Public or private school? It's a dilemma for many
of us parents who have the resources to choose.
My husband and I view education
more as a process that our kids undergo than as a product
that they receive. We don't believe they need fancy schools
that provide for their every need any more than we believe
they need lots of fancy toys or constant stimulation--especially
when they are young. Just as we limit the material goods
we give our children in the hopes that they will use their
wits and creativity, we have chosen to send them to a
reasonably good urban public school rather than to the
best school money can buy. Too many "top" schools
are marked by academic pressure and social exclusivity
that we find distinctly unhealthy.
We want our children to
see themselves and other kids as kids who inhabit the
same world. We want to give them the chance to cross boundaries
of race and class with ease in their formative years before
they are fully aware of the fierce divisions in our society,
before boundaries harden into bias. The best place to
learn that is public elementary school.
With the money we might
have spent on tuition, we can benefit our kids and others
through donations to the school and the local educational
foundation. Since we are also heavily involved with school
reform efforts, we are putting our money, our time, and
our children where our mouth is: into the belief that
we must reclaim and reshape public schools to make them
work well for all kids. This is an important lesson in
values for our children.
It's too soon to tell whether
public school will work for our kids. So far, we have
found a stimulating social environment for our curious
older son, solid teachers and curriculum, and a core group
of caring, active parents. We have also found plenty of
bureaucracy and mediocrity. Even if we ultimately use
our money to buy educational privilege, we will have the
satisfaction of knowing we gave public schools a fair
chance and our full support.
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