More Than Money
Issue #10

Learning From Each Other

Table of Contents

“Strength of Convictions”

Public or private school? It's a dilemma for many of us parents who have the resources to choose.

My husband and I view education more as a process that our kids undergo than as a product that they receive. We don't believe they need fancy schools that provide for their every need any more than we believe they need lots of fancy toys or constant stimulation--especially when they are young. Just as we limit the material goods we give our children in the hopes that they will use their wits and creativity, we have chosen to send them to a reasonably good urban public school rather than to the best school money can buy. Too many "top" schools are marked by academic pressure and social exclusivity that we find distinctly unhealthy.

We want our children to see themselves and other kids as kids who inhabit the same world. We want to give them the chance to cross boundaries of race and class with ease in their formative years before they are fully aware of the fierce divisions in our society, before boundaries harden into bias. The best place to learn that is public elementary school.

With the money we might have spent on tuition, we can benefit our kids and others through donations to the school and the local educational foundation. Since we are also heavily involved with school reform efforts, we are putting our money, our time, and our children where our mouth is: into the belief that we must reclaim and reshape public schools to make them work well for all kids. This is an important lesson in values for our children.

It's too soon to tell whether public school will work for our kids. So far, we have found a stimulating social environment for our curious older son, solid teachers and curriculum, and a core group of caring, active parents. We have also found plenty of bureaucracy and mediocrity. Even if we ultimately use our money to buy educational privilege, we will have the satisfaction of knowing we gave public schools a fair chance and our full support.

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