dialogue among people of diverse viewpoints is a hallmark
of More Than Money.
More Than Money Journal
vary widely in age, family history, politics, religion,
net worth, source of income, geography, and other factors.
We publish thoughtful commentary on topics of interest to
our readers in order to stimulate lively discussion and
creative reflection. The opinions expressed by the writers
of Viewpoint are not necessarily those of More Than Money.
do you send your child to school? Public school? Private?
Homeschool? What are some of the dilemmas involved and how
do you make your choice? The parents on these pages reflect
on their decisions.
People with the financial means to choose
the schools their children will attend might automatically
assume that private schools are better for them, or that
they should send their children to schools historically
attended by family members. I believe that
a school for our children, based on our values
as parents and on our children's children's individual abilities,
is critical to their educational success. When selecting
the school that our daughters attended, my husband and I
faced a very difficult dilemma. On the one hand, we are
committed to citizenship and public education, and we strongly
believe in the importance of enabling our daughters to interact
with children from diverse backgrounds. On the other hand,
we wanted to find a school that would provide our daughters
not only with an excellent academic education, but also
with strong citizenship and social skills. The dilemma was
particularly poignant for me personally because I have spent
much of my career working in and consulting to public education.
Ultimately, we chose to send our daughters
to a private school committed to cultural and economic diversity.
The school shared both our personal values and our educational
philosophy of fostering a child's individual development,
rather than attempting to mold a child into a given curriculum.
With its low student-teacher ratio, teachers were able to
know our children intimately-academically, socially, and
Now that our daughters are grown, I am grateful
for the lifelong love of learning and civic participation
skills that they acquired in their school. Because of my
strong belief in public education, however, I almost wish
that we had originally moved into a community with a public
school system that matched our educational philosophies.
I think highly of families who deliberately live in a particular
neighborhood so that their children can attend its public
schools. In the long run, I think that supporting our public
school system is essential to the greater public good. When
we do send our children to private schools, I believe that
we are obligated to be involved in supporting and improving
the public schools of our community.
Our elementary-aged children are both in
public schools. We're lucky to live in a college town where
a good tax base provides ample funding for schools and where
parental involvement in the schools is very high (volunteering
in the classroom, coaching, PTO, school committee, grants
for special projects). We've been delighted with the teachers
and curriculum; we feel very fortunate to have found a community
with a commitment to strong public schools.
My wife and I are both concerned about the
"in-the-bubble" effect that an all-private education may
have. Our plan is to stay with public education through
high school unless we feel that one of the children develops
an out-of-the- ordinary need that only a private setting
could address. We believe that our first responsibility
is to our children's best interests, and that there are
many effective ways to extend our concern for our own children's
interests to other children as well.
- anonymous author
I believe that five elements contribute
to the process of moving from childhood to adulthood: morals
(defining what things are right and what things are wrong),
values (identifying what's important to our family), ethics
(behavior and how we conduct ourselves based on our morals
and values), problemsolving (the ability to identify issues
and outline steps to solve them), and decision-making (the
highest level of maturity showing readiness for adulthood
-choosing directions for action based on morals, values,
ethics, and problem-solving ability).
Now consider this: In America, where the
average child is in a traditional school setting by the
age of five or six, they begin spending more waking hours
of the day with their peers than with their parents. Yes,
more awake time with their peers than with their parents.
Consider also that children move from childhood to adulthood
-and they will do it with you or without you. They will
do it by spending time modeling their parents or modeling
their peers. They will either bond with their parents or
band with their peers. So, when it comes to learning values
and ethics (not to mention such crucial skills as problem-solving
and decision-making), the advantage of homeschooling is
clear-which is why I homeschool, rather than send my child
to any other school, public or private.
When my husband and I were deciding where
to send our children to school, a dilemma arose: Do I do
what is best for my child (which is my responsibility as
a parent) or do I do what's better for a large number of
people? I'm a true believer in public education, because
it's a basic tenet of democracy. If people like me-with
the financial means and the interest to devote time and
attention to schools-opt out of the public education system,
then good education becomes less available to all.
I attended good public schools and I wanted
my daughters to do the same. But the decision became complicated
when the state we lived in enacted large budget cuts for
education. We began to consider private schooling, but instead
ended up moving to another state. We deliberately chose
an affluent town that was reputed to have great public schools.
We sent all three of our daughters to the
local schools there, but we were disappointed in their quality,
which seemed to result from a lack of money. Tax-cutting
fever had struck; teachers were laid off and programs were
cut. Although there was incredible teacher talent in our
community, it wasn't being enhanced in our public schools.
