So does the New York Times: The New York Times has published some strange op-ed columns in its time.
This morning, the puzzling paper has published one of its strangest yet.
The essay was written by two sociology professors and one graduate student. It appears beneath this fiery headline:
How Entitled Parents Hurt SchoolsDarn those entitled parents! Near the start of their essay, the professors outline the situation—a situation which, at least as described, makes little apparent sense:
LAREAU, WEININGER AND COX (6/25/18): [E]conomic segregation, which is more pronounced among families with children, [sometimes] creates public school districts where affluent families predominate. This can lead to trouble in schools, but of a distinct kind. Motivated by a fierce desire to protect their children and themselves from difficulty, and armed with a robust sense of entitlement as well as ample economic, cultural and social resources, affluent parents can create conflict and interfere with school districts on a scale that is rarely acknowledged.Darn those affluent parents, with their "robust sense of entitlement!"
We saw this firsthand during the research for our recent study of an affluent school district in the Northeast. We call this district Kingsley, to preserve the anonymity of the interviews we conducted with families and school officials.
Perhaps you think you already know the shape of the upcoming story. Almost surely, you don't.
As they continue, the professors describe a situation which unfolded in an affluent school district which runs two (2) high schools. (The number is revealed here.)
The district decided to change attendance boundaries for its two (2) high schools. Here's what happened next:
LAREAU, WEININGER AND COX (continuing directly): As of the 2010 census, more than a third of households in the district had an annual income of $150,000 or more, and the median home value exceeded $450,000. More than 70 percent of adult residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, over twice the national average. Kingsley was also extremely successful academically. It was a “destination district,” with average SAT scores nearly 250 points above the state average on the 2,400-point scale.The irate eggheads continue from there, describing the chaos which resulted from the parents' protests. But why should anyone, including Times readers, care about this alleged string of events? What issues were at stake?
We started visiting this community...to understand how parents decide where to live and send their children to school. After the study had begun, Kingsley administrators began the process of redrawing boundaries for the district’s [two] high schools to balance attendance numbers. Administrators, of course, don’t want children crowded into one school while there are empty seats in classrooms in another. Since they cannot control where parents live within the district, they sometimes reassign certain neighborhoods’ students from one school to another. This provoked an outcry among many of the parents, which we documented.
At no point was there a suggestion, by parents or administrators, that the educational quality of one of the two high schools was worse. However, the reassignment would have increased some students’ travel time, by an average of about 10 minutes.
The reassignment process lasted for almost a year. Once the district began releasing proposals, there were vigorous protests, which led to revised proposals and new protests.
Here's why we ask those questions:
There is no sign in this report that these parental protests involved issues of race or income. There is no sign that one of these high schools was more prestigious than the other.
Why did parents oppose the new attendance lines? The professors describe no reason other than the increase in travel time to and from school each day.
From the professors' report, it's hard to see why parents would have been so upset, if indeed they were. But there is no sign that conventional matters of race or class or other invidious advantage were involved in their actions.
Why then is this the most prominent op-ed column in today's New York Times? (In hard copy, it's accompanied by a visual.) Indeed, why is this puzzling essay in the New York Times at all?
The professors seem to be deeply upset by the "opportunity hoarding" of these affluent parents. But in this particular case, what "opportunity" were the parents "hoarding?" According to the professors' account, there was no apparent difference in opportunity between the two affluent high schools at all.
Why in the world did the New York Times decide to publish this drivel? We'll suggest one possible answer:
The New York Times isn't real sharp.
With that possibility duly noted, we now ask another question. Why were the professors so upset by the protests they describe?
Good lord! To read the professors' overview of their study, you can just click this. Under the bold-faced heading "Findings/Results," the irate professors offer this warning to the world:
District administrators were subject to a torrent of “data” and “research findings” that parents used to criticize the district’s proposed plans. Parents frequently employed their professional expertise to directly challenge arguments put forth by officials in order to justify proposed policies. Furthermore, they drew on elaborate interpersonal networks in order to pool complementary forms of expertise and to mobilize large numbers of like-minded residents. Behind their challenges lay a sense of entitlement that rendered them unwilling to defer to the authority of the administration to make decisions concerning the needs of the system. While no single criticism was decisive, the ongoing challenges to proposed policies forced the district into a permanently defensive posture, resulting in a reduction of the board’s ability to use its own expert knowledge to decide which institutional policies would best serve students’ needs.Imagine! Parents "employed their professional expertise to challenge arguments put forth by officials!" They even used data to
criticize the school district's plans!
How dare those parents do such things? How dare these parents challenge school officials' "expert knowledge?"
Conservatives routinely cite lunacy of this type to warn voters about the tyranny of the elites. In this case, a couple of pointy-headed professors are troubled because some "privileged" parents dared oppose the judgment of the administrators they employ.
According to the professors, this conduct displayed these privileged parents' "robust sense of entitlement." Only in the New York Times would such piddle make it to print.
Coming this afternoon: The Times helps us learn how to get to sleep. Warning! Extremely strange ideas!