If You Smell Something, Say Something

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

August 13, 2015

By Marianne Lombardo

The ruse is up! We don’t have to PRETEND anymore!

BUY your way into good schools for your kids!

Check out this Realtor.com ad currently playing on TV:


“Our school ratings tool lets you search by school boundaries to know exactly where to live to get your kid into the best school.”

 Realtor ad app

Sure, this is a marketing tool for a business to attract more customers. Choosing where to live based on school quality is right out of Hillary Clinton’s presidential launch ad – (see A Zip Code Shouldn’t be Their Destiny). Like the Clinton ad, the Realtor.com pitch made me sit up and say, “Is this where we’re at? Where it’s so . . . blatant that our public education system is anything but fair?”

Look, we want families to be informed about the performance of schools and to make good consumer choices about education. Greatschools.org and SchoolDigger.com have been providing this information for years (good thing we have regular assessment data!). Cleveland, Boston, Detroit, and other “portfolio” districts are collaborating across sectors to steer families into high- quality schools within their districts.

But this Realtor.com ad unashamedly presents the sad truth that public education is a commodity that those with means can shop for.

How far we’ve strayed from Horace Mann’s vision of education as the means to create informed, equal citizens for a democratic society. Instead, today, you have to look out for your own kids’ best interests by getting them into a “good” school, so they get the educational advantages they’re going to need to make a living.

And those “good” schools have boundaries that are gerrymandered by race and class (see here, here, and here).

Shouldn’t we work a little harder and care a little more about the greater common good? Can we just NOT sit back and accept a system that sets up an unequal playing field for children?

Jon Stewart’s parting advice was “The Best Defense Against Bullshit is Vigilance. So, if you smell something, say something.”

Let’s call education inequality, never mind inequity, bullshit and think about what we’re doing and own that we have the power to do it differently.