Public school not good enough for Obama's kids

Kahlenberg does better when writing on SES and behavior, when he recognizes that "good schools require an orderly environment. Low-income schools report disorder problems twice as often as middle-class schools".

Disorder, of course, equates to the diversity-of-behavior medium-and high-SES parents don't want their kids exposed to. The do-as-we-say, not-as-we-do group of high-SES parents includes President-elect Obama; his kids are now attending the private University of Chicago Laboratory School. They will soon take seats at Washington's elite Sidwell Friends School - private, of course.

Remarkably, a few ideology-driven high-SES parents will put their kids in the public domain, for example, President Jimmy Carter and his wife. Most won't: the list includes such recognizable figures as the Bidens, the Clintons, and the Gores, and such anonymous numbers as public-school teachers, who send their kids to private ones at about twice the rate (22 percent) for non-teachers (11 percent). It's an example of ideology trumped by parental pragmatism.

Mrs. Hicks was excoriated by the gentry-left for her (accurate) comments about "rich families in the [Boston] suburbs" pushing for integration of the South Boston schools while their own kids attend safely at Lexington or Sudbury, and more so for her (accurate) predictions that white flight would re-segregate Boston schools, which are now at 86 percent black or Hispanic from the less-than-20-percent in her day.

The notion of SES-integration, voluntary or forced, hadn't yet surfaced, but I'd guess she'd predict a similar outcome, not for the race-class identifier used in the '70s decade by advocates (and recalled in the '00s decade by Fourth Estaters sich as Peggy Noonan) but for the unpleasant-behavior question which has yet to achieve much recognition, a passing acknowledgment by such as Kahlenberg notwithstanding.

I'd predict that history will repeat itself - not that a modern Louise Day Hicks will or won't surface, but that the middle-class objections to exposing their kids to unattractive (and even dangerous) diversity-in-behavior, which were lost behind the race labels, will resurface; these will resurface behind or even in front of the SES-labels.

Most middle-SES families will continue to flee school districts, like Burlington, which try to social-engineer on that basis.

Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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