Good Parenting vs. Good Citizenship?

by Gina Schouten on September 13, 2018

I’ve been a parent now for six months and change, and I have exactly nothing figured out. I have gotten pretty good at thinking of things in terms of stark tradeoffs. Hooray, he fell asleep while I was nursing him, and stayed asleep when he went into his crib! (Crap. This means a missed opportunity to put him down “drowsy but awake,” and thus to train him to fall asleep on his own.) Hooray, I am really enjoying singing this song to him right now! (Crap. This temporary alignment of my interests and his surely means I am losing all ability to discern my own interests when they diverge from his.)

Don’t judge me too harshly for this insanity. Everything written about parenting seems expressly intended to make its readers think of their choices in terms of tradeoffs. (Seriously. If you don’t want your kid to be sleeping in your bed when he’s sixteen, you must put him down drowsy but awake!)

And a lot about our social environment seems expressly intended to generate tradeoffs. Take just one example: Privileged parents generally face a choice between schooling options that middle-class parenting culture approves as best for their children, and schooling options that progressive politics regards as best ethically. A fair bit of attention has been paid to this choice in popular media over the past week, largely in response to a book by Margaret Hagerman about how progressive, middle-class parents make decisions—decisions about where to live and thus what schools their kids will attend, and with whom, etc.—that perpetuate racial inequality. This is to be welcomed. It’s an important issue. While the tradeoff is generated by policy-level decisions—our practices for funding schools, our willingness to tolerate residential segregation by race and social class, our willingness to tolerate the extreme social inequality that makes that residential segregation so consequential—the policy failure generates seriously difficult decisions for individuals.

The philosophical considerations that bear on those decisions are complex. I want to quibble with the way the ethical tradeoff is being framed in the popular media discussions of it, encouraged, perhaps, by the way Hagerman herself sometimes frames it. Consider this remark from her interview in the Atlantic:

“I really think—and this might sound kind of crazy—that white parents, and parents in general, need to understand that all children are worthy of their consideration. This idea that your own child is the most important thing—that’s something we could try to rethink. When affluent white parents are making these decisions about parenting, they could consider in some way at least how their decisions will affect not only their kid, but other kids. This might mean a parent votes for policies that would lead to the best possible outcome for as many kids as possible, but might be less advantageous for their own child. My overall point is that in this moment when being a good citizen conflicts with being a good parent, I think that most white parents choose to be good parents, when, sometimes at the very least, they should choose to be good citizens.” (Italics mine.)

Contrary to Hagerman’s worry, this does not sound even kind of crazy, and I hope her work helps to make it sound less crazy even to those who ultimately disagree with it. But we shouldn’t frame the tradeoff the way Hagerman does in this quote. It’s misleading and it’s bad marketing.

It’s misleading because it misplaces the real tradeoff. I said that I have figured out nothing about parenting since having a kid, but this one I knew long before the kid arrived: Good parenting is not about providing as much advantage for your kid as you can harness. It is also—it must be also—about making your kid a good person. I don’t care whether we say that good parenting is about maximizing your kid’s flourishing and insist that being a good person is part of flourishing, or instead say that being a good person is a distinct thing from flourishing but that being a good parent involves promoting both. The point is the same: Helping your kid become a good person is part of good parenting, and helping your kid become a good person requires modeling being a good person. Good citizenship is part of good parenting. But because sometimes being a good person and citizen is causally inert as an investment in your kid becoming a good person, a second point needs to be made: On either understanding, being a good parent does not require doing the things constitutive of good parenting at any cost. Even in cases where being a good person and citizen would be causally inert as an investment in your kid becoming a good person, then, being a good person and citizen is perfectly consistent with being a very good parent, even if it means passing up an opportunity to maximize your kid’s advantage.

For these reasons, the tradeoff that Hagerman’s work illuminates is not between being a good parent and being a good citizen. It is either a tradeoff between two different aspects of good parenting (investing in your kid’s advantage and investing in your kid’s moral development), or it is a tradeoff between plain investing in your kid’s advantage and being a good person.

(This formulation only makes sense if we don’t think of being a good person as a binary. If you sometimes favor your kid’s advantage over some benefit to someone who is unfairly badly off and just as morally important as your own kid, you are not necessarily thereby rendered a bad person, even if what you do is morally wrong. But you get the point. Maybe we say you’ve blamelessly or forgivably passed up an opportunity to do something morally good, or even morally required.)

I basically agree with the substance of Hagerman’s point, though, so why be a philosopher about it?

Because this bit of (what I take to be) infelicitous phrasing on her part is also bad marketing. I’m a few years off from having to make these difficult decisions. I know I will not be such a good person that I choose where to live based entirely on a judgment that my kid’s presence in that neighborhood’s schools would do the most good impartially construed. On the other hand, I hope I will live up to my principles enough to send my kid to public schools, even if I can afford (allegedly better) private schools. There’s a lot of space in between those options, and I don’t yet know where I’ll land. But I think I’ll do a lot better if I’m thinking of my choice as a decision about how to be a good parent in the social environment I inhabit, and in the context of my moral responsibilities in that environment, where good parenting does not mean optimizing my kid’s advantage, than I would do if I were to think of it as a choice between being a good parent and being a good citizen, where being a good citizen means failing to be a good parent.

It is the bizarre optimizing notion of good parenting that we should object to. Hagerman’s formulation in the italicized bit of the quote concedes far too much and forfeits too much persuasive potential. I suspect that Hagerman might be persuaded to agree. In the very same interview, she remarks on “this collectively agreed-upon idea in our society that being a ‘good parent’ means…providing the best opportunities you can for your own child.” At the very least, we need to be clearer that good parenting means doing that within the moral space we inhabit; probably in addition we need to think hard about how impoverished is the prevailing notion of “best opportunities.”

{ 109 comments }

1

Mark Engleson 09.13.18 at 7:14 pm

But it’s also the height of arrogance to think that YOUR kid is so special as to individually make that much of a positive difference. For one thing, we’re speaking in generalities, and individuals are particulars. Your kid may NOT be a godsend to wherever you send them to school.

And if your kid is a positive, the effect of one kid, just one kid, one family alone, doesn’t really make a difference. It’s a collective action problem, in that defectors can maximize their individual gains…you know the story. And without a way to get large-scale cooperation, the benefits your individual child brings to a school are probably less than they get from advantage-seeking.

2

Roger Benson 09.13.18 at 7:15 pm

As a parent of twin 13-month olds, congratulations on simply having the wherewithal to write this much cogent material.

3

Ray Vinmad 09.13.18 at 8:06 pm

Everything you say here seems right–except I’d add that one possible cause of this internal struggle are driven by the failure of past people to be good citizens and consider, e.g., the inegalitarian effects of undermining the public education system, and the creation of what’s being called the ‘dream hoarder’ class.

The anxiety that drives our conflict as parents could be due to this winner-take-all economic system, and the inevitable shrinking of pathways to the type of life parents in the US probably want for their offspring.

A problem is that–when a system is set up to create a potentially severe disadvantage for your child–then being a good parent really *might* force you to see other children as competitors for the small number of slots promising a decent life, and appear to obligate you to position your child accordingly. I suspect this is how many parents think about it.

What I’m saying is that many parents will see the situation where you don’t position your child the right way as less about failure to optimize, and more about failure to *save* their child. Economic anxiety, and the shifting sands we live in with respect to the social future drives this effect. People see that the doors are closing, and they become less and less willing to take chances.

The problem is that our rush to the doors involves knocking others out of the way. Rather than push back about the situation where the elevator to leisure time and security only fits a tiny percentage of our youth, we sharpen our elbows. And then we are praised for our good parenting if we’re one of the lucky ones who made it in on time.

4

Harry 09.13.18 at 8:17 pm

“Your kid may NOT be a godsend to wherever you send them to school.

And if your kid is a positive, the effect of one kid, just one kid, one family alone, doesn’t really make a difference.”

Yeah, its a collective action problem. And there’s a lot of uncertainty. But you’re playing the probabilities: basically there is some chance that your kid will be a negative, some that they’ll be neutral and a larger chance they’ll be a positive. And you have information about your own kid that is relevant (my youngest, who has gone to public schools, was probably a negative the first few years, and I actually think that was a reason to send him private, although we didn’t; my parents sent me to a low-performing comprehensive school believing that I would be fine, and that the signal of the chief education officer sending his kid there would be a benefit — I think that was probably right, and thus good parenting in Gina’s sense).

5

Trader Joe 09.13.18 at 8:55 pm

“When affluent white parents are making these decisions about parenting, they could consider in some way at least how their decisions will affect not only their kid, but other kids. “

I guess I just disagree with the premise. I appreciate the racial sentiment, but I don’t believe me making a family choice for my child is a race decision. As noted above there is a massive collective action problem and a child’s parent’s are given agency over that from conception to adult-hood.

My wife had agency to choose life and did – should she have not since that would mean another white baby in the world with all the advantages that entails?

As parents we chose to vaccinate, breast feed, when to send to day care, how soon to potty train – should we not do these things since that would confer the advantage of health and wellness others less fortunate might not enjoy?

All had societal implications had we made different choices about the sort of person they might become, their safety and the health and safety of those around them. None of those choices were at the expense of others even though, quite logically and fairly, any number of parents would have made different choices about each of these.

Now you’re telling me that when it comes to choosing an education that this thing should be done in consideration of what impact it might have on those less fortunate? That I should seek to right decades of racial and financial inequality though school choice? That’s nuts.

I’m sorry. Choosing an education is an individual decision and in all cases I would choose whats best for the person for whom I am responsible. If that’s public, private, in-home or on the streets – that’s my call, to the best of my ability, based on what I know about my child (by I, I mean both parents but that’s harder to write). I don’t expect anyone else to do any different for their kid either. This is firmly in individual choice territory.

Those who wish to purposely send their kid to a worse school, by all means do so – that is firmly your choice.

6

John Garrett 09.13.18 at 9:08 pm

I wish it was ever this simple. My kids went to public schools until, for different reasons, each of them reached a point where they could not be adequately served there — for two of them, the school notified us, and for the third, we decided. So they went to private schools which were much more racially and class integrated than their public schools. So?

7

pnee 09.13.18 at 10:08 pm

I agree that collective, policy-based solutions are best. The need for an effective collective approach to this issue is why busing was invented, was it not?

