No, It’s Actually Allison Benedikt Who’s A Bad Person

Hang in there--the schools will be better in a few generations...

Hang in there–the schools will be better in a few generations…

There may be some persuasive arguments to be made for sending your child to a public school system you don’t trust. The obvious one is that you have no choice, which is true for many Americans. There are also some good reasons to write a “manifesto” called “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person,” the best of which is to cause people to focus on the problem of the failing and unacceptable public school system, and what should be done about it. However, Allison Benedikt, who actually wrote an article with this title and presumably this intent, failed so miserably at making a coherent and persuasive argument of any kind that her provocative title amounts to an unethical assertion itself: if you are going to make a blanket indictment of the character of millions of people, you had better be able to produce an ethical argument or two, or at least demonstrate that you comprehend a little bit about ethics. Allison doesn’t. Based on this piece, I not only wouldn’t trust her (oh, by the way, Allison, the core objective of ethical conduct in your profession—any profession, actually—is trust) to provide advice about how to educate my child, I wouldn’t trust her to walk my dog.

Here is Allison’s argument for why it is unethical to send your children to public school if the school system in your community is inadequate (as most are) and you can either afford to send the children to a private school or homeschool them, which Allison either leaves out of her discussion because she assumes it is obvious that she is condemning homeschooling parents too, or because she really hasn’t thought about the issue of public education thoroughly enough to think to include it in her manifesto. I suspect the latter…

“…It seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good….Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service investment, or property tax investment, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring investment. Your local school stinks but you don’t send your child there? Then its badness is just something you deplore in the abstract. Your local school stinks and you do send your child there? I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better…In many underresourced schools, it’s the aggressive PTAs that raise the money for enrichment programs and willful parents who get in the administration’s face when a teacher is falling down on the job. Everyone, all in.”

I expect someone engaged in calling particular conduct wrong to attempt a valid ethical analysis of it. This, which really is the sum total of the writer’s thesis, just reeks of ethical ignorance. For example, it seems as if she wants to apply a Kantian test to the conduct she deplores: if sending a child to private school is ethical, then everyone sending their children to private schools must be a societally acceptable result. She doesn’t do that, however, presumably out of ignorance  or because she doesn’t want to consider the answer. Her analysis begins with using the Kant universality test to determine whether it would be good if everyone sent their children to public school, even when the schools are lousy, and reaches an ethically absurd conclusion.

This is incompetent, because the declared thesis of her essay isn’t that people who send their children to public school are good, but that people who send their children to private school are not. Testing the first using Kant, who declared that conduct can only be judged moral if it would lead to unquestionable good results if it were made the universal standard, doesn’t logically validate or or invalidate the second in any way: everybody choosing public school and everybody choosing private school could both be beneficial to society, in different ways. Moreover, Benedikt doesn’t prove the first would be desirable! She just assumes it, in defiance of actual history and experience, using what appears to be purely ideological, socialist/collectivist presumptions  to bypass reality, which is what rigid ideologies do so well.

In fact, after the better part of two centuries in which virtually everyone in America sent their children to public school, and being active the PTAs was a ritual of middle class existence, the schools  got progressively worse, not because of the parental participation, necessarily, but in spite of it.  Benedikt doesn’t give any explanation for why it “seems to her”  that universal participation would naturally and inevitably—though very sloooowly—improve the public schools, perhaps because the contention makes no sense. Monopolies tend to get sloppy, arrogant, and contemptuous of the consumer, which, in fact has happened in education to an alarming degree. Institutions and professions, like businesses tend to get better when they know consumers will go elsewhere if they don’t, not when they operate in a culture where one is a “bad person” who isn’t willing to sacrifice the education of his or her own children to the objective of a better school system generations from now.

