It’s been a rough couple of days. My son is not sleeping well and is concurrently a toddler, so the result is that he’s completely losing it on a regular basis and I’m completely losing it way more. Plus the looming promise of a newborn added to the mix (12 more weeks) is compounding the matter for me psychologically and physically. We must really be idiots. The math on this just doesn’t work out.

IN ANY EVENT, I’m short on patience and long on looking for easy-but-harmless targets.

So I’m going to talk about private schools because facebook has been feeding me some Salon-y, Slate-y gems today and as you know I’ve got a bee in my bonnet re private schools thanks to my stepson’s mother, who is completely fixated on them for reasons of prestige. Also MNF went on and on about how absolutely necessary Montessori preschool has become to her and how cruel non-Montessori preschools are. (In case you missed it, that was a disclaimer: I’m annoyed and biased right now.)

First there’s this (harsh, but I enjoyed it): If you send your kid to a private school, you are a bad person

I believe in public education, but my district school really isn’t good! you might say. I understand. You want the best for your child, but your child doesn’t need it. If you can afford private school (even if affording means scrimping and saving, or taking out loans), chances are that your spawn will be perfectly fine at a crappy public school. She will have support at home (that’s you!) and all the advantages that go along with being a person whose family can pay for and cares about superior education—the exact kind of family that can help your crappy public school become less crappy. She may not learn as much or be as challenged, but take a deep breath and live with that.Oh, but she’s gifted? Well, then, she’ll really be fine.

Then, a more thoughtful way to say it: The case against private education: Why we put our kids in public school

It turns out that our children didn’t need to be one of a handful of precious kids in a classroom. They can handle the bigger classes, the dozens of children from different backgrounds.  They can be OK and even, sometimes, great. We’ve learned that our kids aren’t so extraordinarily fragile that they need to be bubble wrapped by us before they venture into the world.

We’ve also learned that they aren’t necessarily extraordinary at all. Or, to be more precise, that if they want to be perceived as extraordinary in the public school system, they had better be extraordinary. The school will not create extraordinary for them.

Looking at you, upper middle class.

It’s not that I don’t get the anxiety over this. If it came to it, I don’t know if I could send my kid to an extremely shitty public school (actually I do know- I couldn’t). We would probably be considered among the “rich people [who] cluster” by the first author because we moved to this town in part because of the good public school system. Of course we are obviously not rich because we can’t even afford Montessori preschool. T_T Kidding. But we did leave one public school system for another… so that our kids could go to public school because we wanted them to go to public school. I don’t know where that leaves us. I don’t really care. I like public school, I want to believe in public school, but I have a hard time doing it adequately with all of the “but my kid is too special for that” bullshit I keep hearing.

I don’t really think you’re a bad of person (annoying, but not bad) if you send your kids to private school and certainly not if it’s because they have special needs of some kind. But I do think we have a responsibility to the community. And I do buy into this about Finland: What Americans keep ignoring about Finland’s school success.

It’s kind of like antibiotic use. Too many people are taking antibiotics just in case and now we’ve got growing antimicrobial resistance which will be a major pain in the ass and probably kill some of us. Too many people are sending their shows-promise kids off to private school and leaving the public schools without advocates and diversity.

So send your kid to public school. If they’re special, they’ll still be special. If they’re not, well then they’re just like everyone else.

Image credit: Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl


2 thoughts on “urbanbaby problems

  1. We live in a city that has mediocre to extremely bad public schools. Corruption, the whole bit. I really hate thinking about all this. I went to a nice solid public school. I had good teachers and mediocre teachers but no one that was truly awful. And I have heard some truly awful stuff about the schools in this city. Add to that working in schools and spending my days focusing on instruction and what good instruction looks like (and coaching people to get there), and you have a big mess of feelings about schools. Ugh.


    • I can imagine you have a lot of thoughts on this. What did you decide to do for your kids (no pressure to respond here if you don’t want to)? I’m always interested to hear teachers’ and educators’ thoughts on these issues.


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