And how did white America respond to that idea again?

I haven’t faced this particular conundrum myself, but as a general rule I try not to beat myself up over a personal failure to take on individually something my society lacks the will or desire to deal with.

8

Steve 09.13.18 at 10:28 pm

In reply to Roger Benson @ 2, as the parent of just one 13 month old, congratulations on having the wherewithal to use the term wherewithal!

9

Whirrlaway 09.14.18 at 12:33 am

Basic Socialism, isn’t it? We stumble on things that do everybody good when everybody does them; the job of socially useful politics is to create incentives for such things where none exist.

Raising/educating all children well is one of those things, so is TB patients getting treatment, clean air etc etc. Not sure why how you put the baby down is something that Seriously everyone must do samely, but new parents are always like that, so ok.

10

Cranky Observer 09.14.18 at 12:34 am

Just a note: in the US the percentage of school age children attending private school has been steady at 10% +/- for the last 10 years. This despite all the sound and fury involving private schools, charter schools, etc. These public schools are not primarily in central cities, as central cities no are a much smaller fraction of US population than they were 1920-1980. But they are public (or as the right wing says, “government”) schools. Some exurban public school districts are larger than all but a few traditional urban districts. Many people who comment on these topics tend to be urbanists and have a hard time folding the post-1980 US living patterns into their analysis.

Personally, I would observe that while doing the right thing is good, standing in front of an 18-foot (6 m) storm surge saying “stop, you are damaging our social fabric” is not likely to either stop the wave or have a good outcome for you.

11

Cranky Observer 09.14.18 at 12:50 am

Additional note: back in the ‘oughts and pre-teens there were several thoughtful and extensive posts/discussions on this and related topics here on CT – I recommend searching those and reading or re-reading.

12

Adam Hammond 09.14.18 at 1:50 am

Don’t decide that one good decision has a minimal impact until you try one of those decisions! It is not correct that mass action is the only impact. We kept our kids in the south side of Chicago public schools instead of sending then to the UChicago Lab school, for which we are eligible for the generous faculty discount. We chose to live in a neighborhood a step south of the University where home values are 5-fold lower and people tend to smile at one another more easily. These decisions were not sacrifices; this is what we wanted, and we are happy for them.

My older child was one of two white kids in her 600 strong graduating class. She got a great education and is undeniably a good citizen. You can’t say that her presence was minimal when she doubled the number of white kids in her class. Her success there (and her vocal advocacy for the school) was part of attracting more middle class and white families. Also don’t suggest that our presence at school events and meetings was vanishingly small for a school in the middle of Englewood – currently getting national (negative) attention. Just don’t get confused about how segregated this country is and what kind of impact is available to you, personally, on your own. (And stop claiming that this isn’t about race)

13

Harry 09.14.18 at 2:32 am

A curious case, about someone Gina knows. The whitest person I have ever met (literally) was the only white kid in her middle school and the first two years of high school (urban public schools), in a frankly mismanaged urban district. (Her parents moved when she entered eleventh grade, and before you say “ah, well…”, she was the third child — the others had gone fully through the urban district). I’m confident that for her, as for me, being in a school replete with disadvantage was not a cost, and she was a benefit to the school. And, frankly, that she will perform her chosen vocation considerably better because of it (nursing — I can’t say the same about myself, I’m a philosopher). I’ve never asked her parents about their motivations.

But of course for some kids it would have been (I have three kids — I’m reasonably confident one of them would have been just fine, but not at all confident about one of the others). There’s an interesting question about the point at which it becomes not ok to take the risk. I disagree with Trader Joe that you should to the best for your kid, but you should probably do ok for them. Exactly what that means is one of the questions the post poses.

14

clew 09.14.18 at 3:03 am

My parents kept me and my younger brother in public schools — near St Louis, in the 1970s — not so much because we the kids would be beneficial to the schools, but because they (mostly my mother) could work for pay a bit less and spend a lot of time volunteering in the schools. I’m pretty sure the schools needed my parents’ PTA work a lot. I remember the math enrichment logic-and-foundations class (in grade school!) with enormous fondness, and wish I could remember the name of the workbooks. Lots of immigrant and refugee kids in that class, my first experience of being able to communicate in a formal language with someone who barely shared a natural language with me.

15

Gareth Wilson 09.14.18 at 6:28 am

Can’t argue with the marketing problem. If you try to get parents to favour other children over their own, you’re going against hundreds of millions of years of evolution. There’s literally a dinosaur called the “Good Mother Lizard”, and she wasn’t sitting on anyone else’s eggs. That said, if you’re really concerned with whether your child will be a good person, current psychology says you’re about 15 months too late.

16

Adam Swift 09.14.18 at 7:52 am

To echo and expand a bit on Ray Vinmad @3: It looks (and is) easy to object to the optimizing/maximizing parent. But that assumes a particular view about what it is that she is trying to optimize/maximize.

Suppose she is merely trying to give her child the best possible chance of avoiding absolutely bad outcomes. That is maximizing in a way, and as Ray suggests, given the ways opportunities and outcomes are structured, it can often lead to the same choices as ‘maximize outcomes’ parenting. Especially as there is a lot of uncertainty around and the the parent may well be risk-averse.

In circumstances where doing things to benefit her child may impact negatively on others who are worse off, perhaps the good parent aims only to give her child a good enough chance of achieving good enough outcomes?

17

Z 09.14.18 at 8:03 am

“I know I will not be such a good person that I choose where to live based entirely on a judgment that my kid’s presence in that neighborhood’s schools would do the most good impartially construed” “If that’s public, private, in-home or on the streets – that’s my call” “My kids went to public schools until […] they could not be adequately served there [s]o they went to private schools” “I’m reasonably confident one of them would have been just fine [in a school replete with disadvantage], but not at all confident about one of the others”

These statements, ostensibly on two different sides of a debate, puzzle me about equally. In all cases, there is an assertion of a choice: that of choosing the school you want, and changing schools if that is thought to be beneficial or if you think your current one is inadequate in some ways. The possibility of that choice is deplored, celebrated or simply asserted – but it is taken for granted that this choice exists, is important and should be discussed alongside the personal and social consequences of the alternatives it entails.

But strangely, there is an alternative choice that is for me at least equally salient (in fact much more so) that seems completely neglected, for reasons I cannot quite grasp: instead of changing schools, change the school. Choose what you want of a school and change your school in that direction, making it adequate if it is not. Of course your child exists right now and changing the school will take a long time, so the tension doesn’t disappear magically just because the question is framed through the choice of changing the school rather than changing school (French determiners, with the contrast between changer l’école and changer d’école they allow, help formulate this more elegantly).

Yet, by redefining the question as a collective one, as it should be, while affirming the agency of the subject, I believe considering that choice is a much more productive way to frame the debate. It does, I believe, almost abolish the moral dilemma of the young parent as stated by Gina Schouten in the OP: do your best to make public schools around you adequate using all the activist and electoral tools you have. If you do that consistently (in particular, if you do that with a careful examination of what actually helps disadvantaged students flourish and where the actual opposition to these measures lie etc.), I don’t think your own particular schooling arrangements will weigh that heavily in any given moral calculation.

18

Z 09.14.18 at 8:52 am

@Ray Vinmad many parents will see the situation where you don’t position your child the right way as less about failure to optimize, and more about failure to *save* their child

That’s very true, and important. As Jerry Vinokurov says here often, as long as there is no decent floor no matter what (whatever your level of education, your economic options, your race…), parents will do whatever they can to ensure that their children don’t fall down, and in doing so perpetuate or often worsen the situation. That’s where a Job Guarantee with a relatively high minimal wage could help a lot.

19

engels 09.14.18 at 9:20 am

Wonder if Hagerman would classify this kind of thing as ‘being a good parent’ rather than ‘being a good citizen’?

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/sep/13/uk-parents-using-dubious-tactics-beat-school-admissions-criteria-buying-renting-second-homes

20

engels 09.14.18 at 9:37 am

The idea that modern life is a jungle therefore all manner of aggressive and selfish behaviour is justified merely out of a drive for self-preservation has been a leitmotif of American culture for generations.

21

Zamfir 09.14.18 at 9:46 am

That’s where a Job Guarantee with a relatively high minimal wage could help a lot.
Then again, this already exists for the people who face these choices as choices. The people who could send their kid to the high-reputation school, who can safely assume that their kid is a benefit for a lower reputation school, if only as reputation enhancer.

Their kids are not going to struggle to get a minimum wage job. They might struggle to get a good/i> job, that is their parents’ fear. The kind of good job that a job guarantee is not going to guarantee.

22

engels 09.14.18 at 10:05 am

Something that always stuck in my mind: the inventor of the woke American concept of ‘privilege’ (in effect a moral cudgel for beating poor, white American men) was herself a privately educated teacher at a private school.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_McIntosh

23

J-D 09.14.18 at 10:22 am

Hooray, he fell asleep while I was nursing him …

My daughter developed early childhood caries, which we were assured was a consequence of falling asleep while nursing. I’d never heard of it before, and wished I had. So I share the knowledge.

As for the main topic: I think we tried to give her her own choices about schooling as much as we could, and I don’t regret it. (Admittedly, the way schools are funded here is different from the way they’re funded in America, but I’m not sure that affects the principle.)

24

Gina 09.14.18 at 10:24 am

Thanks for all the comments! A few thoughts:

On saving the kid vs. advantaging the kid. I take RV’s points. I don’t mean anything I’ve written to apply to the choices of those who *reasonably* regard the decision [[to put their kid in the school where there presence does most good (or least bad) impartially construed]] as an absolute *bad* for their kid. I definitely think there are cases where being a good parent involves optimizing in AS’s sense. And maybe, given uncertainty about future economic precarity, there are more such cases than I’ve been thinking there are. I took myself to be talking mainly about fairly secure middle class people, and I took Hagerman to be doing the same. (Her remarks in the quote are about “affluent” parents.) If the point is that even the affluent parents think they’re saving their kids from an absolute bad, then I guess I want to hear more about what that bad is, because I’m inclined to think the most likely candidate worries don’t really get them off the hook.