As a solution, my husband and I helped start a local education
foundation, which provided money raised by parents for teacher
support-professional development, field trips, and creative
teaching. (Many public school systems have established local
education funds with various thrusts.) We set it up as a
grantmaking institution, run by parents, with a lot of accountability
to the school board and the town. Our daughters remained
in the public schools through fourth grade (the elementary
When our last child left public school,
we gave $10,000 to the principal of the elementary school
to use in any manner that would show our appreciation for
what the school and its teachers had given to our children,
our family, and the community. That kind of philanthropy
is not done in public schools, but it
in private schools. From a philosophical point of view,
I believe it's important to think about how we can support
teachers and public schools, whether our children are attending
them or not.
- anonymous author
I went to private school. My children go
to public school. While I believe in our decision to send
them to public school, I am never completely comfortable
We live in a racially and economically diverse
town that borders a major city. My wife and I believe that
raising our children in a diverse environment such as this
is about the best preparation we can give them to lead fulfilling
lives in the global era in which they have been born. On
a daily basis, they are navigating differences with their
classmates in culture, learning styles, ability, financial
means, family structures, and a variety of other areas.
Through this experience, they are becoming ever more caring,
compassionate, and aware of the needs of others and of the
world. And by being part of the public school community,
we are contributing to the ability of the schools and the
community to thrive.
At the same time, all three of our boys
are students who, so far, can easily handle the required
work. They seem rarely to be challenged or motivated to
do better work. I am concerned that the demands on schools
to meet the needs of students who need more attention take
precedence. This often leaves my sons bored and uninspired,
despite the schools' efforts at "differentiated learning"
and our efforts to supplement their education at home.
Confronted with this on almost a daily basis,
I continually wonder whether the challenge of a private
school, with a disciplined learning environment and higher
expectations, wouldn't be serving my kids better. I can
(and do) go back and forth around issues of whether private
school environments are too demanding, too competitive,
too homogeneous, and too connected to a culture of wealth
and consumerism. Perhaps it is those issues that keep me
from pursuing that course, but the uncomfortable feeling
still persists that my children's innate abilities and passions
should be better nurtured than they are in even these very
good public schools.
-Name withheld by request
My 16-year-old daughter is "unschooled,"
in the way pioneered by John Holt [leader of the homeschooling
movement]. She is totally in charge of her education, just
as I am totally in charge of mine. Both of us experience
getting excited or inspired by something and diving head
first into it, immersing ourselves until we are satiated,
then moving on to the next subject. Isn't this how we all
learn best, rather than being told to be interested in this
subject for 45 minutes, then that subject for 45 minutes,
etc.? In any topic she's interested in there are numbers,
history and culture, science, writing, and reading involved.
And she's totally eager to make use of all of these skills
because it's in pursuit of a topic that moves her.
- anonymous author
I believe that public education is our nation's
last remaining democratic institution. Public schooling
should provide more or less equal and adequate educational
opportunities to all American youth. Public schools should
be places where these emerging citizens meet each other,
regardless of family situation, and relate to each other
as peers. If this is what public education were like in
the large urban city where I live, I would have left my
son in public school. But public school here is unofficially
segregated by race and class.
From an ethical standpoint of despising
unfair privilege, I have chosen a very affordable Catholic
school (even though I am Jewish) in our workingclass neighborhood,
where the children of immigrant taxi drivers learn alongside
those of nurses and parents of more comfortable means. My
son is still the only white child in his class, but the
rest of the students represent a more diverse cross-section
of our city's residents, in terms of race and class, than
the students found in his former school (or most any public
elementary school in the city). In short, I put my son in
a Catholic school because it was the schooling option most
emblematic of what democratic public education opportunities
would be like in our city if our schools were adequately
funded and popularly attended. While I could have sent him
to a more elite, expensive, secular institution, I wanted
him to grow up with friends and peers from all walks of
life, not just kids from families capable of paying weighty
The selection of a parochial institution
represents a small ethical compromise, I suppose, made to
remove him from a school environment where only the poorest
of families find their children unfairly trapped, while
not taking the more separatist route of leaving the neighborhood
altogether for a more privileged independent school education.
Ethical principles are challenging to apply
in an unfair world. Compromise turns out to be the best
I can do.
- anonymous author
I was arrested for civil disobedience at
an Alliance for Quality Education protest. A year ago I
would never have envisioned doing such a thing. However,
last year my daughter's school suffered enormously due to
budget cuts. This year we faced even more, but this time
parents said, "No-arrest us if you will, but you cannot
do that again to our children." Many people ask me why I
bother, instead of sending my daughter to a private school.
The answer is-I don't want to. I see in my daughter's classmates
the same fierce intelligence and eagerness to learn that
I remember from when I went to a public school. I want her
to be with children with different backgrounds and perspectives.
I want to be there fighting for them and for her. What I
know for sure is that we have to start investing in the
education of all children to prepare them and our country
- anonymous author
Teachers post project ideas online. Donors can fund them directly
through Donors Choose.
Public Agenda Foundation
Offers nonpartisan information (pro and con) on current
debates and policies in education, including programs to
enable choice for all.
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