“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Given a Choice, Why Would a Parent Want Their Children in a Public School?

Given a choice, there is not one East Coast American city where I would want my children in a public school. There are pockets of suburban schools which would be acceptable. Most of these schools would be fixable if the federal government would get out of public education and all parents of all students paid a modest tuition regardless of income. The diversity cultists, school unions and single parent homes have taken a huge toll on American Public Schools. The single payer system for public education needs to be changed in order to change the public school system and only then will the middle classes return.


For the first time in 40 years, more than half of public school students in the South are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the November 1, 2007 edition

ATLANTA - The plight of the South's school-reform movement now hangs on kids from families that make less than $36,000 a year.

For the first time in 40 years, two new studies show, more than half of public school students in the South are eligible for free or reduced lunch – a watershed moment in a 15-year wealth slide that comes amid resurging racial and economic inequalities in the former Confederacy. The rise is part of a nationwide surge: Low-income students now represent 12 percentage points more of the student body than in 1990.

In response, schools from the Delta's cypress region to the Carolina pine flats face a struggle: How to continue to improve test scores, attract good teachers, and reduce dropout rates amid growth of a group of students whom studies show have greater difficulty reaching grade-level benchmarks?

"Measuring low-income students' success is now measuring the majority of students' success," says Steve Suitts, co-author of "A New Majority," a study released Tuesday by the Southern Education Fund (SEF) in Atlanta.

Nationwide, two overarching factors seem to be driving public-school woes, experts say: In recent years, the erosion of middle-class, blue-collar jobs has led to more people working for lower wages, and many parents who can afford private school have taken their children out of public schools altogether. This skews the average income of remaining families lower. The South in particular has been hard hit by the closing of textile plants in South Carolina and the changing coal economy of the Appalachian highlands. Another reason for the shift, some experts note, is the influx of poorer Latinos at least into the Carolinas and Georgia.


In 1989, Mississippi was the only state with a majority of students who needed free or reduced lunch, according to the SEF study. In 2006, 13 states had a majority of low-income students, 11 of them in the South. The only states in the South unlikely to hit the tipping point are Virginia, with 33 percent, and Maryland, at 31 percent. (North Carolina hovered at 49 percent last year.)

Some 54 percent of students in the region come from families who make less than $36,000 annually, the cutoff point to qualify for free or reduced lunch, compared with a national average of 46 percent.

"Something has happened in the nation from 1990 to 2006, where our economic base has gotten more bottom-heavy," says Joan Lord, vice president for education policy at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, which released its own study this week that found the same phenomenon.

This is not to say that lower income automatically equals lower grades. Some of the best public high schools in the nation, many of them racially and economically integrated, are in the South. But in aggregate, the disparities are apparent. In Alabama, for instance, 43 percent of low-income students scored below basic, the lowest passing classification, on the 2007 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) math test, compared with 14 percent of students with incomes above $36,000.

What's more, studies show that low-income students are more likely to be held back in first and second grade and more likely to drop out of high school.

Those who do graduate from high school are less likely to go on to get a college degree.

"I think this data brings home why progress has been slow in improving education achievement in the South," says Cynthia Brown, a school policy expert at the Center for American Progress.

Many Southerners say the erosion of wealth in the public schools also reveals deeply ingrained attitudes in the South, where strong legislatures, weak governors, fiscal conservatism, and racial stereotypes stymie school progress. "I don't know how many times I've heard that public schools are really for the black kids," says Neal Thigpen, a political scientist at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C.

The civil rights era challenge to raise up black people through education is at stake, says William Taylor, chairman of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights in Washington. "If we're going to figure out how to get out of it, we have to figure out ways to change the dynamics."

Some school districts are implementing a variety of solutions. In Miami-Dade County, school officials are setting up "parent academies" in local churches and community halls in an attempt to make education a higher priority for families.

In Perry County, Ala., predominantly black schools with 80 percent low-income students regularly graduate 90 percent of their high-schoolers. Teaching the basics and character education are part of that success, residents there say.


In some cases, districts that once sought to integrate feel they must re-embrace resegregation as a way to keep the public schools intact. Tuscaloosa, Ala., recently rezoned its middle schools, effectively ending the busing of black city kids to a suburban school.

School board member Ernestine Tucker, who voted against the plan, said the threat from white parents was implicit but obvious: "Rezone, or we pull our kids out of the public schools." "The only difference there is they have options," she says. "We don't have the same options."


  1. With Al Gore Being a Product Of The Very Best Schools why won't a parent want to send their children to a public school?

  2. In Israel, they love their kids so much they up-armor their school bus stops to protect them. In Gaza, they hate their kids so much they fire mortars from schoolyards hoping to trigger a retaliatory air strike on the school when it is in session.

