we are not rich), I still think it's wrong to send children to private schools. It's a very desperate solution that, as a whole, worsens a very bad situation. And the way the education system works is not to repair this bad situation but, as I pointed out in an earlier post (The Sucky Education System in Seattle Is Working Exactly As It's Supposed To), to maintain and intensify the desperation it causes. This has class-related political consequences.
Many of the parents who send their kids to private schools are not rich, and so feel bitter that they have to pay taxes while paying tuition. This has the politically significant effect of encouraging some members of the middle class to side with their natural enemies, the rich, on the issue of taxes. In the long run, it is better for the middle class if the rich are progressively taxed; but in the short run, the middle class is pressed to find solutions to underfunded schools. The result is an alignment of interests that in the long run mostly benefits the class that naturally hates paying taxes. (The upper class.)
It only takes common sense to see why those in the upper classes are so passionate about not contributing their share to society. They do not need the public's support because they already have more than enough money (a social form of power) to pay for their housing, transportation, and educational needs. But the rest of society can only afford to share these costs. This fact has always created a politically difficult situation for the rich in democratic societies. Because their numbers are small, their position on taxes has no obvious popular base. What to do? Find ways to link their very limited concerns with those in the lower and much larger orders. One such link turns out to be private schools. (Another is charter schools, but I will explain that in my next post.)
This private school business is not accidental. This is how things are supposed to work in the current sorry state of affairs. Generate frustration, attack teachers and unions, increase the number of people turning to private solutions. Nearly one in every four students in this city is in a private school.