In researching quite a different post I stumbled across an interesting little factoid. The last American president to attend public schools from kindergarten through college was Jimmy Carter.
Of post-war presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, and Carter attended exclusively public schools through college.
Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton attended public schools through high school and private schools for higher education.
George W. Bush attended a public grammar school and private educational institutions thereafter.
Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, and Obama all attended exclusively private schools.
In other words until George H. W. Bush public education was the norm for American presidents during the post-war period.
I don’t think that can be explained by a decline in the system of public education. I think the only viable explanation is that we’ve become increasingly elitist over the last 30 years.
Present Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has only attended private schools. He’s now our primary standard bearer for public education. Not precisely a shining exemplar. I think there’s something wrong with this picture.