    The Home Front Command began installing beefed up bus stops which can withstand rocket attacks. These have been introduced following a demand by the PTA and the Sderot Security Headquarters to install them as a condition for beginning the new school year in the town.

    On Wednesday Israeli intelligence released a video showing a cell of three terrorists launching mortar shells toward the Negev from a Gaza schoolyard.

    I'm on the side of those who protect children.

  3. The Public Schools, here, deliver a flawed product, at best.

    Teachers with decades in the System, coasting to retirement. Seemed to me.

    This in the "affluent" areas of the Valley of the Sun. I can just imagine what it's like on the south side.

    Each parents' contact with the System is fleeting, the kids grow up ...
    The "professionals" are there forever.

  4. Megan McArdle at has been blogging up a storm on teachers unions and school vouchers. Here is one pungent passage:

    "How many educated people who:

    a) Oppose vouchers
    b) Have children who do not attend inner city public schools would still oppose vouchers if they were the only way to get their child out of an inner city public school? How many of them would accept that their child had to be left in that school because the systemic effects of allowing their child to exit that repulsive school would be dreadful?

    Respectfully, I believe the answer is "null set".

    Opposing school vouchers is, for basically every single person who does so, a completely costless belief. You get the pleasure of "supporting public education"; someone else's kid, whom you will thankfully never meet, loses their future.

    The teachers and other public employee unions have a vested interest in getting higher pay and less accountability. Higher pay is bad for taxpayers. Less accountability is bad for the intended beneficiaries of public services. The best argument for liberals' lock-step support of public employee unions is that they are the only powerful constituency that supports increased public services, and to mobilize such a constituency you have to serve its institutional interests. Those making such an argument might go on to say that conservatives serve the institutional interests of some of their constituencies in ways that produce bad public policy.

    That's a serious argument, I suppose, but it still leaves poor kids worse off. The teacher unions have been spending huge amounts of money to overturn Utah's statewide school voucher law in a referendum next Tuesday, as George Will reports. The teachers unions' "idea of progress is preservation of the status quo," Will writes. Let's hope they lose.

  5. The other interesting thing, the School Board member that decries the flight to quality.

    Bemoaning her own failures to improve the School District, but still wanting to maintain the School Board's monopoly.

    She has plenty of options, she just refuses to try them. Playing the same old tune instead, thinking the dancing will improve, regardless of the music.

  6. "What I want to fix your attention on is the vast overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence — moral, cultural, social or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient dictatorships, and by the same methods? The basic proposal of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” Children who are fit to proceed may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT. We may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when “I’m as good as you” has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway, the teachers — or should I say nurses? — will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men."

    —C. S. Lewis

    Whaddya know. Centrally-planned, soviet-styled, government schools produce a bad product. After socialism and communism have led country after country into states of insolvency and misery, you would think the US of A would know better.

  7. #1 most important thing in education, so far as I see it:

    Expect much out of children academically, early. Don't give them preconceived excuses or cut breaks. Maybe they'll fall off as they get rebellious older, but it'll be from an already higher standard...Get someone used to 8 hours of straight work and he'll think he's lucky to get away with 6.

  8. I sent my daughter to the Catholic school here, grades 1 through 6. I remember how forlorn many of the kids looked the first day, lined up to enter the front door, three or four nuns in black can look intimidating, when you are that age and not used to it. Like entering gates that say, lose all hope, you who enter here. :) but she liked it. Had to pay out of parish to do it, being a heretic. Then it was public school. If the Catholic school had gone another further I would have kept her in. But no other choice, other than Logos School at Christ Church, end timers, racists, patriachs. The nuns did well. The public schools were ok, at best. In their favor they had a lot more kids to deal with.

  9. If Hillary says I Didn't Have Sex With That Woman the only possible reply is "Why not!?"

  10. bobalharb: If Hillary says I Didn't Have Sex With That Woman the only possible reply is "Why not!?"

    Gennifer Flowers says (on page 42 of her memoir) that Slick Willie says that Hillary has eaten more pussy than he has. And from that picture of Hillary's ever-present "assistant" I would have to say she has better taste in women than Bill (pun intended).

  11. The value of school vouchers is so slight that they’ll be of no practical value to people who can’t already afford to send their kids to private school. They’ll be a benefit only for the people who can afford to send their kids to private school, because it will reduce their costs. I object to using my tax dollars to support someone else’s religious school (and most private schools are religious).

  12. The value of school vouchers is so slight that they’ll be of no practical value to people who can’t already afford to send their kids to private school. They’ll be a benefit only for the people who can afford to send their kids to private school, because it will reduce their costs. I object to using my tax dollars to support someone else’s religious school (and most private schools are religious).