The author’s position, in fact, is based on a very different contention, one rooted in Marxist theory: that our first duty is not to the welfare of our own children, but rather to the collective–the government. The breach of parents’ natural and presumed loyalty to the child whom they brought into the world, who must trust them implicitly and who is, for almost two decades, dependent upon the parents for sustenance, protection, wisdom and unconditional love is the real ethical outrage.  It compromises the ethical values of responsibility, loyalty, respect, autonomy, care, kindness, compassion and most of all, trust, all based on unjustified reliance upon the imaginary power of the PTA to overcome the intransigence of teachers unions, incompetent and timid administrators, lawyers ready to pounce on any attempt at real discipline, sexual predators lurking in the classrooms, idiotic “no-tolerance” policies interpreted by random assortments of fools, and an institutional attitude that places tests score and job-qualifying diplomas over real education as the ultimate objectives.

Hilariously, Benedikt’s entire argument rests on a self-contradictory rationalization: “It’s no big deal.” She explains that she went to a lousy public school system, she got a crummy education, and see? It didn’t hurt her any—here she is getting paid to write idiotic essays for Slate! Uh, but Allison—if education is as inconsequential as you claim, why is paying billions for a public school system so essential that we are all bad people if we don’t submit our children to its incompetencies? Don’t you see, Allison? The fact that public schools no longer teach basic logic and reasoning does matter…look at you. Similarly, Allison thinks that many generations of badly educated adults exercising more control over badly operated and staffed schools will produce education Nirvana in five generations or so. I think if Allison had a better education, she’d realize what a ridiculous idea that is.

Even if it wasn’t a ridiculous idea, Allison’s grand plan violates another Kantian ethical principle, the most important one of all: the Categorical Imperative, that powerful idea that dictators, totalitarian despots, radical leftists and fascists find so inconvenient. It tells us that it is wrong to sacrifice human beings to grand utilitarian objectives. Sacrificing one’s children for a utilitarian objective that won’t even be accomplished by doing so violates the principle spectacularly. It would make Kant throw up, I suspect.

I don’t really think Allison is a bad person: the title of this post represented some rhetorical devices that I learned about at a good, private educational institution. I think she’s a bad liberal, which is to say a lazy and uncritical one who swallows ideological cant whole even when it should cause intellectual indigestion. I think she’s an awful writer, who makes a provocative and sweeping condemnation that she not only can’t back up with persuasive argument, but doesn’t even try. She knows nothing about ethics, which means that she had no business writing an article with “good” in the title. I don’t think she’s very bright, and she admits to being badly educated, which she only thinks is okay because she’s not very bright. And I know she’s a hypocrite, because she and her husband, it seems, sent their own child to an expensive pre-school. Nevertheless, an incompetent collectivist is far less dangerous than a persuasive one, so Allison is, in the end, harmless.

She’s not a bad person. She just wrote a terrible article,

_________________________________

Spark: Pope Hat

Sources: Slate, Red State

Graphic: San Sebastian Festival

 

31 thoughts on “No, It’s Actually Allison Benedikt Who’s A Bad Person

  1. Define for me a GOOD liberal, Jack. By liberal self-definition, she’s one of the best. She believes in government monopoly, child indoctrination, the State as a parent, Orwellian logic and incoherent journalism. If she keeps on like this, she may be the next Secretary of Education.

      • I remember him and watching him on news programs. I agreed with him as often as not. I’ll say this for him; he was honest and consistant in his opinions. If that makes a good liberal, though, then the category pretty well died with him.

    • I consider myself a liberal, but I don’t believe in government monopoly, child indoctrination (we homeschool and so avoid the Pledge of Allegiance), or the State as a parent. Most the people who commented on Benedikt’s article were liberal and they thought it was horrendous.

      There are good liberals and good conservatives. When my liberal friends tell me there are no good conservatives, I chide them for there unliberal bigotry.

  2. She also forgets that when parents send kids to private school, they are still paying for public school. Her proposal will result in an influx of students into public schools ill-equipped to handle those numbers. This will harm student-faculty ratios and, presumably, existing public school students. [Budgets may not allow for the hiring of more teachers and communities cannot always raise the finances necessary for same.]

