Sasha and Malia Obama have to be the cutest kids to live in the White House since Caroline Kennedy and John, Jr. Last night on “60 Minutes”, Michelle Obama was asked if the children would attend public school:
[Kroft] Did you seriously consider sending the girls to public school?
You know, we’re still in the process of figuring out that transition and what we have asked people to understand is that the decision that we make will be based on the best interests of the girls. We haven’t made that decision yet. We want that to be a personal process, and people have been really good about respecting that.
I do respect the Obama’s decision as parents to choose the best school for their girls, but most parents in the United States do not have this luxury. I am a public school teacher, and I strongly support public education as a necessity in a democracy. It is a personal decision of the Obama family where their children attend school, but politically, public school would be the best decision.
Here are five reasons why Sasha and Malia should attend public school:
- It sends a message that Obama believes in public education: Politician after politician states that they support public education, but when it comes to their own children, public schools are not good enough. This hypocritical message tarnishes public opinion of our school system, and it furthers the view of politicians as elitist. Sasha and Malia currently attend private school in Chicago.
- Public school curriculum will reflect Obama’s environmental mandate: Republicans, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, have vetoed climate change as part of the science curriculum. If our president, who believes and wants to act quickly on climate change, sends his children to public school, scientific-based environmental education will become part of the curriculum. If I were Sasha and Malia’s teacher, I would certainly follow their father’s lead on global warming issues.
- Sasha and Malia will be safe: The most common reason I have heard in favor of private education for the Obama girls is their safety. For some reason, there is a public perception that private schools are safer than public schools. Sure the Obama girls require extra protection as members of the first family, but private schools are not immune to school shootings. If you can’t keep Sasha and Malia safe at public school, then my kids aren’t safe there either.
- Private does not mean less public in terms of media attention: Bill Clinton chose to send Chelsea to private school in order to protect her privacy. Just because the word “public” is in public school does not mean that confidentiality isn’t taken seriously. Public schools are not going to release Sasha and Malia’s grades to the media, and the same steps that would be used at private school to ward off the paparazzi can be used at a public school too.
- Do it for the people of DC: Washington, DC is predominately African-American, and 90% of the vote went to Obama on election day. According to Mother Jones, “DC schools have such a bad rep that our own mayor, who has made education reform his signature issue, refuses to send his kids to one, so luring in the Obama girls would be an enormous coup.”
- Public school will help make the Obama girls life more normal: Obama stated he can’t go to the barber shop anymore; his barber meets him in an undisclosed location for a haircut. Life for the First Family is far from normal, but attending public school would give Sasha and Malia a chance to be friends with normal, average, regular children. Sure, they may be treated a little differently with Secret Service agents following them around, but at least they won’t be attending school with children only from elitist families that can afford tuition of $28,000 a year or more.
- Sasha and Malia will get a good education: When I worry about my children’s education, a former teacher and friend reminds me that family is the most important factor in a child’s education. Sasha and Malia could attend the worst school in America, and I believe they would still get a good education. Involved parents meet with teachers, participate in school committees, help their children with homework, enrich their children’s education, etc.
- Michelle Obama has stated she wants to improve the public school system in DC: What better way to improve a school system then to get involved in your own children’s education? I guarantee that whatever public school the Obamas choose, that school will rise to the occassion. Children that attend public schools in their communities have stronger ties to that community, and thus their families are more invested and work harder to improve the community too.
Perhaps it is not appropriate for us to debate this personal choice of the Obama family, but I believe it is a very important decision for public education. As a school teacher, I will feel disappointed if Sasha and Malia go to private school, but as a mother, I understand the need for families to make the best choice for their children. You only get one chance at childhood in this lifetime.