The School Debate: Let's Put the Gloves Away
“I would never send my child to that school,” said my friend after I toured the local public high school in my community. And while I don’t need to make this rather weighty decision for another year, this is how we moms are trained to act in the era when high school seniors such as Suzie Lee Weiss are outlining the harsh realities facing college applicants in razor sharp Wall Street Journal op-eds. That’s a topic for a different blog.
The school debate is one that picks up where the working mom/stay-at-home mom discussion has left off. Knowing what’s best for not only my child, but yours also, is a dangerous road to go down. The essence of such heated discussions comes from a mixture of egocentrism, a lack of tolerance, and judgment of others. Considering a school for your child need not be so complicated, though too many of us inject our personal neuroses into the equation and impart our beliefs and judgments on unwelcome ears.
I went to a public high school in Miami, Florida with 821 graduates in my senior class (proud photo above). Our thirteen-year-old twin boys currently attend a private, Jewish day school with thirty-two kids in their seventh-grade class. Since birth, it was assumed the boys would attend an established and well-known private school in the area, the one which my husband and his twin brother attended and where they were salutatorian and valedictorian of their class. When we enrolled our boys into the early childhood program at their current school, we had no intention of staying for the next eleven years. We did something many apprehensive parents have never considered: we took it one year at a time. And we stayed.
Moms (and dads) can drive themselves crazy discussing schools. “I heard that private school has over-indulged kids with fancy cars and the money to pay for drugs." "Don’t you want to optimize your child’s chance of getting into Harvard?” “So and so has the best science program in the state.” “My commute is only one hour and that’s with traffic!” And to finish the earlier quote from my friend, “That school is dangerous!” Translation: the school is not comprised of a homogenous demographic like my current school. Instead, it boasts of the real world and real diversity.
Why must we judge others? Why must we insult what we may not agree with? The beauty of our world is having differences that enable us to learn from others different from ourselves. We teach our children about avoiding prejudice and criticizing others, yet these evils rear their ugly heads when we are forced to deal with one different from ourselves. What if one can’t afford private school? What if my child requires something different from yours? What if it’s entirely inexplicable—a gut feeling—that has us leaning in one direction versus another? It doesn’t make your decision any less relevant. It merely means we’re different and our kids are different. And that’s a good thing. That’s what makes the world a more balanced and interesting place.
Like most decisions in life, choosing a school is a personal one. The more friends you talk to, the more convoluted and confused you will become. No one knows your child better than you; no one knows what works in your family unit better than your family. Trust your instincts and all the factors that have already positively influenced your children. There are no wrong decisions here, and if you find you made a mistake, that’s okay too. It’s not a crime to switch schools. Let’s embrace our differences, within ourselves and within our children, but let’s agree on this: we all want happy, well-adjusted, and educated kids. Let’s not complicate things any further.