    I did catch that flaw in her argument–if public schools are lousy, but they can produce Slate writers, then lousiness is irrelevant, so why bother?

      • So we are all supposed to listen to some Chicago Trib movie critic who thinks she knows what’s best for my children? Quite frankly, it sounds to me like she is “trying” to make it into the big world of Journalism and failing miserably. Did she forget that numerous people send their children to a private school for a Catholic/Christian education? There is no GOD in public school so why would someone defer their child from a Catholic education to zero morality just so the low man on the totem pole will eventually even out the median?

        • From the Popehat article on the same topic, she throws that out in the beginning of her article and then promptly dismisses religion as not even being a compelling reason at all. Religion is stupid, after all, so nobody smart or good would want to send their kids to a religious school.

  3. Jack,

    Her entire piece is smokescreen concealing the standard leftist fallback argument when socialist policies flip miserably. That is– the wealthy didnt invest enough, mean greedy people with alot of money didnt give enough, we didn’t try socialism hard enough, the people didn’t believe in it enough, etc ad nauseum.

  4. Generalising about public schools is about as insightful as generalising about conservatives and liberals.

    There are many excellent public schools in this country who have produced some of our most innovative leaders… Just have to be in the right district.

    However, Allison Benedikt either doesn’t have children or lives in one of those fortunate districts…. There are many good reasons for a private education aside from actual quality or any perceived social need. No one should be judged for choosing what they think is best for their child, including home schooling.

    My best friend lives in the same district where Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame attended H.S… yet he send his children to Catholic HS, because the what they perceived as degrading social mores… sounds stuffy, but makes perfect send for HIS FAMILY.

    • typo city:
      My best friend lives in the same district where Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame attended H.S… yet he sent his children to a Catholic HS, because what they perceived as degrading social mores in public school… sounds stuffy, but made perfect sense for HIS FAMILY.

  5. I am not a philosopher, but I think don’t think Ms. Benedikt’s Kantian analysis is incorrect. If everyone would enroll their children in public schools, there would be more political pressure for improvements in public education and the general education of humanity would improve. The same could be said if everyone enrolled their children in private schools, but not everyone can afford to do so, so this is not a realistic alternative. Really, our choices are everyone goes to a public school or some go to a public school and some go to a private school (or, I suppose, some system of publicly subsidized school vouchers).

    Enrolling your children in in a public school because you believe that doing so will lead to an overall benefit of humanity also does not violate the categorical imperative. In this case, you are not using your children for your own selfish ends but to benefit humanity (or at least to act in a way that you think will benefit humanity). Kant would approve.

    Full disclosure: For a time, I attended and benefited from attending a private school. I am just trying to look at things from a Kantian perspective.

    • Huh? Kant does not allow you to exploit your children because you believe that doing so will lead to an overall benefit of humanity. Allison’s formula specifically argues for sacrificing your children’s education, which is not a selfish consideration at all.

      That part is bad Kant, the first argument is just nonsense. More political pressure to improve something doesn’t make it improve—are you kidding? That requires a political process run by people who know what they are doing, and that does not exist, especially with regard to education. Look around.

      It’s not worth the attempt to make Allison’s non-arguments look half-way intelligent. They aren’t. And I doubt if she could spell “Kant.”

  6. “Kant does not allow you to exploit your children because you believe that doing so will lead to an overall benefit of humanity.”

    Yeah, actually, he does (though I doubt he would call it exploitation). Kant was really in favour of education because he thought it could benefit the human race. The ultimate aim should be “the good of the world and the perfection for which man is intended, and for which he also has the capacity.” Parents who educate their children solely so that they prosper in the world are actually “a hindrance”. See this translation of Uber Padagogik http://archive.org/stream/cu31924032702981#page/n131/mode/2up at pp. 116-117. This position actually makes sense when we think about it from the perspective of the categorical imperative. Parents who educate their children because they want them to succeed are actually using their children for their own ends because the parents themselves want their children to succeed, not because the children actually want to do so. Educating your children against their will can therefore only be justified on the basis that it improves humanity. Likewise, educating your children in a public school system because it improves humanity overall should be Kant approved.