On the fact that this is a collective action problem: Yes! Agreed that we need political solutions! But that certainly doesn’t mean that the choices we have about how to navigate our flawed system have no moral dimensions. As others have said, I think that individual choices can make a difference, even if the difference is small when looked at on an institutional scale. AH’s kid and the whitest person Harry knows seem to be good examples of this. We should obviously not do what Hagerman is suggesting *to the exclusion of* working toward political reform. The question is about whether we should do it in addition, and *my* question is just about how we should construe our deliberating about such decisions in light of moral considerations: as in conflict with good parenting or as constitutive of good parenting?

On my arrogance: Fair point! I mean technically I think you just caught me assuming that I’m very likely to face a choice between the school that would most advantage my kid in conventional competitive ways and the school where his presence would do most good (you might even charitably read in “least bad”!) impartially construed. But yes, I confess that I was totally assuming he would be a net good at one among the options we have for his school. In my defense, my reasons for assuming that have nothing to do (as far as I can detect) with anything I regard as particularly great about him or any high estimation of my parenting. I was basically just thinking he’s likely to be a net good somewhere because he’s likely to have parents with flexible professional jobs who read to him, etc., and who talk to him about race and social class. But arrogant nonetheless, including to assume that I am likely still to have such a job when the schooling decision must be made! :)

25

Gina 09.14.18 at 10:29 am

Roger (2): I’m with Steve (8). You are way overachieving here!

26

ph 09.14.18 at 11:19 am

Congratulations! My own view (and probably that of my partner) is that wondering whether our child will be a good person when the child is still under the age of 5 is perhaps natural, but nonetheless odd. Our own view (stated, explicit) is that our kids should be happy and healthy, and equipped with the skills to care for themselves and others. The notion that that every/any child has some special responsibility to be ‘good’ brings to mind Confucian notions of the child’s duty to the parent and the group, which might not be a bad thing. Fairly large numbers of children are already taking medication and are anxious as children about climate change, gender equality, social responsibility etc. The golden rule still works well, but I’m not sure many remember what that is these days, especially now that guilty until proven innocent has become the new norm for many ‘liberals.’

My advice: enjoy every moment of this opportunity to spend time with a young mind. Children are our best teachers. I’m envious. Again, congratulations!
Every child is a blessing.

27

mw 09.14.18 at 1:45 pm

My own kids went to excellent, integrated public schools in an American college town. But it’s not clear how much benefit the integration, the local progressive attitudes, or the various rounds of initiatives to close the ‘achievement gap’ have provided. This seems like a pretty good summary of the situation:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/06/the-college-town-achievement-gap/526305/

Our experience was that by high-school, the black and Latino kids lead mostly separate lives from the white and Asian kids — they took different classes and even played different sports. What are you going to do — tell your kid to play football instead of soccer or lacrosse or not to take advanced college-prep classes because there are almost no minority students in them?

Given the persistent achievement gaps in school systems like ours, I’d have to say, sure, pick a diverse school system if you can, but focus on your own kid’s well-being (where you know you can have a major impact) and don’t expect integration to have any magical properties.

28

Z 09.14.18 at 2:35 pm

Gina It is the bizarre optimizing notion of good parenting that we should object to […]: “this collectively agreed-upon idea in our society that being a ‘good parent’ means…providing the best opportunities you can for your own child.”

This is important, but I would go way further.

I don’t think parenting is about providing the best opportunities you can for your own child (if pressed, I would rather say parenting is about assisting your child in his or her journey from “the helplessness of infancy”, as Dewey says, to autonomy, and that seems to me a rather distinct role that the role of opportunity provider; in fact I rather dislike the connotations lurking behind the apparently innocuous “best” in Margaret Hagerman’s formulation, which suggests a strangely controlling attitude quite antithetical to the development of the freedom of the child and appears to presuppose that parents have the moral rights and abilities to rank the paths opened to their children and act upon this ranking – a highly non-obvious supposition, to me).

But I think we’re not even there, in terms of discourse. That is, I strongly suspect the “good parenting means providing the best opportunity” is not a “collectively agreed-upon idea in our society” and more often than not not at all a carefully considered parenting philosophy, but rather a rhetorical trick which, when articulated, actually means something like “my parenting is about providing the most efficient means for my child to achieve some designated social places”, and thus that it has very few real links with opportunities in the broad sense of the term, or with parenting for that matter.

This I believe can be easily demonstrated by the fact that parents (from the relevant parts of society) will typically name all sorts of things as “important opportunities” for their children if asked to do so, but will typically behave extremely differently towards those which just happen to be accompanied with social rewards. Those which are socially neutral (in the societies I’m familiar with, having the opportunity to learn to draw or to play a lot of video games would fall in that category) are often considered with a form of benign neglect. Those which are opportunities and in addition important gateway to desirable social positions are often the objects of intense investments, sometimes with little relation to what children would pursue by themselves for instance (an interesting natural experiment being the very peculiar attitude American parents have towards sports – a reflection of the fact that in the US and essentially in the US alone in the developed world, excellency in sport is a factor to enter higher education -; yet most parents everywhere agree that practicing sport is an important opportunity for their children).

So I’m guess I’m saying that whenever one frames the question as Good parents vs. Good citizens, I suspect that what’s really going on is Good citizens vs. Bad citizens (or rather, because I don’t like moralizing) Citizens with values X vs. Citizens with values Y and that appeals to parental values obscure the facts that decisions are being made almost entirely under the parameters of X and Y. To be clear, that absolutely cuts both ways, so I don’t believe the father who sends his children to a fancy private school that just happens to be devoid of black students and justifies it because he wants them to be able to keep having the opportunity of practicing rowing competitively and that’s the only school that offers it in the neighborhood, but if you ever hear me say that I put my child in the local public junior high school because I thought that was the best way for him to develop an attachment to the value of the free, public service, then you can call me a hypocrite. I did it because I believe in the value of the free, public service. Yes, I hope that he will develop such an attachment and I will be happy if he does. Yes, I hope my example of sticking to the value of public service will be some sort of model. But that will be for him to decide, and second-order effects of my decision, which I would not change even if I were sure the exact opposite effects would ensue.

29

Trader Joe 09.14.18 at 2:47 pm

@24 “I took myself to be talking mainly about fairly secure middle class people, and I took Hagerman to be doing the same.”

If this is the target of the post aren’t we really talking about a pretty narrow subset of potential actions for most people? In general, most ‘secure middle class people’ are going to send their kids to the public school where they live – they might switch neighborhoods a bit to optimize, but if they live in the proverbial median neighborhood in their city, they aren’t likely to suddenly buy a house in an expensive neighborhood nor are they likely to sell down to a lower neighborhood either.

Likewise, more likely than not they aren’t going to be in a position to afford any sort of elite private school of privilege. They may consider some sort of faith based school or in some cases a special needs type school, but often those decisions are more motivated by the characteristics of those programs than something more classist.

I don’t deny people move house to get what they perceive to be “better” schools – but its usually something of a parallel shift. If their decisions are solely racially motivated – the problem isn’t whether they want what’s best for their kid, the problem is the racism and the school choice is simply a manifestation of that.

Maybe said better – if a person isn’t fundamentally racist or classist in the first place – any decision they are making on school choice is likely to be motivated primarily by what they see as “best” or “optimal” for that kid based on whatever factors they are keying on (socialization, intellect, athletic talent etc.). If they are really moving cause “this school is crummy and there are too many brown people” (or whatever) then I don’t think an argument of “think of the poor” is really going to reach them – their entrenched biases are already pretty established.

30

Martin James 09.14.18 at 2:58 pm

How does a good parent explain to a child that egalitarianism and the desire for status are contradictory?

31

tomsk 09.14.18 at 3:24 pm

“If you don’t want your kid to be sleeping in your bed when he’s sixteen, you must put him down drowsy but awake!”

Problem is, babies go to sleep while being fed. That’s just how they like to handle business. So the drowsy but awake thing (which plagued me too) basically amounts to ‘you must wake your baby up so you can then try to get him/her to go to sleep’, which to the sleep-deprived parent sounds like madness.

32

Lobsterman 09.14.18 at 3:29 pm

I’m sure all these white people’s kids feel very fortunate that their parents’ loyalty was to signaling virtue to a country run by MAGA chuds and lanyard types and not to their own flesh and blood.

Jeebus. Send your kid wherever is good for them. That’s usually public school (mostly because you can use the money you saved to get the kid other valuable things and because the school will give them lots of growth opportunities), but sometimes it’s not. They’re your kid. Love them and be good to them.

Argh.

33

ph 09.14.18 at 3:32 pm

@29 I can’t think of a middle-class family of any ethnicity who would willingly place their child in a school where disruptive students make it impossible for the teacher to do anything besides manage these children with difficulties. We went through this experience ourselves when we relocated (willingly) to a very mixed income/skill community. It only takes 3-4 young children from a class of 25 to 30 to significantly lower the chances of positive outcomes for other students.

The average African-American family has far, far fewer options and a much, much greater chance of being forced to place their children in schools where positive outcomes are very, very difficult to achieve.

I’ve long favored mandatory drug testing for parents because whatever we’re doing in lower-income public schools it’s generally not working. Hence, the support for charter schools among minorities. Think I’m wrong? Suggest to your partner that you remove your child from a successful school and move your child into one with a ‘more diverse’ eco-socio-ethnic mix. Try teaching even basic skills in a class where significant numbers of students are unable to communicate with each other, or the teacher. I know people who do, or rather try. It ain’t easy.

These problems these children face are real. Their parents do not worry their children falling prey to gangs, drugs, shootings, etc. on a daily basis – they’re fucking terrified, every day. And your view is that some of the people fleeing these schools do so on the basis of race/ethnicity?

Who exactly do you imagine wants to place their child in a failing school?

34

engels 09.14.18 at 4:12 pm

Between 1974 and 1988, Boston had a federal court-ordered integration program carried out through busing. In those fourteen years, the public school population in Boston dropped from 93,000 to 57,000. The percentage of white students decreased from 65 percent to 28 percent. And by 2003, 44 percent of white students in Boston attended private schools.
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/07/the-socialist-case-for-school-integration

35

engels 09.14.18 at 5:58 pm

A lot of this stuff about the moral wrong of teaching in or sending your kids to private schools (which I agree with) needs to be updated now that UK higher education is itself a kind of extension of the private school system.

