Meet the Middletons—Sam and Pam—a Houston couple who, in an enlightened effort to actually hear each other’s side of an argument, discuss their life decisions via email.
SUBJECT: Private School vs. Public School
Let’s face it, Sam. You part with money about as easily as most people part with a loved one. Say what you will, we both know your distaste for private schools is centered on one issue: they cost money. But think about it, Sam. Isn’t the environment in which our kid will spend 13 years of her life worth a little financial sacrifice? It is to me.
Advanced curriculums are worth something to me as a parent. I’d rather pay for them than settle for teachers who cater to Steroid Stu, who (God love him) just can’t grasp the notion that pie means something other than today’s cafeteria dessert.
Increased chances of scholarships are worth something to me as a parent. I’d rather pay for them than settle for schools that spend 45 days of the school year on standardized testing, only to pass undeserving students, because teachers’ jobs and raises depend on students’ performance.
Eliminating the fashion-show element of school is worth something to me as a parent. I’d rather pay for uniforms than pay for clothes from a designer whose advertisements convince my daughter she will never be pretty enough—and whose clothes will be tomorrow’s dust cloths when Heather the Head Cheerleader introduces the newest “wear-it-or-you’re out” fad.
I’m sure you’ll raise the point that a private school education would shelter our daughter from the “real world” education only a public school can offer. Go ahead and make the point, honey, but please don’t try to package this as a socioeconomic distinction. Private schools offer financial assistance to encourage racial, ethnic, religious, and economic diversity. They are affordable for those who make it a priority, via scholarships and savvy budgeting (we can start with cutting your cable sports package).
Admittedly, private schools might shelter kids from the statistically higher occurrences of drugs, sex, and violence seen in public schools. But if you think this is a bad thing, why don’t you go ahead and cash out our tickets to Disney World in exchange for front-row seats to the next Crips vs. Bloods drive-by “debate” in East L.A.?
It’s my opinion that a person need not experience bad situations firsthand to be able to deal with them. My kid will manage to succeed. Her private school’s superior academic program and the resulting scholarship to an Ivy League school will land her the interview for a fantastic job. She will be well served by a firm handshake, polished politeness, and the ability to speak to adults as though they were members of the same species, not as alien authority figures who’ve stormed in to bust up the party. This is the real world she’ll be residing in—a world of educated, respectful, professional, and articulate people. It’s their language she must learn to speak with ease and fluency. And it’s the language she’ll learn at a private school.
SUBJECT: Re: Private School vs. Public School
Honey, I think we have to address a fundamental question before determining if public or private school is best for our child. Namely, do we want to raise her in a sheltered environment, where her ability to navigate society is limited, or do we want to give her tools she will need to enter the real world ready to become a leader of the next generation?
Private schools may offer smaller classes, less of a slice of the socio-economic structure, and better learning materials—all of which may foster learning. I’m sure that in these Meccas of fair play and integrity there has never been a case of bullying, peer pressure or, heaven forbid, cheating. Seriously, Pam, drop the full-color glossy brochure and join me in reality.
Let me hop on board your train of thought for just a minute: the “tuition” paid to a private school is altruistically allocated to providing the highest quality teachers and study materials, with corners being cut only on administration and facilities. I suppose that slick marketing brochure must have been donated by an alumnus, right? Come on, Pam. Were you this gullible when I met you?
If you’re truly willing to make sacrifices, then let’s put our effort (not our money) where our mouths are and spend time with our kid each night reviewing her lessons with her. Let’s buy her knowledge-augmenting tools to explore at home with us, truly underscoring the importance of learning and knowledge. This time will lend well to exploring the relationships she is developing in the public school system, helping her develop the skills that will allow her to go out into the world and deal with difficult people (as parents, this is, after all, our job, not the nanny’s).
Don’t forget that private school teachers are not regulated and scrutinized with the same vigor as their public school counterparts—so who knows what you’re getting when you go private, other than that nice brochure and some bragging rights.
Sports, clubs and other activities are perks you won’t find in the private schools. These are critical tools in the socialization of young adults and in some cases the parents, as well. Cheerleaders and athletes are not all that is wrong in the world, Pam. Taking a participative role in the boosters sponsoring these events could present an opportunity to influence Stu, Heather and maybe even your own child in a positive way. But once again, we would have to put effort into it—not a blank check.
I’d be willing to visit a private school, if you’re willing to take a closer look at what our public schools offer. Maybe we should consider magnet and charter schools—they might offer some of what we’re both seeking.
(Don’t forget: drinks with the Watsons tonight at Red Lion. Let’s ask what they think about all this.)