Saturday, May 18, 2013

Public vs. Private: Educating the Jacksons

School Days

Is private school better than public school? Yes and no.

When I had my first son, I knew I wanted to go back to work. First, my then husband and I could never have lived on one salary. But more importantly, I like being out and about, and an afternoon with Barney was not my idea of happy hour. So, all of my children have spent time in daycare centers.  However, being a teacher at that time, I knew they wouldn’t be able to show up to kindergarten without knowing some A,B, C’S and 1,2,3’s. Therefore, my kiddos began attending a local “church school” that started in Pre-K and went up to the 8th grade. This began their journey through private school terrain.  Honestly, I never intended for them to continue down this road.  The plan was that the Jacksons would attend this school until they could go to the local public school.  Then, I had dinner with a long-time friend who suggested I apply my oldest to the private school where her sons attend. Yeah, right!!!

Low and behold, “Thing 1” was accepted!! I was completely shocked. Who knew he was…well, smart. He certainly didn’t demonstrate any form of real intelligence at home. Anyway, once he was fully engulfed in private school life, I could see the horizons broadening, the opportunities for him to see and be involved in a wide variety of activities increasing. I liked it. So Thing 2 and 3 would follow in his private school footsteps.  I liked the idea of expanding their vision of what they could ultimately achieve in life.

I know what you’re going to say. I’ve had this argument, I mean conversation, with many of my friends and family. It’s no secret that private school tuition is no joke.  Monthly payments for their schooling tip the scales of a balanced monthly budget and cause many lean days. So why spend the money? Why do this when they could just go to public school and get an equally good education?

I agree. Public schools provide a great education.  The thesis for my Master’s in Education was on public school versus private school education.  The outcome was that no matter where your kid goes to school, if the parents are involved, the kids would be successful. I believe that. When I taught 7th grade English, those kids whose parents were always volunteering or fundraiser or visiting or even emailing were more concerned about their performance. However, they were far outnumbered by students who didn’t have much parent involvement. Every year, I saw students who went from being model citizens during the first month of school to becoming the classroom catastrophe.  Not because that’s who they were, but because that’s who they needed to be to have friends.

Am I saying that private schools don’t have their peer pressures? No.  I see it every day. The pressure to compete on an economic level is mind-blowing. My kids play soccer with kids who have private coaches.  What the What? They are in elementary.  They play chess with kids who have private coaches. They have play dates with kids who have “media rooms “and share vacation stories with kids who travel abroad for spring break. We went to Home Depot for spring break. I’m not hating…well maybe a little. But eventually, I know my kids will see they don’t stack up in terms of dollars and cents.  Let’s not even talk about my fears for them when they reach middle school and high school.  I know there are recreational drugs and alcohol that these kids have access to that I couldn’t even afford to buy! Did I mention that my two youngest are the only African-Americans in their class? I know that private schools have their diversity challenges. I’m just hoping the good outweighs the bad in the long run.

So is private school better than public school? Yes and no. My decision is that I want my kids to experience the exposure that private school offers.  I realize that exposure comes at a price. But doesn't


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  2. Economic inequities exist wherever you are, in the public school, the private school and in the economy at large. This is not something to weight a child down with. One's personal economy is what it is. It can always be changed, if one really wants to do so. What is more important for kids particularly in these environs is that they have confidence and integrity, and ability to achieve academically and if they need coaches, so be it. I think folks who may feel inadequate in their own finances, worry needlessly about the economic inequities, rather than use that as a teaching moment to explain the larger economy, and the fact that this is how the world is. There will always be someone with more money. When my child was in the 2nd grade, as I was doing a stint in the library, I heard one second grade female say to another second grade female in a rather haughty manner, "my dad has enough money to buy your dad." I was caught off guard with the sentiment, but also with the sort of vehemence that accompanied the retort, but realized that, that sentiment didn't originate from a second grader's mind without some environmental assistance, like maybe the dinner table.

    I think folks should not get carried along the river with the idea that a private school has to be better than a public school. If your child will have difficulty socially among folks who may be way out of their economic range, then that may not be the school for that child. I would submit that it may also be possible to expose your child to meaningful experiences if you are not bogged down with paying the high private school fees. In some cases, you will have expended the cost of a college education to put your child through 12 years of private school. I would suggest that parents who are considering this choice talk not only with their friends but with a wide swath of people on both sides to get as accurate an opinion as you can, on how the school is run and whether your child will be a good fit. In some cases the fit is perfect for the parent but not for the child, so remember who will be going to school, not which committees you as a parent can see yourself on.

    Last comment, figure out what the philosophy is of the private school that your are considering for your child to attend. Then seriously determine if your child will actually fit into that philosophy. Private schools will accommodate your child, but they aren't going to turn themselves on their head for your child, that's why they are private. It up to you to do the work and find a school in which your child will fit. If you are going to want to try to make effective changes, public school may be the better place.


Please leave your comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.