Why Doesn’t Rick Santorum Want His Kids to Go to School With Mine?

The education system that once united Americans is tearing us apart.

Smartmoney.com had a thought-provoking article last week on the rising number of Americans who are taking out student loans—to send their children to kindergarten. That’s right: Student-loan creep is reaching all the way down into primary school these days. The average cost of a year of private school is up to $22,000—a jump of 26 percent since the 2006-2007 academic year. Multiply that by 13, then tack on four times $26,700—the average cost for a year at a private college—and you get $392,800 in total educational costs for a kid from kindergarten through college graduation. And those prices are only going up.

What do you get for your 400 grand investment? If you’re lucky, your kid gets a salary close to the national average of about $50,000 when she earns that diploma. If you’re not lucky … graduate school! But what you really get is insulation—from poverty, from reality, from people who don’t think the way you do and the way you want your kids to. The only time your little haves will have to mingle with the have-nots is when they come down from the golden mountain and bestow the benefit of their superiority upon the lesser children, through tutoring or celebrating the odd, charming ethnic holiday.

Sure, sure, private schools give scholarships and aid. But that parents are even considering going into hock for private elementary school goes to the heart of the allure of that isolation. A dad interviewed for the Smartmoney.com piece said he and his wife haven’t saved any money toward their two kids’ college education. They’re hoping that the private-school educations they’re borrowing to pay for will earn the kids scholarships down the road. If that’s not proof our education system is seriously skewed, I don’t know what is.

Just a day after that article appeared, the New York Times ran a story about how Santa Monica College, part of California’s community college system, is going to let students pay more for its most popular classes. Because of cuts in state and federal funding, Santa Monica has had to slash its course offerings. To offer more classes, it will simply charge more—$180 per credit hour, instead of the current $36—for those most in demand. That this essentially creates a two-tier tuition system, with wealthier students more able to afford the courses they want or need, hasn’t escaped the faculty, one of whom acknowledged a “real ick factor” with the plan.

Education used to unite Americans. It was what we all strove for, wanted our children to strive for, and counted on to raise the nation up. Now, our educational morass resembles our political paralysis. Private schools, cyber schools, homeschooling and charter schools remove the impetus to unite and substitute the drive to divide—to separate our kids from those kids, to shield them from those ideas and teachings, to insulate them and isolate them and protect them from anything that might challenge the way we want—we imagine—the world to be. What is Rick Santorum so damned afraid of, that he’s homeschooling his brood? Does he think my public-school kids will contaminate his? That a wide range of experiences and exposures and ideas is a bad thing? That stripping funding and the highest-performing students from the public-school system will make the nation more strong?

Santorum has called our public-school system “anachronistic.” Gutting that system so that private companies can turn a profit, or so that parents can limit and control exactly what their children learn and are taught—that’s anachronistic. And it will harm America a lot more than rubbing shoulders with the occasional child who is—horrors!—an immigrant or impoverished or a follower of a different religion ever could.

  • obiel111

    It never fails to astonish me how liberals purport to read the minds of people who disagree with them, and say with such certainty that everything they do is motivated by racism. I can tell you in one word a far more accurate and legitimate reason why I would prefer to have my kids in private school: accountability. It’s non-existent among public school teachers and administrators, and it’s the foremost priority of their private school counterparts. But don’t let that get in the way of your attacking the character of those who disagree with you rather than debating them on the merits.

  • peter1

    “It never fails to astonish me how liberals purport to read the minds of people who disagree with them, and say with such certainty that everything they do is motivated by racism.”

    Ummm, sir or madam, race is not mentioned once in this piece…not once. It’s not really even hinted at. The only time it’s even ever alluded to is at the end, where she writes, “immigrant or impoverished or a follower of a different religion”. And guess what? White people can be all of those three things. I guess we know where you’re coming from, and why, at least partially, you’re sending your kids to private school.

    At least you aren’t home-schooling them, because as it is, we’re going to have an entire generation of children who are going to have to unlearn a whole lot of nonsense, like, I don’t know, Jesus rode dinosaurs or something.

    It’s mind-boggling to me that parents (who live in places such as Radnor, Lower Merion and Tredyffrin) would spend 40K a year to send their kids to private schools, but they do. And it’s not because they’re getting a better education, because they aren’t.

  • obiel111

    Racism, elitism, bigotry, whatever. My point is the same either way, and you don’t address it. Nor do you address the accountability issue. When faced with parent complaints, public school teachers and administrators can–and often do–tell parents to go to hell, with the full backing of their unions and the armies of overpaid bureaucrats who nominally oversee them. There are no such things among private schools. And your smearing home-schooled kids as hopelessly ignorant (another liberal SOP) is belied by their consistently scoring higher on standardized tests than other kids.