Friday, August 30, 2013


So yesterday I came across this article, which reads like something I might post here, and I promptly posted it to my facebook page where it proceeded to generate more heated discussion than probably anything I've ever posted before. Understand that I choose my facebook friends very carefully - only people I am actually friends with - so typically my liberal-firecracker rants are met with resounding cheers. This was different. People were skeptical. They were defensive, and even offended. They felt attacked because, unbeknownst to me, some of them actually send their children to private schools.

They said things like, "I know you're not really this judgmental." Well, guess what, yes I am. I am judging you for believing that your child deserves better than most of the rest of the children in the country just because you can afford it. I am judging you for your willful failure to understand that your choice in this has an impact beyond your immediate family, and that you are responsible for that impact whether you like it or not. And I am judging you because you are not a self-interested jerk and you are plenty smart and the only reason you don't see this as a problem is that you won't look it in the face. I get it. You're scared for your kid. Know what? Me too. But it's not about our kids. It's about all kids.

Public school is like public health - your choices ripple out beyond you. When you don't get your kid vaccinated, you put everyone else's kids at risk, and that is selfish and unfair. When you don't send your kid to public school, you erode that system and weaken it for everyone else's kids, and that is also selfish and unfair. Do I know that the public school system is broken? Hell yes, I know. I went through it. I'm putting my kids through it. Sometimes it's not pretty - read almost any post on this site and you can see that. I fight the big battles (testing, arts education) and, if I have any energy left, I fight the medium ones too (recess, homework). I'm too exhausted to fight the small ones (behavior charts, school lunches), and you know what? It would be great to have some backup.

So yeah. I'm judging. I'm judging because you're wrong and it really, really matters. Engagement, not disengagement, is the answer.


Anonymous said...

I like the public health comparison, but the term is so widely misunderstood that it may not help your case.

Adam said...

Hey Kira, I'm glad you have at least one FB friend who doesn't necessarily react with the rest of the chorus of applause to what you call your liberal-firecracker rants -- but I enjoy reading them anyway.
But I think you're wrong here. I will make sacrifices of myself to improve the society around me. But if I were in a situation where I had to choose between two schools for my kids, one which I felt offered superior educational opportunities and one of which might improve above its current sub-standard status only in part because of (and probably after) my kids' presence, I'm going to pick what's best for my kids now.
My quick analogy, if somebody's drowning in a lake, I'm not going to go to the town council and argue that the lake's a public nuisance and should be drained, I'm going to save the person. Time for improving the lake situation comes after the immediacy of the situation has been solved. There is no time to wait potentially years to solve problems that are affecting current students. I refuse to condemn parents who make that choice.
But, I'll offer this up. I recognize that I grew up in a community with a superior public school. I am more fortunate that my kids attend an even better system. But if I found myself in the situation where I chose, for the good of my children, to enroll them in something other than the local public school, I would be outraged by the fact that I am essentially paying for my kids' education twice (once through tuition for the alternative school, then again through property taxes to support the public school.) I think that's where the moral outrage needs to come from -- those who feel compelled to enroll elsewhere, but yet don't act to hold the public school accountable for pushing them to that outcome.
We all support our public schools financially (like them or not), we should all (yes all, even those without kids in the system) do what we can to help them achieve excellence. But it takes time, and I'm not going to judge those who cannot foresee that change benefitting their kids in the short term.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting - I am one of your FB friends that doesn't fall into a "liberal" category. But I am COMPLETELY behind you on this. It, to me, is like unpaid internships. They exist because some people can afford to bankroll their kids not working. It completely shuts out those who can't afford to live without a paycheck. And as a result, some paths - which only have jobs based on unpaid internships - are completely shut out for a huge section of society.

I grew up in a so-so public school (my school didn't even offer pre-calc), and yet I have managed to do quite well academically. And, might I add, socially. Having the girls on either side of my locker in high school discuss how they didn't understand how they could have gotten pregnant (standing up doesn't work, and you don't get a "first time free pass", for those without this educational benefit) made me have a bigger appreciation of life outside my home.

Superior educational opportunities are just one small piece of a kid's education. And public schools - the feeders to most of society - are just not going to be as good without the pressure of parents who want superior education opportunities for the students.

If I thought my kid was in danger, that is one thing. But not having the opportunity to take BC Calculus is not the end of the world.