I recently reviewed David Whitman's new book, Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism, in which he argues that some of the most successful inner-city schools in the country are successful in part because they're paternalistic.
The term "paternalistic" seems to have raised a few eyebrows. Mike Petrilli seems to like it, but Jay Greene doesn't, and Jay Mathews wrote a column asking readers to suggest a different phrase.
First of all, I don't think everybody shares the same definition of paternalistic (read Wikipedia and Dictionary.com to see how many different ways one can interpret the word). That many see it as a loaded phrase may both help (any attention is good attention) and hurt (people ignore the substance to decry the subtitle) the book. I, for one, don't really have a problem with it. The usage may or not be precise (I'm no expert on the term) and it certainly doesn't seem to be viewed as PC, but I think it largely makes sense. These schools, in general, seem to make decisions for their students that are in the best-interest of the students despite the fact that most wouldn't choose those routes on their own.
But, more importantly, I'm not sure I really see the point in debating whether or not the term is apt. I see the central findings of the book as much more important than the subtitle -- and it seems that discussion on the book should focus on the former rather than the latter. I think the central argument is important. The subtitle . . . not so much.
Update: I originally wrote that Petrilli didn't particularly like the term, but e-mailed me to inform me that I was wrong . . . my apologies. Meanwhile, Richard Whitmire appears on Eduwonk with another declaration of distaste for the term while Robert Pondiscio takes the opposite perspective on the Core Knowledge blog.