Nick Coleman: sneering at diverse needs, values

Posted to our comments section on HaloScan.com on July 14, 2005:

Since this child of the DFL was busy lobbying for the diversity and multiculturalism liberals used to tolerate and even valorize, I hadn't time to write my response to Mr. Coleman's column -- thanks, Matt, for yours.

Mr. Coleman and I are of an age and of similar political backgrounds, so I find it somewhat perplexing that he has grown so intolerant of difference. Imagine the dismay of parents who come to this country with a set of ideals and values they believe are compatible with American education, only to be daily affronted with non-academic content and attitudes that assail their most cherished beliefs. If families disapprove of birth control within marriage, they are likely horrified at demonstrations of condoms and descriptions of sex acts in several non-abstinence-only sex ed courses (I am not horrified by the same, but have empathy for those marginalized by practices and views we now deem mainstream but which may only be fashionable). If parents wish their children to observe physical modesty, the lack of dress code in math classes will confuse and offend. If their children (like mine) are placed in honors literature classes, only to be given Jon Grisham novels instead of Dickens and Tolstoy, they may indeed look for something more substantive if they desire for their child an understanding of history, psychology, social justice and solid prose.

So now do we liberals laugh at the very multiculturalism we've promoted for decades? Is a smug bourgeois facileness to be the measure for all things? Are only the governing and scribbling elite to have the educational choices used by so many liberals and conservatives and public school teachers and legislators and wealthy supporters of progressive and arch-conservative electoral candidates to better their prospects? Just because a few liberals are comfortable taking the cream off both public and private schools (I won't bore or titillate readers with a list here) or content with mediocrity and averageness, is NO ONE but the very wealthy to have the power of the pocket book on their child's educational behalf?

I am disappointed to suppose that Mr. Coleman, of all people, would be willing to have other people lend their kids to subsidize his children's privileged access. His kids are going to do just fine educationally -- they come from educated people. Those of us who come from other places and people don't have the luxury of smugness and smirky indifference: our kids only have this one year to be this age -- and Mr. Coleman ought to at least move out of our way if he insists on sneering at our diverse needs and values and desires.

Elizabeth Mische
Partnership for Choice in Education