    You have a rather pessimistic view of the ability of the State to improve education outcomes. I have looked around the world, though, and note that Finland, the country with one of the best education systems in the world (as measured by outcomes) does not allow private schools to charge fees (they all receive subsidies from the state comparable to what a public school would receive for educating a pupil). For this reason, every Finn who has children has an interest in ensuring all schools are well funded. Is this why Finland has better school outcomes, or are there other reasons? Could the US government (or a state government) provide better education overall if the Finnish model were adopted? I really have no idea. Given all the confounding variables that go into determining student success, I’m not sure anyone does. Nevertheless, from where I sit and based on my limited experience, the idea that public institutions improve when people cannot opt out of them is not outlandish.

    • Cut it out. To begin with, you are putting words in my mouth to make your point, which is both invalid and not worth making. I never said a thing about educating children to “succeed” or “profit,: you did. I said that Kant would throw up at the prospect of sacrificing children by subjecting them to bad education, ineffective education, unpleasant education,useless education, badly taught education, badly administered education—all of the excellent and demonstrable reasons parents who can often send their children to private schools, on the crack-brain theory that over generations it will lead to a betterment of the human race. Kant, as I know and would have expected if I didn’t, naturally believed that the purpose of education was the betterment of humanity, because good education makes better—not more successful, but better—human beings. He would not applaud the idiotic plan of Benedikt’s , which is to sacrifice generations of children because mass acceptance of lousy schools—which is ethically what using them is—will magically create better education “in a few generations.” Poppycock.

      This—“Parents who educate their children because they want them to succeed are actually using their children for their own ends because the parents themselves want their children to succeed, not because the children actually want to do so. Educating your children against their will can therefore only be justified on the basis that it improves humanity.”—is worse than poppycock.

      Kids don’t want to be educated, civilized, or made healthy, or good—they are children—unwise, immature, dumb, hedonistic and foolish. Their “will” has neither logical nor legal force, and it is the duty of parents to look out for their welfare in spite of their desires to the contrary, because children have no concept of what is in their best interest—and I see no evidnece that Kant believed otherwise, since he was not, you know, an idiot.

      Are you trolling, or just suffering from a total and uncharacteristic loss of knowledge and sense? A parent is obligated to make good human beings out of children against their wills, just as they are obligated to make healthy and living human beings out of them, and that is in the best interest of humanity because stupid, sick, dead citizens aren’t worth much. That isn’t selfish–selfish would be to have no children at all.

      From a selfish point of view, I could use the money, the time, and the stress-free hours not having a child would provide—having a child is and should be an altruistic act. I would also benefit from letting my child rot in public school, so 5 days a week I could do what I need to do to make the most of my working and thinking life, pursue my arts, and make enough money to see me though my old age. How does homeschooling my child, with all the time and trouble and frustration that entails for me and my wife, qualify as self-serving? I don’t live vicariously through my child. I am merely obligated, as a parent, like all parents, to see that he becomes the best person he can be, and that also benefits humanity, because humanity is defined by the quality of its members. Sacrificing him to the benefit of future children yet unborn is pure anti-Kant poison.

      You say, amusingly, “You have a rather pessimistic view of the ability of the State to improve education outcomes.” Gee, imagine that! The US school system is one of the most expensive in the world, and produces ignoramuses with startling efficiency. Don’t show me Finland and talk about “outcomes.” The primary outcome is that it’s still Finland, and I’m not impressed. Meanwhile, that country has less than 6 million people in it, or about 2/3 of New York City,and a population that is not as ethnically diverse as San Juan.

      Are you really arguing that Benedikt’s argument makes sense, or just being intentionally annoying? You have distorted Kant, intentionally misquoted me, and used Finland as a template for a nation that is nothing like Finland, without presenting any argument that rebuts the conclusion that the author is a knee-jerk statist who is spouting fact-free and contradictory nonsense.
      Why?