36

TM 09.14.18 at 8:17 pm

I’m grateful that this very American kind of debate wouldn’t even be understood, wouldn’t make the least bit of sense, where I live.

To those who are in a situation where that debate is part of your lives: never ever take it for granted that this is how things are.

37

TM 09.14.18 at 8:20 pm

“If you don’t want your kid to be sleeping in your bed when he’s sixteen, you must put him down drowsy but awake!”

Why would anybody believe nonsense like that? If even half of standard parenting advice were true, it would be a mystery how the species even survived for so long.

38

Mat 09.14.18 at 8:52 pm

The social equity of school admissions is rising up the agenda (again) in England, too. Interestingly, people on all sides of the debate claim to be on the side of “social mobility”.

First there’s the expansion of grammar schools (exam schools) which has been defended as a gateway to privilege for the disadvantaged. In promoting this idea, Theresa May has implied that they are the only answer to “selection by mortgage” – the idea that distance-based admissions criteria are not only keeping poor kids out of good schools, but distorting house prices and thus also keeping poor kids out of good neighourhoods. However, the vast majority of quantitative research that has been done on the subject suggests that if grammar schools ever were for bright working class kids they arent any more.
Second, theres faith schools. Parents in some areas attend church solely as a way to get their child into the local CofE or Catholic school. In my opinion faith school admissions (not faith schools per se) are a bigger, albeit lower profile, problem than exam schools. This is firstly because there are many more of them (more than 20% of secondary schools in England), but also because the nature of self-segregation into faith schools is so much more to do with cultural insularity, without even the excuse of academic elitism.

39

S 09.14.18 at 11:53 pm

Under the cloak of anonymity I have an awful, but relevant, admission. I went to a state school in the uk, which was in a very socially mixed area. My parents were both well educated, we had lots of books at home, and I also had some great teachers at school. I then went on to a very famous University, where many of my peers were from private schools. When I was at University I was a staunch advocate for the State system, mocking others for their insistence that they would have floundered in a state school. Now I live next door to the local state secondary – in an area which is, again, very socially heterogeneous- and I gulp at the prospect of my young kids going there. The reason is not that I think they wouldn’t be ok, or even that they wouldn’t reach their full potential, but more because, on the basis of what I hear, I worry that they would receive the bullying I received for being ‘clever’. For all I know, it’s the same at private schools, but I sense it isn’t. Part of me holds onto the idea that the bullying was outweighed by the advantages, whether to me or more broadly, but, still, as the choice gets closer, my nerve gets weaker. I’m sorry that this post isn’t theoretically richer or more politically correct, but this topic worries me precisely because there are affective issues which I don’t know how to think about. And those issues might not generalise! (Even from my childhood to my own kids’ experience). Still, I think that there is something missing when we reduce these issues to a kind of ‘maximise your own child’s options’ vs ‘promote social well-being’ issue without bearing in mind the experience of school. (This is not to stack the OP – just to add something).

40

Marc 09.15.18 at 12:33 am

I understand the moral sentiment. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine a program more likely to backfire than one that calls people racists for ordinary acts – like sending their children to a neighborhood school.

It’s also insulting to the people who already do send their kids to urban schools. You see, the “right sort” of parent can make sure that their child succeeds in “that sort” of school. So, clearly, there must be something wrong with the parents who send their kids to urban schools and have the kids fail. By contrast, this is *very* understandable if you recognize that children in urban schools are being set up to fail by a rotten system. They don’t have a fair shake, by design.

But if this is the case – the schools in the inner city are unconditionally worse – then on what basis can we ask parents to deliberately seek them out? Because the presence of their one child will turn the school around?

41

J-D 09.15.18 at 2:20 am

Marc

Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine a program more likely to backfire than one that calls people racists for ordinary acts – like sending their children to a neighborhood school.

Nobody here advocated a program of calling people racists for sending their children to neighbourhood schools, so why did you fabricate that?

42

J-D 09.15.18 at 3:25 am

engels

… the inventor of the woke American concept of ‘privilege’ (in effect a moral cudgel for beating poor, white American men) …

When my daughter makes use of the concept of privilege (and she does), it does not have the effect of morally cudgelling poor, white American men; so you are, in effect, libelling my daughter (and presumably many other people as well), and libel is not a constructive contribution to debate.

43

ccc 09.15.18 at 8:25 am

Ok argument as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough.

Anyone living in a wealthy country and who is anywhere near the average in terms of climate footprint prior to having a kid will, by having a kid, shoot far above the globally sustainable per capita climate footprint. By having a kid they virtually ensure that they, and their kid, will be causally complicit in very serious climate change harms against innocent others. Since climate change will predictably generate harmful disease, forced migration and death.

Given that context, and given the logic of Gina’s argument, it seems an extended conclusion is that first radically reducing the climate footprint of your lifestyle is a morally necessary condition for the moral permissibility of later having a child.

Or, if the kid is already here, now make that radical reduction even more strongly, to compensate for overshoot already done and to prevent overshoot going forward.

44

engels 09.15.18 at 9:11 am

you are, in effect, libelling my daughter

Sue me

45

Neville Morley 09.15.18 at 9:39 am

@S #39: single data point, and it was some decades ago, but I really wouldn’t assume that British private schools are free from bullying for being clever (or the wrong sort of clever) – and not just students but staff.

46

engels 09.15.18 at 11:52 am

…independent schools — where the average fees are £17,232 a year per child — are being used as a haven for the corrupt around the world to launder both their money and reputations…
https://www.ft.com/content/5a2ab2a4-b83b-11e8-b3ef-799c8613f4a1

47

ph 09.15.18 at 12:33 pm

The charge of racism remains a powerful rhetorical cudgel and tool of discourse/thought policing among the emotionally and intellectually weak. What’s racist?

Everything others do that compels me to question my own beliefs.

I’ve mentioned Geraldine Ferraro before – the now forgotten first woman to be nominated for vice-president, bludgeoned into obscurity for daring to point out that a charismatic African-American man was bound to generate excitement among an electorate hungry for change.
http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-ferraro13mar13-story.html

As for programs to brand dissent as racist, there’s this:

At one point, Ackerman suggested that fellow members of the listserv should fight the way the right is fueling the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story by choosing one of Obama’s conservative critics, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

At another point, Ackerman acknowledged that, while he didn’t like having to toe a partisan line…” What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a right winger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.

And because center-left and center-right and independents are well aware that the term ‘racist’ is used as tool of discourse policing predominantly by entitled white ‘liberals’ and their hypocritical allies, nobody but the snowflake community and the invested much gives a fig whenever the now empty vessel is launched in their direction.

But that doesn’t mean white liberals aren’t still terrified of the charge. So many are easily cowed and quick to prostrate themselves and beg forgiveness, which amuses the rest of us no end. Profiles in courage and all that.

48

Dipper 09.15.18 at 12:47 pm

“how progressive, middle-class parents make decisions—decisions about where to live and thus what schools their kids will attend, and with whom, etc.—that perpetuate racial inequality.”

From a UK perspective, the concept of perpetuating racial inequality through decisions about which school your child goes to doesn’t really make sense. There isn’t really any racial inequality in education. If you live in London and you go to a racially mixed school in all likelihood you will have lots of money spent on your child and the school will produce good results. The introduction of Free schools (e.g. Michaela) and charter schools in England seems to have moved debate on from racial inequality to the best kind of school to deliver results in deprived areas. You should just choose the best school for your children regardless of other issues. And what the best school for you child is depends very much on your child.

49

eg 09.15.18 at 2:05 pm

@S #39

While I understand the anxiety that any parent feels imagining their child being bullied it is my experience (having two children of my own and having worked in education for 30 years) that they are going to experience it regardless of where they attend school, and where they live — the basis upon which they experience it will be through the unique combination of their own traits and those of their peers. I believe that all you can really control is how you respond to the circumstances when they arise, with an eye to the development in your child some set of coping mechanisms — because they will likely continue to face similar challenges in adulthood, either in the workplace or in their social scene.

Be mindful also that your children will also participate in bullying of their own, and the challenges that will come in dealing with this aspect of their behaviour.

I hope this doesn’t come across as too pessimistic — just trying to encourage some planning for what I believe to be an inevitable part of parenting.

50

Orange Watch 09.15.18 at 2:56 pm

engels@22:
My experience is that it’s not primarily for use as a cudgel against poor white men, but rather as a cudgel against people who might challenge the structure of that intellectual tradition’s entrenched hierarchy – which is to say someone who would point to the contradictions in “oppression = credibility and understanding” being spouted by an extremely well-educated and economically stable academic. It’s more for protecting Very Important discourse from discussion – let alone prioritization – of class or income than for attacking the filthy, uncouth proles directly. I’d say a telling parallel to how privilege is traditionally deployed would be the co-opting of intersectional critiques of existing socio-economic activism – these went from frequently including “poor” as a common intersecting identity to almost exclusively inherent demographic identities. Convenient, that…

51

harry b 09.15.18 at 3:36 pm

What dipper says about racial inequality in the UK is true, but choices effect class inequality. One of the ways kids effect each other is by the choices teachers make about where to work — having (maybe a few) more middle class kids in a school can increase the pool of teachers available/make it less likely that good teachers will leave.

I don’t have the stats to hand, but I am pretty sure that among boys there are, actually, small racial achievement gaps in the UK state system, with white boys underperforming other racial groups. (One of the mild irritants of working with liberal cosmopolitan Americans in educational research who are quick to accuse other scholars of US-centrism, is the way that many are so parochial about race).

52

Harry 09.15.18 at 3:48 pm

Engels is overgeneralizing for sure (and he knows he is).

But it is instructive to observe the cackhanded way that privilege is often discussed on college campuses. Anecdote. An Indian-American TA in a teacher ed program berates his discussion section every time he meets them for their white privilege and, every time he meets them, says they have white saviour complex. They are aiming to become teachers (a low status low paid profession), whereas he’s aiming to become a professor; as you’d expect, they are disproportionately first generation students. Why do I hear this anecdote? Because on of the students (who is incandescent) is a friend of mine. First gen, from a single parent household. And, incidentally, Latina (but, evidently, she passes….). I hear enough badmouthing of ‘white middle class’ teacher ed students from upper middle class (some white, some not) professors that her story doesn’t surprise me. An interesting strategy. (One, very eminent, scholar is renowned for frequently saying in her work that (k-12) teachers should never disrespect their students and yet, in a major address, complains that most teacher ed students are “white middle class women” with an implicature that this makes them unqualified to be good teachers of black and brown students (despite ample empirical evidence to the contrary, btw)).

