The First Family’s school search

I found an interesting column today in the The Root, an online magazine that features black perspectives on the news of the day, about the Obama family’s search for a new school for Sasha and Malia.

The author, Meera Bowman-Johnson, writes:

Most parents struggle with where to send their kids to school. But the decision can be especially agonizing for upwardly mobile black parents. There are worries about low expectations from teachers and peer pressure to value coolness over studiousness. Inevitable accusations of “acting white.” Then there’s an extra pressure to ensure that your children continue to carry your family forward, rather than erase the gains of the past. And of course, there is the ever-present, if often unreasonable, expectation to lift your whole community along with your nuclear family as you climb.

Do you think the Obamas have any obligation to send their daughters to public school in D.C., given the school system’s challenges? (It doesn’t look like they will, judging from the news reports that I’ve seen.) What do you think about the author’s premise that upwardly mobile African-American families face extra pressure when making this decision? What sort of pressure have you experienced here in Oakland, when choosing a school for your child?

image from bobster1985’s site on flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    There are extra pressures and problems for black families in placement of their children. If the family intends upward social and economic mobility it is essential to limit, control and prevent their children’s exposure to black underclass and over time to ensure their children regard that class with the same contempt their parents do.

    Otherwise the children are at risk to join the underclass or be victimized by them. Obama did not become President by his white family exposing him to black underclass – quite the opposite, they physically got him an Ocean away from them. As an adult he was able to get his own identity and he managed not to become too addicted to the Cocaine and MJ he got into in college, etc. Lucky him.

    We all know too many children of black middle class that wound up in prison. We all know exactly how they got there, and it sure wasn’t on the first felony.

    Whites don’t get these things at all – they haven’t a clue how vulnerable black kids are. I’ve dealth with white stepparents and white foster parents who just couldn’t understand why Junior “chose” the way he did. Well maybe they couldn’t afford to move Junior to Hawaii or Indonesia – but it started when they refused to realize they had an issue in the first place.

    Growing up in the East Bay my family and their friends had their kids in Jack and Jill – an exclusionary black children’s program. I now find that black many professionals I meet just happen to have that experience in common. And when we bumped into each other in professional schools across the country our backgrounds were similar. That was my generation – things are different and probably still the same now.

    We always knew a rotten apple can spoil the barrel.

    Hell no the Obama’s aren’t likely to keep their children in public school and both of them know how this story ends. Say what you will about the Obamas – they did not get this far by sleepwalking through life. Those girls will be protected from high risk.

  • Nextset

    Typos again! Late start here! Have a great weekend..

  • Sue

    I’d already seen something (on the Washington Post web site, probably) about Michelle Obama visiting a couple of D.C. private schools. The girls are/were attending a private school in Chicago, right? Makes sense that the family would keep doing what they’ve been doing.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, the Obama girls attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, which is considered one of the best private schools in the city.

  • Jose, Former Student

    Who was the last president to send their children to a public school in Washington, D. C.?

  • Turner

    The Obamas have an obligation to the education of their daughters. They need to make a decision that is in their best interests. This is not politics or public relations. This is to secure the best future possible for those girls.

    If sending them to private school is the best way to secure that future, then so be it. There is nothing wrong with going to private school.


  • Katy Murphy

    Jose: I believe the last president to send his child to public school was Jimmy Carter.

  • Kim

    Any parent who understands public education as a whole face the same challenges that the noted “upward mobile African-American family” face when making the decision between the two systems. For someone like the Obamas the choice is easy for obvious reasons. Their children began in private school because of who their parents are and will continue to do so without having to face the potential challenges that other parents and their children face in a private schools setting. There are many trade offs between private vs. public school. Those trade offs depends on many things, such as what your parent’s profession may or may not be. What city or neighborhood do you and your child live in, how long have you been attending private school? And whether or not you are there by the support of your parents or by scholarships, etc. Unlike public school, private school is centered more on the entire family status and it communities and less on just the individual student.

    As a parent who recently had to make this decision for my high school student to attend a private school and who is facing some of the challenges I mentioned above, I can say the decision for the Obamas is a no brainier, the girls should and will attend private school.

  • Jose, Former Student

    What President would send their children to the Washington, DC public schools?

    This confirms President Carter could not be trusted to make good choices. Now, I understand why he only lasted one term.

  • Nextset

    Jose: You got that right. And it also sheds light on Carter’s impotence before the Iranian Government’s Act of War in taking our Embassy and holding our nationals prisoner. (If you believe that was done by “students” I have a bridge on the bay to sell you.

    Carter, and others like him, cannot be trusted to do their duty. Reagan was elected to end their rule.

    Somehow I think (hope) Obama will be different. He’s probably a big mistake, but enough of an X factor to still hope for a breakthrough.

    He will be tested severely very soon. Probably a combination of economic and foreign crisis with no good way out. It will be interesting to see who he decides to throw overboard when people have to go fast.

    In this case he isn’t sacrificing his kids to political correctness – or Michelle won’t. That’s a good thing.

  • Nextset

    In Los Angeles for the weekend. Ran into friends with 12 and 15 ear olds. Thay are paying $23,500.00 each for “Mid-Market” Private school for the kids. They told me the Catholic Schools are somewhat cheaper, Jewish schools are more expensive. The non-denominational school selected is 50% Jewish.

    The parents both went to CA public schools, K through College.

    This is what our educational policy is doing to our society. Two Nations, Separate, Unequal and Divided as the book title said.

    When your OUSD kids try to make it through college they will compete with Los Angeles kids – the college bound being products of the Private School Systems.

    We had an interesting conversation about life in the private schools in LA. There were 500 applications for 20 open spots in one child’s class level at the school. There are essentially no minorities. If there are any performance or discipline problems the child/family are told to leave. (Too many waiting in line to put up with disturbed kids)

    Homework and computers are taken very seriously.

    Brave New World.

  • G. Bird

    I think this article raises an interesting question:

    Just for kicks, assume that the Obamas were moving to Oakland instead of DC, and that they would be here for 8 years. Where would they send their kids to school? In what elementary, middle, and high schools would they find an appropriate place for their children to get an education? Would they be more likely to attend traditional public schools, charter schools, or private schools?

  • Nextset

    Probably Head-Royce?

    Education is becoming a private club. And the Electorate and the Courts let it happen by running the Public School Districts into the ground.

    And in the generations to come, acceptance and membership in the professional and ruling classes will be determined by which elementary school you went to, a self-perpetuating aristocracy.

    Brave New World.

  • Jana Lane

    Of course, the Obamas have the same right any American parents have to select a school for their children. However, is they decide to send their children to private school, it eleminates any ground they might have to oppose vouchers. What could they say to low income parents who want to be able to select a school for their child where there will be no disruptive, deprived or disabled children?