No Simple Answers
"Is it wrong for me to be going to Northfield-Mount Hermon when the money could be used for other things?" asked my fifteen-year-old daughter one day. Her close friend, "Ali," goes to public school and strongly dislikes it. This question opened up a long discussion, in which four of our children eagerly participated. Ali would love to attend an expensive private school in our area, but because her father is a public school teacher and an outspoken advocate of public school reform, and her parents are not wealthy, she will not apply to the private school. Her father believes that if it doesn't work for her, it needs to be changed, but she doesn't have the right to opt out. While everyone agreed that changing the school is definitely the moral high ground as well as a great goal, most were skeptical that it could be done in time to help Ali get an appropriate education. We who have earned or inherited wealth and believe in social and economic justice are faced with many schooling choices: city or rural public schools, "alternative" private schools, high-powered academic private schools, home schooling, public schools in wealthy suburbs, etc. Both my older daughters agreed it was good to attend public school in grades k-8, where they got to know kids they would never have an opportunity to meet, much less know well, during the rest of their lives. When it came time for high school, the local public school was there with some excellent teachers, a lot of dictatorial rules, and very mixed stories from the kids who attend. Enter grandpa, who was eager for his brilliant and talented oldest grandchild to attend an amazing educational environment within commuting distance and was willing to pay most of the tuition. My daughter and I made an appointment for a tour, and were sold within the first five minutes. The young woman who conducted our interviews assured us that Northfield is not a bastion of snobbery, that almost half of the student body receives financial aid, and that Molly would probably feel at home there. She was right. I deeply wish that every high school student had the opportunity for the quality of education my daughter is receiving. The country has the resources, and they all deserve it. But even after dealing with all the thorny issues, I am grateful for the chance to tell my daughter: "Of course you should be going to Northfield. The money Grandpa is spending on your school would not have gone to social change anyway. Northfield is helping you become an involved and intelligent citizen of the world, and we love seeing you so happy."
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