03 September 2013

Bad People and Private Schools

Allison Benedikt could perhaps stand to take a few lessons from Mark Twain or Will Rogers, because her obviously satirical article in Slate has elicited a number of angry responses from readers who have taken her seriously. Here's the article at issue: If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person. Why?

I went K–12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn’t offer AP [advanced placement] classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.

Conventional wisdom tells us that satire doesn't work if you have to explain it, but here goes. Anyone reading the article should quickly pick up that, if the author has to resort to such flimsy reasoning to denigrate parents desiring a better education for their children, then her own admittedly bad education obviously cannot have served her very well. A better education might have prepared her to mount a more effective argument and to avoid ad hominem attacks. It really is an exquisitely subtle jab at the public system, though perhaps a little too subtle for some.

It seems odd that so many readers have failed to pick up on this satirical element. Yet charity for the author does indeed require us to assume it's satire, because if it's not . . . well, it may be wise to allow readers to draw their own conclusions in that case.

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