      You say that “the idea that public institutions improve when people cannot opt out of them is not outlandish”: name one. You haven’t, and Benedikt hasn’t, made that case for education. Everyone is paying for education now—that isn’t opting in enough? I would be active in the planning and improvement of public education whether my child was partaking of it or not—I’m not permitted that privilege, because the assumption is that I have no interest in the issue. Of course I do—I want to see the nation, society and humanity get smarter and more educated, and it can’t do that by attending the Alexandria public schools, one of the worst systems in the state.

      Nothing improves when people are forced to participate and pay for it regardless of its quality. The idea is outlandish, and the burden of proof is on any advocate to prove otherwise, particularly since the contention defies the ethical and democratic principle of autonomy. And “Finland” is not an argument.

      • I am not trolling, and I do not believe I have lost my senses. I don’t appreciate the ad hominems. I think we must be misunderstanding each other, so please give me the benefit of the doubt while I try to clear up the misunderstandings.

        I think that your main post has two main arguments. They are as follows:

        1. Benedikt’s plan would not lead to better education outcomes in either the short or the long term.

        2. If Benedikt’s plan did work, it would still be wrong to implement it because it would involve “sacrificing one’s children”, which would violate the Kantian principle that people should not be used to achieve a purpose.

        My first comment had two points, corresponding to each of your two points. The first of them was perhaps not as fleshed out as it should have been. I don’t think we are in as much disagreement as it would seem over the second. I’ll start with the second, because I think that is where we are having the most confusion.

        My second point is that, if Benedikt’s plan did work, Kant would not disagree with it on the basis would not violate the Kantian imperative not to use others to achieve one’s own ends. My reasoning is as follows:

        1. Kant thought that education is a good thing because it leads to the betterment of humanity (according to Kant, it is what separates humanity from the animals).

        2. Kant thought, therefore, that parents have a duty to educate their children, not because education is in their children’s best interests, but because doing so leads to the betterment of humanity. Of course, Kant would say that educating one’s children to lead to the betterment of humanity is in the children’s best interest. This is consistent with the first formulation of the categorical imperative: everyone must educate their children because if everyone educates their children, the world will be a better place.

        I am sorry if I gave you the impression that I believe that you are selfish for educating your children. I don’t. What I meant to say is that Kant did not believe that people should educate their children “because they are anxious only that their children should prosper in the world”. This is a direct (translated) quote from Kant.

        3. Assume, arguendo, that Benedikt is correct that the education system would improve and, at some point in the future, everyone in society will be more educated. My point then is that Kant would not object to (and might even support) everyone enrolling their children in the public system. Some students will learn less because they are enrolled in the public system. They will probably be less prosperous than they would have had they been educated privately or had they been home-schooled. From the Kantian point of view, this will be okay, however, because humanity as a whole will be made better off, which is in the best interests even of those who learn less during the transition period. In the future everyone is more educated and the world has moved closer to the “perfection for which man is intended, and for which he also has the capacity”.

        My first point is that, if everyone were forced to enroll their children in the public school system, the public school system will improve. This point is based on two simple premises:

        A. People who care about something can take actions to improve it.

        B. People are kind of selfish and care more about things the more those things impact their lives.

        Combined, it follows that people will take actions to improve things that impact their lives.

        I hope you agree with subpoint A in general. People who take action to improve things can sometimes succeed, and that is why we should be interested in politics, law, environmental science, etc. I believe that, where we find societal problems, we can work together to ameliorate them.

        Subpoint B is based on the economic concept of incentives. People tend to care more about things when they have some “skin in the game”. This is why businesses give stock options and worry about the separation between management and control: because managers will do a better job for shareholders when their interests are aligned and they benefit when shareholders benefit.

        I can state that Subpoint B applies to me. I tend to care more about things that affect my life than things that do not.