53

engels 09.15.18 at 4:23 pm

Yes it was hyperbole (sorry). My main point was that from where I (and I would guess most Brits) stand McIntosh’s most blindingly obvious ‘privilege’ is having attended first expensive private schools and then Harvard before teaching at Brearley (non-Westerners might put American nationality in its place I guess). But as I understand she thinks of herself first and foremost as oppressed because she’s female and privileged because she is white. There’s even an interview with her that I’m not going to Google now where she lists a whole raft of other factors, none of which are class. That kind of discourse seems taylor-made for mystifying people about real mechanics of structural oppression, which imsho is what American academia and media always did anyway long before they became ‘woke’. Plus ça change…

54

Mercurius Londiniensis 09.15.18 at 4:29 pm

@S 39 and Neville Morley 45

Earlier this year, the Sunday Times published an excerpt from the childhood memoirs of one William Miller, son of the well-known UK TV doctor and opera producer, Jonathan Miller. Even though he is now a successful TV producer himself, WM has yet to forgive his parents for sending him and his siblings to a rough comprehensive, where they were mercilessly bullied. Now the son of a high-profile media figure might well have been bullied anywhere but, according to Miller, ALL the children at the school who showed any interest in their academic work (most of whom were the offspring of well-meaning middle-class leftists) were bullied. I hope that schools like that no longer exist but, if they do, I can understand why someone might find it hard to forgive his parents for sending him to one.

55

engels 09.15.18 at 5:51 pm

“Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one’s place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents’ places of origin, or your parents’ relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background.“
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-origins-of-privilege

‘In her original 1988 essay, McIntosh listed forty-six of her own everyday advantages, such as “I can go shopping most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed”; “I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race”; and “If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.”’

”McIntosh was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in New Jersey, where she attended public schools in Ridgewood and Summit, and spent one year at Kent Place School, before attending George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania. After studying English at Radcliffe College and at University College, London, she became a teacher at Brearley, a girls’ school in New York City”
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_McIntosh

George School

Tuition & Fees For the 2018-2019 academic year:
Boarding Students — $59,750 Includes tuition, room and board, and some materials/lab fees.
Day Students — $39,975 Includes tuition, all meals, and some materials/lab fees.

http://www.georgeschool.org/admission/affording-george-school/tuition-fees/

Radcliffe College

The total 2018-2019 cost of attending Harvard College without financial aid is $46,340 for tuition and $67,580 for tuition, room, board, and fees combined.

https://www.harvard.edu/about-harvard/harvard-glance

Brearley

2018-2019 TUITION K-XII $49,680 Tuition includes lunch, books, supplies and class trips. By arrangement with Tuition Management Systems, tuition may be paid in ten equal monthly installments.

https://www.brearley.org/page/admission/tuition–financial-assistance

56

Omega Centauri 09.15.18 at 7:09 pm

Lobsterman @32 ++
Trying to give your kid the best chances possible without breaking the rules of decency is what its all about. That means you don’t treat schooling as a zerosum game, and encourage them to sabotage the composition -for instance checking out and sitting on books you don’t want your “competition” to be able to read before the exam. So by all means, teach that greater egalitarianism is an important public good, but so is trying to be the best you can be.

57

Omega Centauri 09.15.18 at 10:37 pm

ccc@43,
If we are speaking of our contribution to climate change, or other negative social forces, it is good to keep in mind that our individual contributions are not constrained to be near the societal average, and that we have some control over their level. For instance as far as carbon goes, my family were early adopters of LED lighting, solar, and electric vehicles. We still directly consume some fossil fueled products, but are visibly well below the norm. Other effects have to do with financial shot in the arm that early adopters bring to developing technology, and to the extent we inspire others to copy some of our choices, like going solar, and trying electrical cars etc. We can also choose how we invest money.At least the interest I earn off of solar loans exceeds my residual utility bills. So a given family in an above average emitting country, can have a zero or negative footprint if they make it a big enough priority. The same could probably be true of education: send your kids to the best local school, but offer to do free tutoring to the less fortunate kids…

58

J-D 09.16.18 at 3:15 am

engels

Yes it was hyperbole (sorry).

Apology accepted. I also apologise for not giving adequate consideration to figurative language; but even now that I consider it further, I’m still not clear on your literal meaning (I didn’t ever think that you were referring to a literal cudgel, but reflecting on that point I still don’t know what, in literal terms, the metaphorical cudgel represented).

So instead of guessing at your literal meaning, I will state for myself some things I believe to be literally true.

Some discussions of privilege are badly distorted by entirely or almost entirely leaving out the factor of class.

The factor of class can be usefully incorporated into accounts of privilege, and the concept of privilege can be usefully applied to class-related issues.

When not badly distorted, the concept of privilege can be a legitimate and useful one.

Now, if you disagree, literally, with those statements, our positions are in conflict; but if you don’t, perhaps they aren’t.

59

Dipper 09.16.18 at 8:46 am

@ Mercurius Londiniensis – 54

” Even though he is now a successful TV producer himself, WM has yet to forgive his parents for sending him and his siblings to a rough comprehensive, where they were mercilessly bullied.”

… He is now a successful TV producer so it doesn’t seem to have done him lasting harm. Perhaps the experience of being mercilessly bullied means he is now capable of getting on with a wide range of people and not phased at having to cope with numerous suits and egos.

Would he now swap places with those who were bullying him?

60

Harry 09.16.18 at 12:03 pm

53 Exactly
58 I don’t know what engels’s point is exactly but it might be that, sure, privilege can, and should, incorporate considerations of class, but it often doesn’t. and when it doesn’t it goes seriously awry. As in my little anecdote. But I could multiply that many times. As, for example, when Harvard-educated leaders in a school district corral all the employees into ‘difficult conversations’ about race, which (as they often do) implicitly or even explicitly forbid any incorporation of class. People without a college education in low status low wage jobs (eg the secretarial staff) in which they are physically in danger from clients/students (which I would say all the secretarial, and teaching, staff are in the school my child attends) really don’t appreciate being told they are privileged by people earning 5 times what they do who went to places like Harvard, whatever race any of them are. And they are right not to appreciate it.

61

engels 09.16.18 at 12:04 pm

I still don’t know what, in literal terms, the metaphorical cudgel represented

If you analyses oppression using typologies of gender and race than you get a 2×2 matrix with ‘white men’ in the ‘oppressor’ square and ‘black women’ in the oppressed. Put that together with a style of ‘activism’ that’s primarily about guilt-tripping people online and you got yourself a moral cudgel for beating up disadvantaged white men. (I’ve also personally seen it used against black people and women who don’t toe the party line on the grounds that ‘you don’t have to be a white man to be a white man’ but that’s another story.)

if you disagree, literally, with those statements, our positions are in conflict

We disagree, as I don’t find ‘privilege’ (in the American college student/amateur sociology sense) to be a useful way of thinking about class (or race or gender).

62

Harry 09.16.18 at 12:14 pm

54 and 59. I attended a comprehensive school with similar demographics (as I implied upthread). I was already 15 when I started but… honestly, I don’t think anyone of my ilk was bullied for that sort of reason. I also attended (when younger) a more academic grammar school where I was bullied for being fat and a poofter/queero/bender/gosh they had lots of words for it (I was the former, but not the latter), as were other boys. Not badly, and not by many kids, and not for long. I dunno what to think about JM’s son. But he might do well to talk to the many posh colleagues he has about the kind of bullying that went on in their private/public schools that JM should have sent him to. I met lots of kids from such schools in college, and their stories were really horrid.

63

ph 09.16.18 at 1:34 pm

@59 This strikes me as a remarkably stupid, insensitive, and atypical comment.

What WM is saying, if you’re actually listening and interested, is that despite being a successful producer, he is nonetheless neither happy, nor content because he is haunted by lasting, hard-to-erase, memories of prolonged pain, loss, suffering, and betrayal.

Your response is: ‘But he has money, fame, and power, what’s the problem?’

Think it over, you can do better.

64

eg 09.16.18 at 2:56 pm

@54

The error here is in supposing that some other school or social context would be free of bullying.

No such place exists.

I am reminded of the final line in an Earle Birney poem, “Bast” about a housecat’s failed attempt to kill some birds in the yard,: “the wrens fly off to other deaths.”

65

Orange Watch 09.16.18 at 3:34 pm

J-D@58:

Some discussions of privilege are badly distorted by entirely or almost entirely leaving out the factor of class.

As per Harry and engels, albeit a bit more succinctly: the problematic “cudgel” aspect is not that conversations about/accusations of/ontologies based on privilege frequently (passively) neglect to include class so much as how said conversations/accusations/ontologies frequently are used to (actively) exclude class from consideration or discussion.

66

LFC 09.16.18 at 4:35 pm

@engels

I don’t know where you received your university education, but if it wasn’t Oxford or Cambridge then I assume it was a British institution roughly or nearly their equal in terms of prestige and quality. So doesn’t that make you, not “privileged” since you don’t like that word, but “advantaged” by your own metrics (irrespective, incidentally, of your current income/wealth, net worth, or occupational niche)?

67

Chris Bertram 09.16.18 at 5:29 pm

I guess the only thing about the OP that gives me pause is the implied equation between being a good person and being a good citizen. That seems to me a little too quick. What we really need to instil is the sense of justice. Sometimes that implies good citizenship, but often it will be in tension with fulfilling the role of citizen in a particular state both because cosmopolitan duties can trump associative ones and because one can have a permission to pursue one’s ambitions in ways that conflict with the duties of citizenship by, for example, emigrating.

68

engels 09.16.18 at 5:54 pm

I think you can include class but at the cost of turning it into another identity category (’authentocracy’ as the right-wing version of this has been dubbed in Britain) and hardly anyone does anyway. The whole approach is far too subjective and obsessed with personal behaviour and fails to recognise how the most important social processes operate (to use a Marxian phrase) behind the backs of agents.

So doesn’t that make you, not “privileged” since you don’t like that word, but “advantaged” by your own metrics (irrespective, incidentally, of your current income/wealth, net worth, or occupational niche)?

