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Malia and Sasha: Public or Private

Today's Root post:

I'm a little late to this conversation, but I feel compelled to weigh in on the question of whether the Obama children should go to public or private school. I truly, deeply, completely understand why some feel sending Malia and Sasha to a private school will indicate an "abandonment" of the public school system, but still and all I think this is an inappropriate, bordering on reckless, discussion.

First of all--the question reminds me of Obama's behind the scenes remark in Newsweek:

"So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

I don't think sending the girls to public school is going to solve the unbelievable decline of our schools. And I seriously doubt he will be less motivated to improve the public school system de facto because he and Michelle send their girls to a private school.

Then there is the quality of the DC public school system. They are working on it, and I have tremendous respect for the teachers and many excellent public schools, especially the charter schools, in DC, but the history is fraught with issues. I went to one of the best public schools on Capitol Hill when my father worked for the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter, and let's just say it could have been better.

Which brings us to the question of giving your kids "less" on principle. It reminds me of parents who believe you shouldn't leave money to your children because they won't work hard or appreciate the benefits of self-reliance, which is fine. But what if that somehow compromises the stability of your children or grandchildren?

Aren't principles, if they undermine long-term viability and health, dysfunctional?

What troubles me about these conversations is the assumption Malia and Sasha are just like everyone else. They may be in some ways, but they are not in one very big way: they are the children of the President of the United States. There are massive security issues to be managed. Those kids need to be in the most controlled environment possible. That means contained campuses, administrative familiarity with similar situations, and all manner of other considerations.

Safety first. Principles second. Or, what about safety being the overriding principle? 

What do you think?

 

November 13th, 2008

Comments:

Comment #1 by Syreeta on November 14, 2008 - 2:42am

The girls should certainly go to private school. What's the point in accomplishing great things if you can't give your children a top notch education? I would send my daughter to private school in a heartbeat in that situation. They are the children of the most powerful and inspirational people on the planet- why shouldn't they have the best education they can get? I'm sure if Barack and Michelle were still just lawyers and making some money, no one would think it was weird or reckless for them to send their girls to the best schools. But, you hit the nail on the head; it's really about safety. It just is.

I think it sucks that public schools in big cities are in shambles, and I think that it sucks that rich parents have so many more opportiunities than poor parents, but you can't blame/penalize children for the injustice in the world. Every child deserves the very best education they can possibly get. Sasha and Malia are so lucky that they get the chance to go to the best schools and meet the most influential people in the world and have the most amazing lives ever, but they will be making sacrifices, too. Why not give them an amazing, above average education? If I had the chance, no matter what, to give that to my daughter, I'd snatch it right up!

Comment #2 by Danielle on November 14, 2008 - 6:11am

I think they should show Sasha and Malia all of their options and let them decide.

Comment #3 by TheJennTaFur on November 14, 2008 - 9:53am

I agree with you on safety first.

As a Native Washingtonian, my parents had me in private school for at the time I started school in the DC area (1979), the DC public school system was questionable. My mother had a hell of a time finding a school that best suited my needs. I jumped from at least 3 schools within the DC area (all private) and I ended up finishing elementary school, junior high school and high school in private schools in Bethesda & Potomac, Maryland.

While I was in high school, one of my classmates was the child of a well known politician. A few times the school had to be cleared out because of bomb threats. The students (including myself) never understood why these bomb threats were called in (1990-1992) but the school administrator's had a feeling it may have been because of the student's parent.

Fortunately, the student never was harmed and none of the other students ever discussed the student outside of our school setting in public which was great for the student's safety.

I hope Malia and Sasha are able to have a normal school experience if that is possible?!

Comment #4 by Anonymous on November 14, 2008 - 6:32pm

I agree the girls should go to Private school for their safety, this was a never a question for other President's children for example Chelsea Clinton so why should the media feel they have the right to tell the Obama's what is right for their children. I am very concerned with the media and society feel they have the right to critique everything the Obama's say, do and where, they are still humans beings with the right to make their own personal choices about how to live their lives. No one dared tell past Presidents how to raise their children or what to buy. For example scrutiny behind Michelle's wardrobe, let us not forget that she is a Ivy League grad who was making $300,000 a year working her OWN JOB and she can damm well buy whatever she pleases without the media's permission.

Comment #5 by rebecca on November 14, 2008 - 8:50pm

I hear you! I agreed to write one last piece on Michelle Obama, and then I for one would like to be part of the world that leaves them alone to figure it all out.

It's an interesting point--that many private schools don't suit the needs of children, too. The assumption that because it's private, it's good or better than public is a mistake. 

Comment #6 by Janeen on November 15, 2008 - 8:10pm

Perhaps if the public schools in DC were not in shambles and measured up to those of the private schools in the same area, that a debate would be warranted. And, I agree wholeheartedly that safety is first, and I believe the secret service will be better positioned to protect Sasha and Malia in a private setting versus public.

Comment #7 by James Landrith on November 19, 2008 - 2:13pm

Agreed Rebecca. I taught for 6 years on a volunteer basis in an adult literacy program in Southeast DC. I can't count how many of my students had high school diplomas from DC Public Schools, yet were functionally illiterate and were enrolled in PLAN in order to gain the skills necessary to perform their jobs safely, pass a driving test or otherwise compete with their peers.

I really don't see how fixing a problem that took decades to create is suddenly the responsibility of Sasha and Malia...

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