        I also believe that Subpoint B applies to schools. Parents who have children in a specific school or a specific school system will work harder to improve that school or school system than they will to improve other schools or school systems. I’m not saying this applies to all parents (and I am especially not saying that it applies to you), I am just saying that this is generally true.

        Combining these two points, I believe that parents (and the public in general), will support public school systems more if their relations must attend them, and that public school systems will therefore improve.

        I can’t provide you with any examples to which you cannot find other factors that could also possibly explain the difference. I do not believe anyone can, even people who study education systems, because many factors go in to determining the success of an educational system and ceteris paribus comparisons are not possible. Perhaps you are correct that the US public education system cannot be improved. Also, it may be that the worse outcomes suffered by people who are forced to be in the public system do not outweigh the benefits that are brought to people who have no choice but to use the public system. This is why my argument in the second point is premised on the basis that the first point is correct (or on the basis that one believes that the first point is correct, though, on further reflection, I don’t know how Kant would approach the problem of people who sincerely believe that, if everyone did something, the world would be better off, perhaps someone more versed in his philosophy could enlighten me).

        Anyway, that’s about all I have to say on this matter.

        • 1. Your logic here is forced, and I really don’t see that as your pattern. There is nothing ad hominem about my conclusion–it is apparently wrong, but look it up: an ad hominem attack argument would be to say your argument is invalid because you are a troll. I concluded that you must be trolling because the argument is invalid. The criticism is of the argument, and thus you for making it.

          2. There was nothing in my post that suggested that I believed that the reason to educate children was so they would prosper in the world, or that this was the focus of Benedikt’s essay either. You contradicted my assertion, a correct one, about Kant by using a description of Kant’s argument distinction that wasn’t inconsistent with what I wrote in any way.

          3. “Kant would say that educating one’s children to lead to the betterment of humanity is in the children’s best interest. This is consistent with the first formulation of the categorical imperative: everyone must educate their children because if everyone educates their children, the world will be a better place.” That’s correct. And contrary to Benedickt’s assertions, which you are defending. She says that it is ethical for children NOT to do their best to educate their children, and thus to sacrifice their own children interests of the future. This IS a violation of the categorical imperative, and I can’t imagine why you would argue otherwise. Kant also did not oppose the principle that parents owe a higher duty to their children than to other individuals.

          4. I didn’t take the comment personally, so no apology is necessary, Eric. I used myself as the parental example, since I have some valid data there.

          5. In America, unlike Finland *for example), people to not respond well to being forced by the state to do anything, and thank goodness for that. The culture and the founding documents value individual liberty and autonomy, and limited state power, and it is embedded in the national ethics and character. So while your thesis may have validity somewhere (though I don’t think so), it definitely fails in the U.S. I resent being forced to do what I don’t want to and what is not what I think I should be doing. And like any good American, when I feel that way, and believe I am right, I fight it.

          6. Your two contentions
          A. People who care about something can take actions to improve it. and B. People are kind of selfish and care more about things the more those things impact their lives are true enough, but neither leads to the conclusion you claim, and we have ample proof of that regarding education.

          Those parents involved in education have shown over the past hundred years that what they think will improve schools are frequently, indeed usually, unrelated to objective improvement in actual learning. They fight to ban Huckleberry Finn, teaching of evolution, art. They want more money spent on football teams and cheerleaders; they want gay couples excluded from the prom. They want computers in the classroom, though there is no evidence that this aids eduction at all, and they want strict no-tolerance policies that will get kids suspended for making gun signs with their fingers. They want less homework, they fight reasonable dress codes, they want history books to reflect their political biases and religious beliefs. They want easier grading, and they never want their little snowflakes disciplined. And those are the involved parents. The majority, frankly, don’t give a damn. My parents, who were smart, public minded and cared, tried to be involved in school matters, and gave up in frustration by the time I hit junior high. They were tired of getting shouted down by idiots, essentially. Why you think it would be any different with mandatory public school is a mystery.

