In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, Michael Godsey explains why he chooses to send his daughter to a small and highly-selective private school. This basically boils down to “hit-the-books culture”.
Unfortunately for him, “academic culture” is a proxy for social class. (And isn’t this especially apparent when, in addition to teaching dead white men like Shakespeare, you are also the golf coach? Is there any waspier sport than golf? Racquetball? POLO???)
I am, however, concerned about the general culture at public schools—at least at the ones I’ve seen—of disengagement and compulsory learning. So when it comes to my daughter, I opt to invest a little more—to ensure she’s immersed in a community where it’s acceptable, and even admirable, to show natural enthusiasm for knowledge…
Well, we all remember how nerds were treated in public school, right?
(if you’re a guy)
(if you’re a girl)
Yet somehow, in some way, they did manage to survive, make it through, prosper, and even go to graduate school (I won’t say that they became part of the 1%, because we all know that smart 1%ers went to private school — and isn’t that part of the problem???).
By limiting his daughter’s education to her socioeconomic peers, Godsey is trapping her in a circle of her own class. That insularity blocks her from the recognition that there are actually people out there who don’t think it’s cool to read Kant or Dostoyevsky, who like sports like wrestling, and who watch NASCAR — and that those people are still good people. Thanks to educational gerrymandering, not all public schools will teach you that, either — but it is the ideal, as he might have learned from a classic high school movie:
We all have things we can learn from each other.
The article ends up with a plea that one person doesn’t matter in the face of chronic underfunding (or maybe misdirection of funding) and a “lifetime” of support.
Public schools have my tax money, my lifelong employment, and almost anything else they need of me; pulling my daughter—one student—out of the system is probably the least of its worries. And on a more abstract level, the above criticisms fail to acknowledge the cumbersome, almost fixed nature of the dominant culture I’ve seen at public schools—one that occasionally isolates students who love learning, are teased by the “cool” kids and even bullied into joining the masses. No matter how much she voluntarily recites Shakespeare, the student I envision my daughter becoming would never be able to single-handedly transform a public school into an environment that is cool to learning.
But what if everyone thought this way? Doesn’t everyone think this way — especially those who have a choice?
Hyprocrite auteur, public schools have your white guilt. If they had your belief, commitment, or good faith, they would also have your daughter.