Public School Not Good Enough for President’s Kids

by Tammy Drennan


Last year (2007), 12% of 8th graders in Washington, D.C. schools were proficient readers. 8% were proficient in math. And that, according to Leonard Pitts, Jr., was an improvement over past performance.


Some people, says Mr. Pitts, would like the Obamas to put their children in D.C. public schools as a show of their faith in the public school system. We can be pretty sure that the Obamas are more responsible parents than that.


We as a nation have been showing our faith in the public school system for a long time. 86% of our children attend public schools. Government at all levels continues to fund public schools, at ever higher rates every year. Businesses not only pour money into public schools, but they allow them to dictate the terms on which they’ll hire employees. Parents raise money for public schools, students rah at their schools’ sporting events, the elderly and working folks volunteer as mentors and tutors. People who can afford private education for their children nevertheless commit them to the public education system. We allow them to experiment on our children with one new teaching method after another, one new reform after another.


We have been showing incredible faith in public schools, in spite of the endless problems and failures, the dismal academic results, the heartbreaking social ills, the emotional and moral damage inflicted, the eternal demands for more of our children’s time and more of our money, the arrogance and self-righteousness that continues to make demands and hurl accusations of inadequate support.


We make all manner of excuses for the schools – teachers are underpaid, look at some of the kids they have to deal with, school buildings are old, there aren’t enough computers, on and on.


We search microscopically for anything we can praise – there really are some good teachers, the new cheerleaders’ uniforms look great, they got new computers, the principal subjected himself to a pie-in-the-face smashing to get the kids to read more books, the football team won all its games last season, the first-graders collected $200 in pennies to save the whales, the fourth-grade teacher went to Germany to observe their schools.


We’ve been showing incredible faith in our public schools.


We believe our public school officials when they tell us they’re using our money responsibly, when they say they’re doing their best with what they have to work with, when they wave that IEP – Individual Education Plan – under our noses and insist that our children’s learning styles and needs are being met.


We dutifully cower when they threaten us with tribunals and even jail if our children miss more than six days in a year, when they question our fitness as parents if life interferes in any way with the school’s agenda, when they insinuate that it is we and not they who have failed our children.


In order to show any more faith in public schools, we’d have to deliver them our babies before they could gurgle mama or dada, along with our paychecks on our way home from work on Fridays.


“Can we be honest here?” Mr. Pitts asks. “I mean brutally honest? District of Columbia public schools are not good enough for the Obama kids…. And we need to ask a simple question: if public schools are not good enough for the president’s kids, what makes us think they’re good enough for ours?”


Here’s another way of asking it: If the Obamas have no faith in public schools, should we?


Should we continue to hand over our children then act as cheerleaders for a system that most of our leaders would not use for their children and feel is so awful that it requires a huge new reform effort with every new president who takes office?


The bottom line is this: Education by the state is not a characteristic of free or healthy societies. Faith in the state is also not a characteristic of free or healthy societies. Faith in education by the state is a recipe for disaster, and we are reaping the fallout of our 160-year experiment with it.


It’s time to stop trusting the state to educate and rear our children and make the hard but effective transition back to true freedom. It’s time to have faith in ourselves.


11 Responses to Public School Not Good Enough for President’s Kids

  1. Frances says:

    Excellent post.

    In response to this: “In order to show any more faith in public schools, we’d have to deliver them our babies before they could gurgle mama or dada, along with our paychecks on our way home from work on Fridays.”
    I think that many liberals would be glad if public school started at age two.

    • Jack Bouchard says:

      From the Democratic Party Platform of 2008:

      “We will make quality, affordable early childhood care and education available to every American child from the day he or she is born. Our Children’s* First Agenda, including increases in Head Start and Early Head Start, and investments in high-quality Pre-K, will improve quality and provide learning and support to families with ages zero to five. Our Presidential Early Learning Council will coordinate these efforts.”

      *Not a typo. I have no idea what happened here.

  2. lisa says:

    Glad to find your wonderful blog again…
    I am a big proponent of parent-owned choice. I am not the least bit upset that Obama cares about his children’s education and well being. It would be a travesty to hand them over to that failure of a school district just to save some face with the minions that voted for him.
    It was sweet to read about this though, because in doing so the Obamas proved a major point. The government shoudn’t have any authority over how a parent chooses to have their children educated(even in a quaker private school).

