April 22, 2006

I'm not "for the children"

I've just finished reading a fine student paper, but it's one one where the obligatory purple passage at the end spoke of the need to keep the children in mind—in this case, the student was skeptical of the value of vouchers. Just yesterday, Matt Ladner opined about the Oprah series, "But U.S. schools can get much better once we put the interests of students and parents before those of the special interests." In his case, he's in favor of vouchers.

I need to address this framing of education policy at length in another forum, but I can quickly explain why such rhetorical appeals make me uncomfortable. There's both a certain sleaziness and a logical slipperiness in making this appeal for the children. Spend time at home for your child. Call up your state representative to argue for a program for your child. Go to the ballfield and yell at the ump for your child. Spend your moolah on Mozart CDs for your child. Spend thousands of dollars on dresses and makeup for your child in a 4-year-old beauty pageant.

In reality, while we can all be altruistic about what we push, we're doing so based on adult values. That's why we make kids do things they may not like (at least at first). We're the adults. That's also why most of us are repulsed by choices of some parents. Referring either to one's own choices in parenting or to public policy as "for the children" is both non-specific in terms of results and also an abdication of responsibility for one's choices in terms of values.

Listen to this article
Posted in Education policy on April 22, 2006 8:29 AM |