Private schools that cater to the children of the wealthy and prominent are exactly the same as the Southern private academies founded by whites in order to skirt public school integration? That's what Mark Finkelstein wants you to think.
In a Dec. 21 NewsBusters post, Finkelstein writes of an exchange on "Morning Joe":
Eugene Robinson took the lead in belting [Haley] Barbour for sending his children to private schools in Mississippi rather than to local public schools attended by black children. Joe Scarborough chimed in with his Mississippi-childhood recollections of such post-integration private academies springing up. Mike Barnicle did his bit, contributing the tale of whites in South Boston pulling their kids out of integrated public schools in favor of parochial and private ones.
One thing was missing from the conversational mix, however: any reference to the tradition of Dems in DC--from Bill and Hillary, to the Gores, to of course the Obamas--sending their kids [or in the case of the Bidens, grandkids] to tony private schools like Sidwell Friends rather than to the heavily African-American public DC schools.
Finkelstein is ignoring a whole bunch of inconvenient facts here. First, Sidwell Friends was founded by Quakers -- not known for their virulent racism -- in 1883. There is no evidence whatsoever that it was founded in opposition to any effort to desegregate schools.
By contrast, the history of private academies is very a reaction to integration. According to Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, responding to Barbour's remarks about how the White Citizens Council in his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss., managed to keep school integration relatively peaceful:
In fact, if you look at Yazoo City, their approach to integration was very similar to other communities across the state, where the parents pulled their children out of the public school system so white children would not have to attend an integrated school system. ... They established a private segregated academy which still exists today. The majority of the white citizens of Yazoo County and Yazoo City still do not allow their children to attend public education today. That trend happened as a result of the civil rights movement and full integration, and that the struggle that blacks had across the state was the same in Yazoo City as it was across the state.
In citing only Democratic politicians, Finkelstein also conveniently igmores that the children of Republican politicians, like Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, also attended Sidwell.
In playing his elitist card, Finkelstein is also suggesting that the Clintons and Gores -- and, bizarrely, the Obamas -- are racist for sending their children to Sidwell. That's dumb even for Finkelstein, who's best known for speculating that Matt Lauer's checkered scarf was a declaration of support for Palestinians and complaining that a soccer ball looks suspciously like the Obama campaign logo.