Agreeing with Rush Limbaugh is like getting a root canal; it’s astonishingly, even mind-bogglingly painful, but rare. Still, it does happen. And I agree wholeheartedly with Rush when he says that liberals who opt out of public schools are big fat hypocrites.
A core tenet of American liberalism is a support for fully funded public education, from Head Start to college. Yes?
1992, Bill and Hillary Clinton shopped around the whole of the District of Columbia to find a suitable school for young Chelsea. Did they visit Amy Carter’s alma mater, Rose L. Hardy Middle School? No. For in 1992, DC schools were generally assumed to be disastrous, failing, underfunded, and worst of all, unsafe. Chelsea would matriculate at Sidwell Friends, a highly ranked private school. Thomas L. Friedman wrote the following in the New York Times on January 6, 1993, shortly before Clinton’s inauguration:
Friends of the Clintons said today that the decision was based on their conviction that they simply would not sacrifice their daughter's education to make a political point. The District of Columbia school system is notoriously underfinanced, overcrowded and far from ideal, and many parents in the District -- white and black -- who can afford to do so send their children to private schools.
What sacrifice, exactly? Did anyone wonder if the presence of Secret Service officers might help maintain peace at George Washington Elementary? And really, was there any doubt that Chelsea’s preteen intellect would dwindle and die if she were to attend such a school? She was, after all, the daughter of Yale Law graduates who could lay the world quite literally at her feet. Would she lose IQ points at Rose L. Hardy, or would the school, energized by her presence, rise to meet her?
Like it or not, the children of politicians need to put up or shut up as much as their parents do. I would feel differently, perhaps, if the Obama sisters were hidden from the limelight as strenuously as the progeny of the late Michael Jackson, their faces covered even while dangling from hotel balconies. But everyone remembers that the children of the candidates in 2008 were officially a Big Fucking Deal. Chelsea Clinton flat-ironed her hair and showed the world she was All Growed Up. Adorably round Sasha Obama had dimples so deep you could serve soup in them. Meghan McCain blogged and Tweeted her fingers off in an attempt to prop up her doddering old man. Joe Biden and John Edwards both lost children in terrible accidents, as the pages of ladies’ magazines recounted in breathless, image-softening detail. Then there were the antics of Track, Bristol, Pillow, Trigger, and Bamm-Bamm Palin, public relations disasters all.
If a child is offered to the public, the child can be parented by the public. If a child is trotted out as part of the campaign, the voters can expect that child to live that parent’s ideology. Am I surprised that the little McCains went to private schools in Phoenix? Nope. Am I gravely disappointed when the Obama girls march into an elite prep school that native District of Columbians cannot access? Yep.
[My friend, a bleeding heart liberal in the same socioeconomic class as the Obamas and Clintons] also swore that her daughter’s education would not be sacrificed to an ideology, but when she made this proclamation, Hannah was only three years old. Nowhere on the Expensive Private School website did I see the curriculum for Advanced Placement Play-Doh, nor did I see an offering for Accelerated Tag. She wasn’t fooling me, and I told her so.
Shortly thereafter, my best friend of fifteen years stopped returning my calls.