Settling for less than ideal in the suburbs…

Matthew Stewart and some of the parents in Milburn, NJ are outraged that a mandarin language immersion school may open in their school district.  Michael Petrlli, responding to the charge that these parents are selfish, argues:

So let me get this straight. As a parent, I’m “selfish” if I want to send my sons to a public school that meets their needs, and meshes with my values and my aspirations for them? The “selfless” thing to do is to send them to a school that’s not a good fit, or to write a check for private education?

What happens of course is that energized public school parents turn to advocacy to mold the one-size-fits-all offering into a school of their liking. The environmentally-minded parents push for eco-friendly cafeterias and lots of outdoor education. Numeracy hawks rally around Singapore math. Warm and fuzzy types push for more time for self-expression. And on and on it goes. Beleaguered school boards and administrators do their best to find the golden mean. And everybody settles for much less than their ideal.

Of course, settling for less than the ideal means something different in Milburn, NJ than it means for poor parents in Detroit.  The poor aren’t looking to put their children in Chinese immersion programs…they want their children to get a good education.  For the well-off folks of Milburn the issue of access to language immersion isn’t really about settling…it is about missing an opportunity to get your kids ahead.

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