Camping out for school choice

One week from today shoppers across the nation will prepare for the madness known as Black Friday. Consumers will ready themselves for a labyrinth of lines, often queuing up at odd hours of the night to be among the first to stampede toward special bargains and giveaways. Such is the American way.

This week the Cincinnati Enquirer highlighted another unique American phenomenon involving long lines and midnight campers - parents lining up as far as two and a half days in advance in order to win their child a spot in one of the city's elite public magnet schools. The Enquirer writes:

"Despite attempts from Cincinnati Public Schools to discourage camping, parents once again formed a long queue outside Fairview Clifton German Language School - the earliest will wait for more than 2.5 days before submitting their applications.

The first parents arrived by about 10 a.m. Sunday morning, and the crowd quickly grew. By 5 p.m. Monday, about six dozen people stood in line and some were erecting tents on school property."

And

"In Clifton, Winton Hills parent Carmen Pitts had the No. 1 spot in line and on a list parents hope will be enforced Tuesday night. Her daughter is currently in preschool at Winton Hills Academy, a school in Academic Watch. Fairview is rated Excellent, one of just a few CPS schools to earn that rating.

??"To make sure that my child got in," Pitts said when asked why she lined up so early. "Because I value her education and this is one of the best things I can do for her."

With nearly half of Cincinnati students attending city district schools rated "D" or "F" by the state, this clambering for slots at excellent magnet schools isn't all that surprising. But unlike Black Friday's symbolism?? -?? that of unadulterated American consumer choice, holiday madness, frivolity -- the premise of these urban camp-outs among poor, minority parents is one with far more gravity, a narrative we shouldn't forget come New Year's.

Image courtesy of gentlebird at Flickr

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