Interesting question posed to the Ethicist of NYtimes. While some of the comments definitively advised the couple to take care of their own child and send him to the best school possible, I was heartened to see a good number of responses in support of Integrated/ing schools. The Ethicist, however, responded that the parents’ first duty is to their son (though they can, you know, work to make things better for all kids by getting involved in local and state politics.
How would you answer this question??
“My wife and I are an interracial couple living in Oakland, Calif. We are both first-generation college graduates for whom solid public-school educations made all the difference. We are struggling with choosing a public school for our son, who will enter kindergarten this year. State test scores came out recently, and our neighborhood public school, which is filled with some of the city’s poorest kids, scored very low. I have to believe there is something seriously wrong with how the school is educating kids. (Otherwise, the school, which we know fairly well through volunteering, seems perfectly fine.) My wife and I both work full-time and also care for her mother and disabled sibling, so we know that we can’t put in the kind of time that would be required to turn the school around. We also fear that we cannot teach our son enough outside school hours to make up for a significant deficit in his education.
This raises a serious ethical quandary for us: Do we let our neighborhood kids and our own values down by fleeing to a higher-testing public school in a richer part of the city? Or do we let our son down by sending him to the neighborhood school, which we fear will not put him on solid educational footing? My instinct is that our higher duty is to our son. But I am also painfully aware that this kind of my-kid-comes-first mentality is exactly what created poor urban schools to begin with. We will probably feel lousy no matter what we decide to do. But from a purely ethical standpoint, should our child’s education or our neighborhood and its kids come first? Name Withheld”