          As for the second point, the whole skin in the game argument is ethically misguided. Skin in teh game is called “conflict of interest.” Such parents don’t care about future generations, or even any one else’s kids. So why do Benedikt, and you, assume that they will support measures that will lead to future educational Nirvana rather than short-term results that narrowly benefit their own kids by their own biases and needs? I have no idea. It is magical thinking.

          • All right. Now things are getting interesting. I think we have cleared up some misunderstandings. I said that I had said everything I wanted to, but now I hopefully have a few more interesting things to say.

            If my logic seems forced and contrary to pattern, it is because I am trying to look at the issue from a Kantian perspective, which I am not used to doing. What my original post took issue with was that you said that Kant would disapprove of Benedikt’s idea, not that you are incorrect to disagree with Benedikt for other reasons. Given that this was my purpose, I had to read some what Kant had said about education and philosophy and try to apply it to this issue.

            I took issue with your assertion that Kant would disagree with Benedikt if her idea was “not ridiculous”. Generally, parents should do their best to educate their children because if everyone does their best to educate their children, the outcome will be positive for everyone. I think that this statement would have to be modified to “everyone must do their best to educate their children so long as it does not conflict with their other duties.” If you posit that people have a duty to ensure the perfection for which all people are intended, and Kant seems to imply that such a duty exists, then I do not think Kant would object to someone not doing their best to educate their children if the aforementioned perfection was their ultimate aim.

            Now, you could hold that Benedikt’s policy will not lead to the perfection of humanity, but then your objection to it is not that the policy violates the categorical imperative not to use other people as a means to an end but that the claim that, if Benedikt’s policy became universal law, it would not be a good thing (an argument which you did make).

            Speaking from my own perspective, If what you say about parents is true (and I admit that it could be) then America is in big trouble (as is Canada, because our education system isn’t that much different from the USA’s). Private schools (plus school vouchers) will not improve education because, given parents’ preferences, most private schools will be places where money is spent on football teams at the expense of art and evolution, every child will have a computer, history books are biased and special snowflakes are completely unthreatened by the light of learning or the heat of debate. Should I be buying shares in the makers of Brawndo, the Thirst Mutilator? Are we condemned to choose between the two options of educational mediocrity and putting an enlightened despot in charge of education and reforming it contrary to parents’ wishes (something which, as you say, Americans would not like)?

            Finally, “skin in the game” is not about conflicts of interest but about mitigating conflicts of interest or providing someone with an interest in the first place. If someone has no “skin in the game”, their interests are different from those who do, and there can be a conflict. For example, a company CEO who owns no shares in a company has a conflict of interest with the shareholders because his or her private incentive is to maximize his or her income at shareholder expense while doing as little work as possible (which conflicts with his or her fiduciary duty to shareholders). Providing the CEO with shares aligns the interests of the CEO with the shareholders and decreases the conflict. Likewise, someone who doesn’t live near a lake has less “skin in the game” than someone who lives near the lake, so they have little interest in not polluting the lake. Requiring them to pay to clean up any mess they make will give them an interest in keeping the lake clean, an interest which is aligned with the interests of those who live near the lake.

  7. Can we please drop/reform the “liberal” and “conservative” labels already? You state that Benedikt is a bad liberal; not quite true, she is utterly illiberal. She argues for state-compelled coercion circumventing individuals’ choice of how to raise their children. Her argument rests on illogical Marxist claptrap that prioritizes “the good of society” ie: the collective, over individual free will. I take back my previous statement, she is not illiberal, she is positively anti-liberal.

    I realize that this is quibbling over semantics, but in this case a rose by any other name really does smell differently. The Left and Democrats in general have self-identified for decades as “liberal”. While this label may have been appropriate 50 years ago, it certainly is not now. The Republicans’ social conservatism is rightly derided as illiberal in that it expects individuals’ sexual preferences to be dictated by the state. However, the Democrats’ claims of being “liberal” are becoming more laughable everyday; so much so that they have essentially become a parody of the classical liberal values they assure the population that they stand for. In fact, it appears as though the the only things the Democrats envision people being free to do are the things the social conservatives oppose; in short, the Republicans want the state in your bedroom, the Democrats want the state everywhere else.

