Dangerous Idea: Your Child is Not a Special Snowflake

May 31, 2015

Katha Pollitt's Dangerous Idea?  Your child is not a special snowflake.



Ms Pollitt's point is well made.

Our nation's relative youth makes the good of free public primary and secondary education seem foundational but obviously, it's a comparatively novel idea.

People most interested in primary and secondary education at any time are generally those with kids in school. The fact - that Ms Pollitt succinctly describes here - that most people we hear from on the subject have the quality of their own children's schooling exclusively in mind when discussing these issues rather than the quality of the schooling of ALL of the kids in the community (as once they actually did have) is one that seems to have escaped any recent conversation. Why do childless people and people whose kids are out of school still vote for funding our public schools? They do, in fact. At least some of these harbor a residual idea that public schools are a benefit for the whole community and that their money should educate ALL its kids.

Ms Pollitt touches on an even more dangerous idea:

Bad schools make communities in distress worse. The best possible schools, on the other hand, will fail to repair communities in distress.

Because the conduit of resources to poor communities that progressive-minded people most readily succeed in convincing conservatives will be worthwhile using is public schools, we are tempted to rely on it for this purpose. We may have had the anecdotal experience of our own chaotic home life offset by extra attention from a primary or secondary educator or from having observed a schoolmate's having had such benefit. But schools are able to provide this sort of attention only when the fraction children in such need is below a size threshold. When more children than this are in need, the school will fail, no matter how well resourced.

We need a consensus about how to lift our distressed communities from chaos. Good public schools are necessary to a community's health but not sufficient to maintain it. Continuing to rely on public schools as the means to attempt this sets schools up to fail and assures that these communities will continue to suffer.

Your daughter went to Stuyvesant, one of the most exclusive high schools in the country where less than 3% of the students tested to enter are accepted. Are you trying to tell me you weren't a helicopter parent?
You have one kid. That is one precious snowflake.
Your idea is obviously much too dangerous to risk doing yourself, to your kid.
I agree with you, but don't lecture me. I live in small town America and I am working hard to make sure my children get opportunities I didn't get.