Yesterday we attended the open house of a local Christian centered private school. Overall, I was impressed with both the culture and the academic rigor of the school. Former students spoke highly of their experience overall there, faculty who spoke mentioned their own children as students. The headmaster of the school talked about the school providing a community to reinforce the values of parents at home. He seemed sincere, and I believe his intention was good, but that didn’t land well with me. The other thing I didn’t particularly like about the school was the lack of diversity. Of my daughter’s prospective kindergarten class, she would be one of perhaps 2 (out of 15) black students, with no other racial minorities represented. This is a tough sell given that in her current school, she interacts with a perfect mix of racial and socio-economic diversity. I don’t know, but I’m just not convinced that I have to pay a premium for “reinforcing our Christian values” which I almost heard as code for “shielding your child from the world”, but I get it.
As a parent, I believe it is our responsibility to indoctrinate our kids, and provide them the tools to develop a healthy worldview. Sometimes that means being intentional about the environments we place them in, and what we expose them to. Similarly last week we visited a public school, the one my daughter would be zoned to attend in our new home (we’re moving in March). It’s in a relatively affluent black middle class neighborhood on the south side of the city, which means that the demographics of the student population are flipped from the private school (almost 100% African American). Similarly I have a bit of a problem with this because I still want my children exposed to people different from them. Though, I have to admit, I felt more “at home” at this public school than I did at the private one for what it’s worth, despite the faith connection. However, I was less impressed with so many other aspects of the school, from it’s academic rigor, to the fact that class sizes are huge compared to my daughter’s current school.
So many choices, so many decisions. Sometimes I wonder whether my career in education has blinded me to the benefits of schooling in general, perhaps I’m too critical overall. What I do know is that when I picture my family and our life together, I’m not sure both my wife and I working to pay private school tuition is what’s up. Honestly, I’d rather be an active parent in a public school PTA, working to bring additional services and resources to my child’s school, both for them and other kids, getting to actually have the free time (and headspace) to interact with my child and her school, rather than assuming that the private school has everything taken care of and spending my time worrying about how to pay that bill.
I guess deep down, I’ve already committed at least partially, to trying out public education for my children in the short term. It helps since I’ve committed my career long term to helping to fix the leadership gap in public education.