    We don’t have a “conservative” party and a “liberal” party, we have two statist parties with no alternative. Take gay marriage. I gave tentative applause for the Obama admin taking an explicit stand in support of it (truth be told, IMO the true “liberal” stand on this issue would be for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether, straight, gay, polygamous, whatever and let freedom of association dictate how people live with one another, but I guess that makes me a radical…). However, look at the illiberal consequences of this stance; wedding vendors with an admitted religious opposition to gay marriage but no prejudice against gays personally being forced by the government to render services against their will to gay weddings (see NM supreme court case). It’s beyond belief and IMO a violation of the 13th amendment; how can that be considered “liberal”?

    The Republicans jumped the shark long ago by aligning themselves with the Religious Right, but the Democrats didn’t take long to follow them right over the deep end by embracing equality of outcome, positive rights and central economic planning. The continued malaise of the US economy, division of the country along racial, ethnic and class-based lines and Obama’s “l’etat c’est moi” attitude toward domestic policy-making are all direct consequences of the Democrats’ slow transformation over the past fifty years. They are not “liberal” or “progressive”, they are regressives who insist on rehashing collectivist and socialist ideas that have failed dozens of times in the past century; they are Diet Coke Marxists.

    If only one good thing comes out of the train wreck Bush 2 and Obama administrations, I hope its people waking up to these truths. Both parties want the state to dominate you. Vanishingly few of our elected leaders care one iota about the individual, negative rights guaranteed in the Constitution. I haven’t been registered with either major party for 20 years, I try to make an honest determination which candidate for every office for which I’m voting has the strongest record on protecting my rights from being trampled by the state. Often this means I end up voting either Libertarian or not at all. Hopefully the mask has slipped off both major parties enough that a plurality of people will begin to feel the same way. But instead, we get caught in meaningless labels of “liberal” or “conservative” that categorize us into a ideological camp complete with a cult-like dogma which we must swallow whole. Those that fall outside the group are akin to Emmanuel Goldstein, deserving of destruction and our two-minutes’ hate whenever our leaders command us. Franklin gave us our Republic… if we can keep it. While it may not be completely gone, the people interested in preserving it seem to be growing smaller in number all the time.

    • I agree, and I’ll take the note. You are completely correct, and such labels have become lazy and sloppy—useful, in a lazy and sloppy way, but also misleading, and burdened with too much bias and baggage.

      I’m going to re=post this as a main post—thanks.

  8. “News” comes of one “reasonable, reasoned outcome” of Allison Benedikt’s statist, one-school-system-fits-all-learners thinking and advocacy, and of her and her allies’ oh-so-altruistic actions. I am sure Benedikt would also endorse the U.S. federal government’s imitation of such hyper-competent intervention, in order to guarantee adequate education for all citizens exactly like is done in the superior, exemplary, progressive, liberal European democracy where news of such invariably wonderful, noble, kind, and beneficial-to-all government action originates. The government agents’ actions in this case promote “progressive” family planning juuuuust a teeny, tiny step beyond the bedroom – which, of course, if it benefits just one child, is entirely worthwhile and must not be degraded by even the thought of any alternative – to wit: “everyone must do their best to educate their children so long as it does not conflict with their other duties:”

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/08/31/the-perils-of-homeschooling-german-police-storm-home-seize-four-children/

    Then again, Jack, there is probably absolutely no credibility in this report whatsoever, since no doubt Tucker Carlson was asleep on the job while it was posted.

  9. I really enjoyed reading all the intelligent and insightful responses. After reading Allison’s article, I was 100% confident that was the worst article I have read in my entire life and had to go online to see what others thought. Does the Tribune always publish articles like this that provide no value to anyone? Are there reasons why someone would write something like this other than to get paid? Again, I’m really glad I read all of the responses and confirmed this article was poorly written. Holy smokes, was that bad.

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