“You need to be educated (gotta go to school)”

-Hannah Mead, MCPP intern, 2008

The new education budget that passed both chambers removes Detroit Public Schools’ veto power over charter schools. A lot of people are peeved. Rep. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, claims,

Public school academies have been cherry-picking the good students … (adding to) the death spiral of the Detroit public school system.

This reminds me of a public school teacher who accused me in a “how could you?” tone of having “lowered the lowest common denominator” by being home-schooled. (Irritatingly, her mathematical metaphor has absolutely no applicability to her point — I’m glad I learned math from my mom instead.)

How could I? How could she suggest I ought to have sacrificed myself to somehow “level out” public education? I don’t see how my languishing in public schools for nine hours a day learning nothing* would help, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t have stayed anyway — I rather enjoyed getting my schoolwork done in a couple hours and having the rest of the day to play, tyvm.

Fundamentally, good students leaving a school lowers the average test scores, sure, but that statistic doesn’t mean their leaving hurts the poorer performers. (If anything, according to prevailing school-people wisdom, smaller class sizes would help, as might the ability to focus on a group of students with similar aptitude and difficulties.) The goal of a school should not be to look good statistically — it should be to improve the education of each student.

*I must amend this. In my three years at public school I learned two things: what a cylinder is and that Y is sometimes a vowel.


One thought on ““You need to be educated (gotta go to school)”

  1. Bless your youthful innocence. (Meant sincerely.)

    We grant our opponents the presumption of goodwill – in this instance we don’t really think that government school establishment people are willing to harm kids by cheating them of an education if that’s what it takes to preserve their sinecures – but the ability of the human animal to rationalize his own motivations and self-justify is powerful indeed.

    That said, you put your finger on something here: Virgil Smith left out that little detail about why cherry picking is bad for remaining non-cherries, instead of just bad for the institution of government schools. I’m sure he can whomp up an argument and even make himself believe it, but he slipped in this instance.

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