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Advocates of public education sometimes can’t help themselves from demanding that parents abandon their own informed judgments and principles for the good of the collective. A friend sent me the links below along with his misgivings about the motives at play. These are his words:

Here are two examples of something that drives me crazy and amounts to little more than treating my child (and me) as a [resource] to be spent for the improvement of others. The first calls for parents who pack lunches (because they are healthier and cheaper than school lunches) to stop packing and use the school hot lunch so the added scale of moths could improve foods for everybody.

The second is the same, but about attending public school instead of private – again, so that the parental force added to the public schools will help improve public schools. Never mind if public schools are actually good for you.” 

The links are from the New York Times and Slate, respectively:

Why Are You Still Packing Lunch for Your Kids?

If You Send Your Kid To Private School, You Are a Bad Person

In terms of the simple economics, I’d boil these motives down to two things: a desire to achieve scale economies, which is forgivable as far as it goes; and a desire to strengthen the public education monopoly. Of course the latter brings perks for all those who participate in the management and operation of public schools, which have absorbed an ever-increasing volume of resources with little or no improvement in academic results. But the motives involve politics as well as economics. The apparent mission of the public school monopoly encompasses more than the mere provision of education. As I have discussed in more detail in an earlier post, it fosters the inculcation of collectivist values in our children. Public schools, and a few private schools catering to wealthy progressives who would say public schools are good for your kids, are hotbeds of social justice doctrine and identity politics.

Here are my friend’s closing thoughts:

“I’ve always been resistant to private school because we already pay for public [schools] and public [schools] are good enough. But lately I’ve been thinking about private school, in large part to keep [my son] away from these sorts of folks who want to use him for their own purposes…”

Those purposes can be kept in check only through school competition and parental choice. Like any creditable provider of services, schools should cater to their customers, not the other way around.