Yes it does (and it’s not the word I dislike but the politics that’s been built around it).

69

engels 09.16.18 at 6:45 pm

(I wasn’t claiming to have been personally victimised by it, if that’s why you were asking.)

70

Dipper 09.16.18 at 6:52 pm

@ph – 63 ” a remarkably stupid, insensitive, and atypical comment”

so, I did some googling and found this account , and then
this. And then that school. Well for a rough comprehensive it seems to have produced quite a lot of successful people.

It is unfair to comment on an actual person when they are not around, but there seem to be a couple of thing where worth commenting on with regards to parents and parenting. Firstly, parents are generally just doing their best. They may even be dealing with issues from their own parents and passing a few on. So forgiving parents their errors would seem to be a charitable thing to do. Secondly, WM seems to have been quite successful. It is a common conceit to say that all the problems and failures in your life are down to one’s parents but all the successes are down to you and no-one else. If you are going to judge your parents’ role in your life, you should consider the whole picture, and not just cherry pick the bad bits.

Oh, and finally Gina, the thing that makes the difference is useful contacts. People who can use their influence to get your child a little ahead of their peers. The work experience that gives them more to talk about in that critical first round of job interviews. The inside knowledge that makes them more effective in that internship. So if you are wondering how to do the best for your child, cultivate influential contacts.

71

engels 09.16.18 at 8:21 pm

(Also while I don’t wish to detain the Crooked Timber readership with the details of how I earn my screw I’m more than happy to confirm it isn’t by teaching at a $50K/yr Upper East Side prep school or leading corporate diversity symposia.)

72

Omega Centauri 09.16.18 at 8:42 pm

Dipper @59.
To echo about being bullied. I was mercilessly bullied in Junior High, and it left me with lifelong social insecurities/deficits. Its probably why I didn’t get married until age 40. One can be successful in some obvious ways, but still have “issues”.

73

TM 09.16.18 at 8:44 pm

Re engels The statement that “the concept of privilege” was “invented” in 1988 makes so little sense one seriously has to wonder.

So the charge is that a feminst who wrote about white and male privilege was herself privileged. Had McIntosh been a black poor orphan, would that change engels’ atttude? And more importantly, would it change the validity of her arguments?

Had McIntosh claimed for herself to be free of privilege, perhaps the charge would be worth considering. But even a cursory wikipedia reading proves him wrong:
Both papers rely on personal examples of unearned advantage that McIntosh says she experienced in her lifetime, especially from 1970 to 1988. McIntosh encourages individuals to reflect on and recognize their own unearned advantages and disadvantages as parts of immense and overlapping systems of power. …
“In her original 1988 essay, McIntosh listed forty-six of her own everyday advantages …”

Perhaps that advice would be of benefit even to engels himself.

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engels 09.16.18 at 11:29 pm

Ok, now TM has showed up I think I’ll call it a night.

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Harry 09.16.18 at 11:39 pm

Ah, Pimlico school. Not a bad school when he went there. I don’t know, though, the notable list includes 7 footballers and 1 notable nazi (the unlovely Patrick Harrington (no relation to the great character actor) who must have been a contemporary of Miller’s). The interview doesn’t say how long he was there. And there are many explanations for unhappiness and depression (If I were being flippant I’d suggest it was the architecture, but I would be being flippant, not serious, and don’t want to be taken the wrong way). To be fair he sounds like what he really resents is a neglectful father, and the article is making more of the schooling stuff than is warranted. Who knows what the paper’s agenda is?

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Rob Chametzky 09.17.18 at 1:37 am

Harmonica convergence or sour notes? “Naked Capitalism” just recently (5-7 September) had a three-part series on Peggy McIntosh and her vision of ‘privilege’. The last/third one is first on the link:

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/author/andrew

–Rob Chametzky

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Helen 09.17.18 at 2:19 am

Trader Joe:

I’m sorry. Choosing an education is an individual decision and in all cases I would choose whats best for the person for whom I am responsible. If that’s public, private, in-home or on the streets – that’s my call, to the best of my ability, based on what I know about my child (by I, I mean both parents but that’s harder to write). I don’t expect anyone else to do any different for their kid either. This is firmly in individual choice territory.

Those who wish to purposely send their kid to a worse school, by all means do so – that is firmly your choice.

In my experience, having had two children educated in the public system, this is framed the wrong way. The neoliberal-captured media and other parents were, when our kids were nearly high school age, firmly of the belief that private schools were where it’s at and that public secondary schools, especially the one in our area, were sinks of iniquity, drugs and squalor. Having visited and researched the school in our area, I found that its performance (in both STEM and the arts) was fairly high and rising. By the time my youngest got there it was becoming stellar. In that time there have been numerous media reports of publicly bad behaviour and drug use on the part of kids from the elite private schools. If I had my time again, I’d still send my kids to Local Public school, but aspirational snobbery and the scare stories from the tabloid media have a firm hold on the public mind.
So it’s not about sending your kids to a “worse” school necessarily, but maybe about letting them use local resources rather than (as happens here) pantomime religious belief to get the kids into a private school where it’s believed they will receive superior teaching and ethical standards (not borne out by reality), in order to demonstrate that you’ve Made the Effort wrt your kids’ education.

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Jerry Vinokurov 09.17.18 at 3:29 am

Mazel tov on the new addition to the family! As a relatively new dad myself (my son just turned 1), I know all of those feelings, and let me just say: no one has anything figured out and the child development/sleep training/whatever book industry is a gigantic pack of lies intended to swindle you out of your money. Most of this stuff is only good for exacerbating anxieties in new parents; within reason, whatever you do will work out fine.

Anyway, I read through this thread and I guess the thing that jumped out at me was how the entire juxtaposition between “good parent” and “good citizen” really individualizes what I think should be a collective endeavor. I look, for example, at this quote from Hagerman:

When affluent white parents are making these decisions about parenting, they could consider in some way at least how their decisions will affect not only their kid, but other kids. This might mean a parent votes for policies that would lead to the best possible outcome for as many kids as possible, but might be less advantageous for their own child.

Emphasis mine. Well, yes, they should. But it seems to me that some category mistake is being made when we compare “parenting” with how one votes. I have ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that these things need not be at all related; a good parent might nevertheless be a “bad citizen,” but, contra Hagerman, their bad citizenship would not be demonstrated in their parenting (and vice versa). They would just be doing things that Hagerman might think are bad, but I question whether these are genuinely “parenting” decisions per se.

More generally, I am dismayed at the extent to which the mode of personal, individual action has become the lens through which much of the putative left has come to see social reform. Here the emphasis is on: where do you send your kids, what advantages do you give them, what should you do differently. It is, of course, salutary to examine one’s own actions in a critical light and ask if they are, indeed, good but forgive my skepticism if I don’t see that as the path to solving legitimately difficult social problems. Would some schools be better off if some rich white people individually chose to send their kids there? Maybe. But any plan that relies on this happening is already doomed to failure. It seems to me that we should really be asking questions like: why is there such inequity in school resources? why and how are students with the greatest need so often concentrated in isolation from their peers? how can we attack actually existing conditions of poverty that are known to track extremely well with academic underachievement?

Those are hard questions, and the answers to them are not going to be “a few rich, white parents make the individual decision to send their children to minority-majority schools.” Partly because the number of such parents is going to be vanishingly small, but also because even if there were more than a few of them, they still wouldn’t address most of the issues (poverty, mass incarceration, violence) that actually impact the other students. Actually addressing those issues would require major structural reforms in everything from how schools are funded to how non-white communities are policed, and I’m sad to say that not many white Americans, especially of the relatively affluent variety, have any interest in solving those problems. This belief in the transformative power of individual experience strikes me as unrealistically romantic in the best case, and downright toxic in the worst; it feels like a bad inheritance from our uniquely deranged form of Protestantism to insist on a personal spiritual transformation as a solution to what are clearly social ills.

As far as “optimization” goes, I have to wonder what’s meant by this. If I teach my son to play chess, have I “optimized” his opportunities somehow? Obviously, I recognize that there are plenty of people who engage in the extracurricular activities charade because that’s what’s needed to make oneself attractive to fancy universities these days, but there is also legitimate value in many of these pursuits. There are some people, perhaps in this very thread, who might say that by teaching my son chess or by having an advanced science background and thereby being able to teach him math or physics or biology or programming at an early age, or even just by having a sizeable library in my home I’m unfairly advantaging him relative to his peers, but also, I kind of don’t care and am going to do that anyway because I think those things are good and I want to give and teach my son good things.

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Jerry Vinokurov 09.17.18 at 3:35 am

As Jerry Vinokurov says here often, as long as there is no decent floor no matter what (whatever your level of education, your economic options, your race…), parents will do whatever they can to ensure that their children don’t fall down, and in doing so perpetuate or often worsen the situation.

It’s nice to be remembered! Even nicer to be remembered positively!

Hopefully this will get published after my previous comment so everything makes sense in sequence, but yes, this here is part of the problem. If there’s no floor to how bad things can get, and if the only way to ensure that you don’t fall into the abyss is to climb the bodies of your rivals so you can snatch up one of the few available prizes (in the form of a steady income, a decent place to live, etc.), then you can certainly expect a lot of body-pyramids to spring up in short order. As real opportunities shrink away from people who didn’t check all the requisite status boxes, it makes perfect sense that the fight for status will become increasingly more vicious. This, again, is not a problem that can be solved by a few rich, white parents sending their kids to a poor, black school, but I suspect that most rich, white parents aren’t going to like the collective solutions to this problem any more than the individual ones.

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J-D 09.17.18 at 5:20 am

engels

Put that together with a style of ‘activism’ that’s primarily about guilt-tripping people online and you got yourself a moral cudgel …

Put anything together with a style of self-described activism that’s primarily about guilt-tripping people and you get the metaphorical equivalent of a moral cudgelling. It’s the ‘primarily about guilt-tripping people’ that’s the problem. If there are people whose primary purpose is guilt-tripping other people, then that is what they should be criticised for, not whatever concepts they happen to make use of for that purpose.

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to suppose, whenever you observe people making use of the concept of privilege, that their primary purpose is guilt-tripping other people.

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Z 09.17.18 at 9:00 am

It’s nice to be remembered! Even nicer to be remembered positively!

