Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Obamas chose Sidwell Friends School...

...for their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, ending days of speculation about which private school they would attend. Sidwell Friends has an excellent reputation and is the alma mater of Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore III. Richard Nixon's daughters also attended and Joe Biden's grandchildren are current students. The school is comprised of 38% minority students and 21% receive some form of financial assistance. It should be a smooth transition from the girls' current school, the University of Chicago Lab School, and everyone seems to agree it's a great choice.

And yet, I can't help thinking, why not a Washington, D. C. public school? Preposterous? What about the quality? What about security? Well, I don't know anything about security, but I can't believe that would be an insurmountable problem. I think it's more of an excuse. Quality is the real issue here.

But what better sign of commitment to public education than having the President's children attend? Are the President's children too good for public schools? What signal does that send? Is there any doubt that if the Obama girls were to attend public schools then those schools would get the resources they need and improve dramatically? And then the rest of the District's schools as well? And if not, what would that say about our nation's commitment to public education?

In an age where everyone from Bill Gates on down is lamenting the state of American education and worrying about our nation's future competitiveness, what could be a better gesture than the President of the United States sending his own children to public schools? The Carters did it with their daughter Amy, and she wound up at Brown University. Let the rich and privileged continue to send their kids to expensive private schools, Obama could say, but I'm throwing my lot in with public education. It has been a key part of the American Dream: free public education to give every hard-working and deserving child a chance at competing on a level playing field. After all, Michelle Obama is a product of the Chicago public school system, and she is a classic example of what that Dream can produce. Why not make a real statement of change?

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