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Update: Private School Hypocrisy Pro/Con

Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 11.56.09 AMToday's the first day of school for LAUSD kids, but Matt Damon's daughters aren't among them.  Do you care?

As I wrote last week, the testing critic and teacher advocate revealed last week during a publicity interview for Elysium that after agonizing over the decision he was sending his kids to a progressive private school.

The reactions thus far have been fairly predictable (see roundup below).

For me, the issue isn't so much that Damon chose a private school for his kids, but rather that (a) he espoused an outdated and narrow view of the Los Angeles education scene and (b) that reform critics make such a big deal about their opponents' private school choices and backgrounds and then can't deal when they're called out for having enjoyed or exercised some of the same choices.

There are scads of interesting public school options in LA, including among them many progressive options (see where Damon is probably sending his kids below).  

And if it matters where Michelle Rhee sent her children or where Jonah Edelman went to school then it matters where Damon (or Ravitch, or Haimsen) sent theirs. 

Conservatives like Hannity had a field day over the decision (as well as Damon's "break-up" with President Obama, discussed in a BET segment (Obama Breaks It Off with Matt Damon).

According to the Daily News, former Governor Bush is among them (Jeb Bush slams public-school advocate Matt Damon for sending kids to private school): 

Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

"Damon has long been a cheerleader for the public schools, and so the actor deserved this spanking for his self-serving "good enough for thee, but not for me" defense of a public school system that he and his own family have abandoned. Others have said the same thing," wrote Ruben (@rubennavarrette) Navarette at CNN (Jeb Bush vs. Matt Damon on schools and testing).

At TIME.com, Andy Rotherham described Damon's move as "catnip for conversvatives" (The Bourne Hypocrisy) while noting that it was nothing new or necessarily objectionable unless Damon was against other parents exercising the same kinds of choices or somehow was unaware of the innovative district and charter schools in LA.

Reform critics denounced the attacks variously:

Defenders including Democratic strategist Mark Hannah raised the issue of Chris Christie sending his kids to private school instead of public, basically pointing out that the issue is a red herring.

NYU historian Diane Ravitch defended Damon (A Hero of American Education): "First, they wreck public schools by turning them into testing factories, then they ridicule those who don’t like what they have done to the public schools. They say, yah, yah, yah, you have no credibility to support public schools. They send their own kids to private schools, but they say he should not because he supports public schools."

We still don't know precisely which school Matt Damon is sending his kids to this year.  Folks tell me it's probably Wildwood, or Willows, or Crossroads, given the Damon family's choice to live in the Palisades (and the choices other actors have made).

Indeed, there are more than a few schools with programs that are balanced in terms of curriculum, especially on the West Side of LA.  There are a handful of really progressive schools, like Ocean (a public Waldorf), Goethe, da Vinci, etc.  There are also a small but growing number of intentionally diverse charter schoolswhere the focus is on creating economic and social diversity among students.  I wrote about these last year in Education Next, having visited a couple (Citizens, Larchmont).

Perhaps the real problem was that Damon couldn't get his kids into these schools at the last minute.  Many are over-subscribed and have waiting lists and lotteries.


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It is sad that people fail to understand the difference between public policy and personal choice. The ideal does not have to exist in order to fight to achieve it.
It's even sadder that Jeb Bush is unable to understand the difference between simple 'choice' and being forced to make a decision. It's scary that a supposed education advocate feels that 'choice' should mean the 'freedom' to run from our problems. Jeb Bush sees what Matt Damon did as 'the solution' yet he calls him a hypocrite.
I'm sure if one were to ask Matt Damon, he would rather that he not have to have that choice (in fact he seems to have clearly said that). Jeb Bush not only wants that choice but wants to implement policy that makes it have to exist.
And no Jeb. That kind of 'choice' is not ok in the first place. That has nothing to do with who ends up being part of it. It would be nice if we did not define our values as what people are forced to resort to.

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