Jerry (if I may), half of the time I push Submit in a CT’s thread, I’d rather press the Summon Jerry Vinokurov button. For instance, I would have used it to produce this

“Actually addressing those issues would require major structural reforms in everything from how schools are funded to how non-white communities are policed, and I’m sad to say that not many white Americans, especially of the relatively affluent variety, have any interest in solving those problems. This belief in the transformative power of individual experience strikes me as unrealistically romantic in the best case, and downright toxic in the worst; it feels like a bad inheritance from our uniquely deranged form of Protestantism to insist on a personal spiritual transformation as a solution to what are clearly social ills […] This, again, is not a problem that can be solved by a few rich, white parents sending their kids to a poor, black school, but I suspect that most rich, white parents aren’t going to like the collective solutions to this problem any more than the individual ones.

with which I agree completely. I would push back a bit about this though

Most of the [child development/sleep training/whatever book industry] is only good for exacerbating anxieties in new parents; within reason, whatever you do will work out fine.

I think your conclusion is correct provided the parent is fine with it. If you are happy with what you do, your children will turn out fine. But if somehow a parent finds himself ill-at-ease with his parenting practices, I think reading a couple of books (if that’s your thing) or discussing with other parents (it that’s it) can help.

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ccc 09.17.18 at 9:32 am

Omega Centauri @57:

The actions you list are part of what I’d label radically reducing the climate footprint. Though a big omission from the list is not eat animal products. But even including that I worry that doing all those things and then having more than one child still generates overshoot. For context here a reviewer summarizes a recent book by philosopher Sarah Conly:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41296-016-0007-9
“Conly’s … innovative (and I think mostly correct) thesis: while all adults have a strong pro tanto right to procreative autonomy, this right does not entitle its bearer to create as many children as their heart desires. Rather, it entitles them to create the number of children that is consistent with respecting the morally relevant interests of others, including existing and future human beings who may suffer the adverse environmental consequences of unconstrained population growth. For Conly, this is no more than one child per couple, an upper limit that is morally required, and that in some cases may be legally enforced.”

I’d only add that more recent work, e.g. references in https://www.jasonhickel.org/blog/2018/9/14/why-growth-cant-be-green , make it doubtful if even Conly’s one child suggestion is enough or if that too will generate overshoot. Perhaps the level should be reduced further to on average 0.5 child. In practical terms only the proportion of people who manage to even more radically reduce their climate (and other environmental) footprint below the already radical list of reduction steps talked about earlier would be morally permitted to have one single child.

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ccc 09.17.18 at 9:43 am

addition to my comment to Omega Centauri @57:
I meant to say on average 0.5 child per lifetime couple (not per individual person).

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engels 09.17.18 at 10:47 am

If there are people whose primary purpose is guilt-tripping other people, then that is what they should be criticised for, not whatever concepts they happen to make use of for that purpose.

Ah yes the time-honoured internet knockdown: ‘you’re talking about X but you should be talking about Y’.

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Z 09.17.18 at 11:22 am

By the way, Harry B’s 51

One of the mild irritants of working with liberal cosmopolitan Americans in educational research who are quick to accuse other scholars of US-centrism, is the way that many are so parochial about race

and the TA anecdote startled me quite a bit. I didn’t expect to read this on CT (and just to be clear, I’m happy to read it).

engels @61 I don’t find ‘privilege’ (in the American college student/amateur sociology sense) to be a useful way of thinking about class (or race or gender).

Agreed. Amusingly (but perhaps not surprisingly) I find it especially inadequate to discuss the American situation.

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Jerry Vinokurov 09.17.18 at 1:44 pm

I think your conclusion is correct provided the parent is fine with it. If you are happy with what you do, your children will turn out fine. But if somehow a parent finds himself ill-at-ease with his parenting practices, I think reading a couple of books (if that’s your thing) or discussing with other parents (it that’s it) can help.

Yes, that is certainly an important caveat. I guess my original post was somewhat of a rhetorical overreaction to the fact that there is just so much snake oil being proffered on the subject of what children should eat and how they should sleep and so on, and which preys directly on the anxieties of parents.

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J-D 09.18.18 at 3:28 am

engels

Ah yes the time-honoured internet knockdown: ‘you’re talking about X but you should be talking about Y’.

No meaning is communicated to me by that comment, which I suppose is only a problem if you wanted to communicate with me.

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ph 09.18.18 at 4:48 am

Back on topic – Want to raise good kids? Pray, say scientists at Harvard.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/09/17/raising-kids-with-religion-or-spirituality-may-protect-their-mental-health-study/#7925eccd3287

Nobody tell Dawkins.

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TM 09.18.18 at 6:06 am

Likening antiracism to a “cudgel” is an old rhetorical strategy of racists.

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engels 09.18.18 at 8:27 am

No, I don’t wish to argue with either of you (I think I may have said that once or twice already…)

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bianca steele 09.18.18 at 2:58 pm

The discussion about where to send your kids to school displays some path dependence. (Skin in game proviso, anti-TMI version: I have a 9 year old in public school; I live in an area with few private schools, almost all of which are not options for me due to some combination of cost, class-related comfort, or religion; I was in fact compelled to choose a grade school by the rules in my town, rather than having one chosen for me.) Historically, and still among some demographics (upper middle class and wealthy dwellers in city centers), white parents have fled schools as they became racially (not economically) integrates. Traditionally, the expert consensus is something like “any school can be good for any child.” Given these points, it’s hard to see why anyone would choose a private school for other than bad reasons. Obviously, there are other arguments, and these two aren’t always true either (I think), but even if there are counterarguments to be made, I’m not the one to make them.

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Orange Watch 09.18.18 at 3:18 pm

TM@89:

If we’re talking about rhetorical strategies, it’s worth pointing out that the one you’re using now should lead us to denounce anti-animal-cruelty laws, because as we must recall, anti-animal-cruelty laws were among the first laws imposed by the Nazis.

Or possibly it makes more sense to judge arguments by how their thesis stands up rather than intentionally engaging in affirming the consequent to rhetorically appeal to the audience’s emotions.

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engels 09.18.18 at 4:45 pm

This just popped up on my Twitter feed (probably more constructive and less inflammatory than my comments)

…Although ‘intersectionality theory’ does not necessarily end up in affirming identity politics, they both share the tendency to focus on oppression and individual experience of it, rather than on what creates the condition for it. [2] We are currently witnessing a problematic intersection of state ideology and liberal leftist politics when it comes to race, class and gender – and ‘intersectionality’ will be a useless tool to question this. Capitalism needs divide-and-rule to maintain itself but even if it wanted to it couldn’t do away with the material basis of racism and sexism. The state has to manage a severe capitalist crisis, which does not allow them to make concessions, e.g. universal childcare, full employment etc., that would do away with the material basis for (black) working class women’s/peoples’ socially disadvantaged position (as prime carers or reserve army of labour). While biological differences between men and women have become less significant, capitalism would not and cannot (afford to) invest in services and technologies that would create an ‘equal playing field’, that would counteract women’s specific needs during pregnancy, after child birth, in certain forms of manual labour etc. So capitalism also cannot integrate the impoverished Black surplus population and is not able to develop the largely Black peripheral economies of the globe. Again, not mainly because racism is a good divide-and-rule tactic, but as a result of the capitalist mode of production and its contradictions. Being confronted with discontent of marginalised groups, the state tries to avert addressing the underlying systemic questions and prefer to talk about ‘changing attitudes’ and ‘transforming norms’. From demands for more women in management positions to more Black cops to more working class people in the BBC. Unfortunately larger parts of the left, often with the understandable humanist goal to support ‘oppressed groups’ in times of a general upswing in reactionary politics (Trump etc.), fail to challenge the state’s attempts to camouflage the deeper systemic crisis by focusing on ‘gender norms and performance’, ‘white privilege’, ‘power relations’ etc., instead of attacking the material reasons from a wider working class perspective. With this focus also comes a change in attitude, which prefers behavioural policing to the hope for collective and individual change in struggle – and thereby avoids the challenge of dealing with racist or sexist behaviour within the class as a collective problem that won’t be solved by merely denouncing it. …

https://libcom.org/blog/limits-intersectionality-angryworkers-book-review-striking-women-13092018

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Trader Joe 09.18.18 at 5:44 pm

@24 Bianca
I think your point about private schools being only for “bad” reasons merits some clarification. If the comment is directed at the assorted “elite schools of wealthy privilege” than sure, I get where you’re coming from and would agree (such schools are like convertibles – more expensive, completely impractical but everyone looks good in them and the psychic income is substantial).

That said there are a lot of other private schools which fulfill purposes which public schools for the most part aren’t even attempting.

You may not prefer a religious education, but some do. The public schools can’t (and shouldn’t) offer one.

Some kids need or benefit from the type of education that a Montressori offers

Some kids have special needs owing to leaning disabilities, attention deficit or other handicaps (sight, hearing etc.) If you have such a kid – public school is not only not an option, its an active negative and even the very best public schools only have a whiff of resources for such children.

Some kids clearly thrive in a military school setting. There are also schools which focus on particular talents – usually performing arts. These schools are sometimes “no tuition” since a kid has to be deemed sufficiently talented to get in (no tuition doesn’t mean free ).

So I guess I take exception to private school always being a ‘bad’ choice. Some parents inevitably make it into a bad choice because of their own behaviors but as a resource to allow a kid learn, socialize and grow some are excellent and shouldn’t be discounted as only a home for rich white kids.

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bianca steele 09.18.18 at 7:44 pm

Trader Joe:

I may be wrong but I’d suspect there are many, many kids with various disabilities in public schools. Not outright blindness or deafness, but I know kids in my daighter’s school with significant hearing loss, ADHD, autism, and so on. There are designated slots in certain schools in the district for kids with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities, and severe autism. I’m sure there are some parents in the area who choose private schools for kids with similar levels of disability, and I’d think their reasoning is the same as for parents of kids without disabilities: they want to pay extra to get their kid resources the town can’t provide. The parents I know who’ve had issues with teachers not following IEPs have AFAIK not even considered private school instead. I am surprised, frankly, that most commenters here and elsewhere assume so readily that a kid with ADHD will be put in a private school, and can only assume we are living with very different assumptions.