  3. tdbwd says:


    Thank you. I hope that as president, Mr. Obama will honor the right of parents keep the government out of their children’s education. And I hope that more parents will want to keep the government out. The opportunities for independence just keep growing as people exercise their imaginations again. So glad to have you back!


  4. Dawn says:

    I came across this as I am searching for information for a research paper that I’m writing (Public vs. Charter schools) I love your ending paragraph.

    I feel that we should have a choice in education. My children attend a charter school because we were not happy with the public schools in our area. We can not afford a private school and I’m happy to say that my children have thrived in the charter school.

    We have choices in everything: where to eat, where to shop, where to have fun, where to even work.So why can’t we have a choice in our children’s education. That is my chant when someone questions why my children do not attend our public schools. Just because you make a school new (they have built new school buildings in our area) doesn’t mean the inside will be better.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of these articles.

  5. tdbwd says:


    Thank you. I’m glad your chidren are thriving — that’s what we want for all children, no matter where they go to school. Ultimately, what I want to see is schooling 100% free of government involvement and parents and communities 100% devoted to turning education into all it can be, including protection against those who would rob us of our liberty.

    State schooling is not just the dumbing down of education and the negative influences of institutionalization — it is the ultimate form of freedom-theft. It steals from us our right, our will and our ability to think clearly and wisely.

    The best way to resist it is to opt out. In order for everyone to opt out, many of us will need to think more creatively and develop better choices for others, and many parents will need to examine their priorities.

    Independence will not be easy at first, but we owe it to our children, to the memory of the people who gave us a land of liberty — and to ourselves.

    Thanks much for writing!


  6. Pete says:

    It is mind-boggling how often people spout off about something without getting the facts. You won’t see any President, Democrat or Republican, from now on, putting their grade-school children in a public school in Washington. Why? Because they are too good for public school? No, it is a security issue. Since most presidents tend to be older than Obama, it is unusual to have grade-school kids in the White House. There was a lot of discussion among security experts about where his children could go to school and still ensure their safety. The Secret Service would have had its hands full trying to protect the kids at a public school. If you cry politics too often, it tends to lose its effect.

  7. tdbwd says:


    Thanks very much for your comments. Let me clarify that I was not implying anything political about the Obama’s decision to place their girls in a private school. Obviously, there is a security issue, but if there wasn’t, do you suppose they would enroll their daughters in DC schools? I would be very surprised if they did.

    I started the above article by pointing out just how bad DC schools are — only 12% of 8th graders are proficient readers, 8% proficient in math. That’s why the Obamas would not choose them. And that’s why the vast majority of parents who are forced to use them would rather not. Would you choose to send your children to DC schools?

    My bottom-line question is: How much more money, how much more time, how much more of our “faith” must public schools get before they can become what they claim they can — essentially, the saviors of civilization?

    Maybe they could offer us some numbers so we’d all be on the same page.

    I appreicate you writing and fueling the discussion.


  8. tdbwd says:


    Thanks much for your excerpt in response to Frances’ comment. It pretty much says it all. What’s scary is that instead of terrifying people, it gives them hope. Freedom is a hard discipline, Alan Keyes once said, and most people run from it.

    Again, thank you.


  9. Chris says:

    It’s true that safety would have been an issue for the Obama children in the DC public schools, aside from the poor quality of education. However, I used to live in the Washington area, and the DC public schools aren’t safe for any of the other children in Washington. The DC schools are known for being tough, and many people live in the suburbs to avoid having to put their children in the DC schools.

  10. tdbwd says:


    Very true. I used to live in Philadelphia where many of the schools were not safe even 30 years ago. For a short time I attended a very interesting private school. About half the students in the school came from the inner city — and most of them belonged to gangs, but at school their was no violence and no sign of gangs. Their parents wanted them out of public schools bad enough to find a way to pay private school tuition. It didn’t save the kids from all the negatives of their situations, but it sure did go a long way to help. The kids were safe at school, were getting an actual education, and they got to see their parents refusing to accept the limits the government was trying to impose on them.

    Thanks much, Chris.


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