Michelle Obama and Public Schools
“I want people to know when they look at me, to be clear that they see what an investment in public education can look like.” — Michelle Obama
Now, I’m in favor of investment in public education. I went to seven different public schools growing up, including three on American military bases, and have three degrees from public institutions. I’ve even taught at four public colleges and universities.
But Michelle Obama? She’s a different story:
Michelle graduated from Whitney Young High School in 1981 and went on to major in sociology and minor in African American studies at Princeton University, where she graduated cum laude with an Artium Baccalaureus in 1985. As part of her requirements for graduation, she wrote a thesis entitled, “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” She obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1988.
Whitney Young High School “is a highly selective-enrollment Chicago public school that opened its doors to students on September 3, 1975 as the city’s first public magnet high school.” It’s as close to a private school as it gets on the taxpayer’s dime. Princeton and Harvard, of course, are not only private institutions but part of the Ivy League.
So, looking at Michelle Obama might give one a very good idea what going to the most selective institutions in the country can look like. An investment in public education? Not so much.
UPDATE: A couple of commenters note that exclusive public magnet schools are still public schools. True that.
The problem, though, is that it undercuts her argument. You don’t have to “invest” in a public school if it can cherry pick the best students in the city and send the bad ones elsewhere. Any school would provide a good education under those conditions. Indeed, one of the chief arguments against vouchers for private schools is that it leaves behind the hardest-to-teach children for the public schools and isolates those kids, disproportionately from minority groups and the underclass, even further.
Additionally, it appears the Obama’s send their own kids to private school. For the convenience, of course.
UPDATE II: Another commenter observes that Obama went to public grade school. That’s true. The CST feature “The woman behind Obama” reports,
Both Michelle and Craig, now head basketball coach at Brown University, learned to read at home by the age of 4. Both skipped second grade (both their parents also skipped a grade).
By sixth grade, Michelle joined a gifted class at what is now Bouchet Elementary, at 73rd and Jeffery. The gifted program exposed Michelle to three years of French before she graduated as class salutatorian, and, for two years, to special biology classes at Kennedy King College. There, the gifted class studied photosynthesis, worked in a laboratory and identified the muscles of dissected rat specimens, recalled childhood friend Chiaka Davis Patterson. “This is not what normal seventh-graders were getting,” Patterson said.
No joke. So, if you’re really bright, your parents teach you to read at home before you start school, you go to special college classes in grade school, and then to school with the best students in all of Chicago, then there’s nothing like a public school education. Then again, for most kids, that’s nothing like a public school education.