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Tom 09.18.18 at 8:12 pm

Congratulations to OP, and thanks for talking about this issue! Few points:

a) Public schools in U.S. are public only for those who reside in the town or neighborhood where the schools are located. Kids from outside can rarely get in. So they are more like clubs, with the monthly fee being the mortgage payment.

b) The comment about having no floor is relevant. I do not want my kids to get ahead. But I do not want them to grow in certain U.S. neighborhoods, where problems of all sources are rampant. I am sure this makes me a bad person in some way, but here it is.

c) I am also sure many are like me. They morally do not like the implicit segregation in U.S. life. This points to a political space often ignored: a stronger safety net – which I favor – would not only improve the lot of the worse off. It would also make life for the middle and higher class less stressful.

d) To be sure, many are also not like me. They want their kids to get ahead, buying or renting in the best possible school districts. I do not think they know what they are doing. They are more chasing their own ghosts than helping their kids. Just look at the prevalence of mental health issues in good school districts (there was an Atlantic article about suicides in Palo Alto some time ago e.g.).

e) I see some of the usual commenters crowding the space. I hope that they will not derail this nice thread, as it happens in other cases.

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Harry 09.18.18 at 8:35 pm

Almost all kids with serious learning related disabilities are in public schools, because public schools in most States are required by law to make what is often very expensive provision (that only the very wealthy could afford out of their own pockets — and, for most wealthy people it is far cheaper to put their kid in a public school which knows it is under thread if an IDEA lawsuit than to pay for private provision). Of course, less wealthy parents are less likely to threaten lawsuits (litigation is the main form of enforcement of the law) so provision for their kids is usually less good if they are in districts without wealthy parents to provide the threat as it were.

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bianca steele 09.18.18 at 9:28 pm

Trader Joe,

Maybe I should put “religious reasons” under “path dependence.” But the fact is that in most of the US, religious schools for ordinary families, not wealthy ones, are restricted to Catholic schools. And there’s a difference between radically separatist sects who have their own schools, and ordinary day schools for families who are otherwise integrated into the community. (The CoE situation in England where the church school is run by the Establishment is obviously a non-issue.) At some point, religious school by preference to home and Sunday instruction in religion shifts over to paying for private resources, even where the motivation for the religious school is to avoid certain children in the neighborhood, as has been said to occur from time to time.

If someone says, “I believe the urban public schools are bad and won’t send my kids to them,” that does explain why they’d choose private school, or a different location where the public schools are better. (Maybe then we’d have a discussion about which of those options is better—but here is where the path dependence comes in, because the discussion takes place as if everyone who faces this problem is a well-off person living in an urban center with the traditional “white flight” dilemma before them). Many people do believe the public schools are fine. But those are two different arguments, I’d think.

Harry,

Volunteering and participating on school board searches, etc., are ways more middle-middle class parents can help their kids get what they need. And on the other hand, my daughter had a classmate whose mother refused to let her be put in special ed classes (which it was obvious she needed) and intended to pull her out in favor of the local parochial school because she knew (or remembered from 20-30 years ago) that they didn’t believe in special ed.

But private outside testing, therapy, and so on, also help with advocacy, and help fill gaps.

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bianca steele 09.18.18 at 9:38 pm

Reading Tom’s comment, I might put it a different way: one argument for avoiding certain schools is “I want to pay extra to give my child resources not available at a different school.” Another is “I’m not picky about the resources my child receives, but I don’t want my child to associate with certain people.” Is one of these morally better than the other?

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engels 09.18.18 at 10:47 pm

‘I’m a middle-class guy and I want my kids to be middle-class, so I’m segregating them from the very poor*. My behaviour is rational and although it may be bad in some way I don’t care. Otoh there are rich people who want their kids to be rich and segregate them even from middle-class families like mine. Their behaviour is both self-defeating and immoral.’ 🤔

* We won’t enquire as to what these people look like

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Just_Dropping_By 09.18.18 at 11:36 pm

@41: Nobody here advocated a program of calling people racists for sending their children to neighbourhood schools, so why did you fabricate that?

Perhaps no one here did, but Erik Loomis over at LGM does it as a matter of course. Just a couple examples of many:

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2018/05/education-america-everything-equity

http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/12/school-segregation-evil-racist-nation

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engels 09.19.18 at 9:09 am

Bianca put it more politely.

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Z 09.19.18 at 11:12 am

bianca steele @95 I am surprised, frankly, that <most commenters here and elsewhere assume so readily that a kid with ADHD will be put in a private school, and can only assume we are living with very different assumptions.

Like the “collectively agreed-upon idea in our society that being a ‘good parent’ means…providing the best opportunities you can for your own child” example, I actually doubt that most commenters here and elsewhere believe that. I think that most people know from their own experience or from a basic sense of numeracy that in a country where the vast majority of children go to the local public school, many children with learning disabilities, severe dyslexia, ADHD, autism etc… are by logical necessity in the public system. (Personally, I believe that this is a net good by the way: one of the greatest benefit I think a school can impart to its pupils is a sense both of the diversity and of the commonality of human experience, and that is possible only if the children going to a given school are reflective of that diversity.)

So if it can sometimes appear that the opinion that a child with special educative needs will be in a private school is common or even near universal, I think that indicates less the popularity of that (on the face of it rather absurd) belief than the rhetorical efficience of certain assumptions about schools and education (“education is about maximizing opportunities”, “everything that the public system cannot do perfectly at the moment is the proper domain of the private system”…) which are too rarely challenged in my opinion.

In the end, it boils down once again to the same alternative. Suppose the local public school cannot adequately serve the educative needs of my child. What will I then do? Changer d’école ou changer l’école? I know where I stand in that respect.

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M Caswell 09.19.18 at 12:08 pm

I’d like to see two things measured: the range of variability of both resources and class make-up within a given public system (I think parents tend to overestimate this); and the degree of choice available to parents, given their ability to either move or pay for private.

That is, I’d like to know how many families can really choose between richer and poorer schools for their kids. (I know I can’t.)

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bianca steele 09.19.18 at 12:43 pm

Z

That makes sense. But by the same logic of numeracy, how can it be that so many people believe X type of school is almost certainly fine for everyone else’s kid but there’s a 50-50 chance it will be terrible for their own?

In one of those threads I expressed the opinion that people Loomis is addressing are concerned about personal morality, not utilitarianism. So they can be reached by guilt and extreme binary logic (doing this is racist, you can be not-racist by being against doing this), even when the result of everyone doing as they do would be catastrophic.

But I agree with engels to the extent that I think we’re talking in Rawslian terms because that’s where the discussion is, not because it’s likely to lead to anything helpful. (My memory of Harry mentioning Geuss is fuzzy but also aligns with engels’.)

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bianca steele 09.19.18 at 1:48 pm

From the OP: “I don’t care whether we say that good parenting is about maximizing your kid’s flourishing and insist that being a good person is part of flourishing, or instead say that being a good person is a distinct thing from flourishing but that being a good parent involves promoting both. The point is the same: ”

This makes good sense, and I agree that this is not the way the discussion has been framed. Here and at LGM, the assumption is that only parents misled by a bad and immoral (capitalist, neoliberal) system believe they’re responsible for a child’s flourishing, and that we should make choices so that our children can have non-default arrangements selected for better end results. The assumption is also that there is no end result that can be maximized through better (more expensive) schooling that isn’t also bad and immoral. I personally would look forward to a public discussion more along the lines framed in the OP (one that didn’t descent into “well, center-right people are often right about many things, but I’m actually more progressive than you are anyway,” as it so often does, verging eventually into “you haven’t actually read Rawls, have you, well you would think that”).

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bianca steele 09.19.18 at 2:45 pm

Just BTW (wasn’t sure which post this was on, sorry for multiple posts), Harry’s 104 doesn’t seem to me new or specific to “identity” talk. I’m sure the TA learned the idiom from a white male leftist, and while I’m sure any teacher would have the same sympathy Harry does for their own students, I’m not convinced for most it would extend to consider the TA’s words unfair or actually bad. I’d hope they would but haven’t seen it myself.

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Harry 09.20.18 at 1:48 am

Bianca – – do you mean my 51? For what its worth, I was outraged — not just on her behalf but on that of many of her classmates. Said student has experienced class humiliation regularly from self-styled liberals and lefties (after college she worked in DC for an elected politician in the Dem Party, surrounded by astonishingly affluent self-confident gits (of both sexes); having chosen a relatively underpaid, low status profession because she wants to contribute (she works now in a 45% poverty rate school), I think she deserves better than to be put down by her social superiors; and that includes TAs and professors (she’s had it from both) of whatever color. And she’d deserve better even if she actually were white. As do the other students of mine who become teachers. I know, for sure, that she is not an isolated case.

That’s sad about your daughter’s classmate. On the upside, many Catholic schools, in particular (as opposed to Christian schools, where Christian means non-Catholic) are quite progressive nowadays.

I took bianca just to be surprised that people on CT are so factually ignorant about the American school system to assume that most kids in special ed are in private schools. Around 85-90% of kids are in public schools. More than 90% of kids in special ed are in public schools (because that’s where the money and provision is — and poorer kids are more likely statistically to have special educational needs for obvious reasons).

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bianca steele 09.20.18 at 1:14 pm

Harry, I meant, @52 (engels refers to it as 51 somewhere, I don’t know where 104 came from, I was posting from my phone).

I think my neighbor both wasn’t fully aware of what special-ed services are like these days in public schools (greater unwillingness to segregate kids for one thing), and of what a private school without those services would say if her child was disruptive or missed lots of school and so on.

As for the schools themselves, I take the word for it of wealthy young people who say they were given a progressive education at Catholic schools. In affluent, quite liberal public school districts where the schools are excellent but feature many non-white and non-Christian students, that is not easy to credit. In middle- or lower-middle and working-class neighborhoods like where I grew up*, they’re explicitly defended in conservative and racist terms—no one from that background, at least around my age or older, speaks of the nuns as liberals. I personally find it hard to believe the desire for segregation of any kind is ever liberal or progressive.

* The parish school nearest me has a tuition or $7K/year, half that of most other private schools, though maybe not of the smaller Montessori’s. That’s twice what the parish closest to my childhood home currently charges. The selective convent-run “academy” not far from that has tuition in between the two. These are the schools one means in the places I’ve lived when one says “Catholic school.” These are the schools proposed vouchers would plausibly pay for.

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