Commenting on my recent post “Having Your Cake and Eating it Too” one reader posted a link to an article on the A Good Day Teaching Blog entitled Why Don’t Liberals Really Like Poor Children?. The crux of the linked article can be summed up in one statement. The author states that liberal parents “believe that the children deserve a good education, they just don’t want poor children sitting next to their kids in a public school.”
I think the key point here is that there is a difference between liberal/progressive values and outright activism. Advocating school reform is progressive. Sending my kid to our local public school is activism. Not only that, it is activism by proxy in that my kid is the one making the commitment to the cause, not me. I am willing to be an activist for some causes. I am not willing to donate my child’s education to a cause. Speaking for myself, this is not about racism. The biggest problem that I have with most affluent school districts is lack of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. In that way, urban schools are more attractive to me. Yes, there may be some awkward moments when meeting parents from a difference economic strata, but that’s life. I embrace it. My issue is about educational quality pure and simple.
I have spoken to many folks over the last several months about ‘going local’ for eduction, both in my community (Chestnut Hill) and in others like Fairmount, West Philly, Center City, Queen Village/Bella Vista and Mount Airy. In these Philadelphia neighborhoods where the trend is that affluent students from progressive families go to private schools, the cause is compelling. Get more local kids to go the the public school and you raise the educational quality of that public school. It is an attractive idea, to be sure. I just don’t see it getting a strong foothold without real school reforms that make the public schools more attractive across the board to other parents. I will vote for every candidate, sign any petition, donate money to causes that I think will improve our educational system in Philadelphia and nationally. I don’t think sending my kid to a local school will have any real impact because I won’t be joined by many of my peers, not without changes. That is not to say that I won’t be choosing my own local public school, it is just that the ‘going local’ cause won’t be the reason, it will be a side benefit at best or just a non issue.