Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Public schools could be better, but I worry that my kids may be stigmatized by going to a private school

For all intents and purposes that seems to be the internal struggle that Post writer Fran Brennan is having about where to educate her children. Not totally DCPS related (although the struggle is whether to send her kids to a public or private high school in the District) but interesting (not in a good way) nevertheless. So is the struggle about the sacrifices need to be made to pay for private schooling? Not exactly.
In the midst of my stealthy onslaught, the Duke lacrosse scandal broke, and I beat a hasty retreat. The newspapers and coffee klatches were abuzz with stories about privileged white kids run amok. Many of these kids came from some of the Washington area's top private schools. Even if no crime occurred, this story seemed to confirm all of my gut-level fears about private schools: They breed a sense of entitlement and superiority; private-school kids believe they're not held to the same standards as the rest of the masses; it might just turn my kids into people I don't really like.

I know these fears aren't entirely rational. Certainly most kids who attend private schools would not send horrifying e-mail messages or hire a stripper and hurl racial epithets at her, as the Duke lacrosse players reportedly did (and no one is denying these particular aspects of the story). I have friends and relatives who went to private schools and even more who send their children to private schools now. Both of my parents went to private schools, and neither ever could have been accused of feeling superior.

But I've also seen the flip side. One friend said her daughter's few private-school years were filled with kids who knew their parents' money would buy them out of any situation, with kids who talk to any adult with the same irreverent tone they used on each other, kids who thought the regular rules just didn't apply to them.
So let's recap: the author knows some folks (her parents included) who attended private schools and turned out to be nice, normal, socially well-adjusted human beings. The author also knows some private school students who are assholes. If there is a prize for pointing out the blindingly obvious Ms. Brennan should be a finalist. Yes, in any given population you are going to find perfectly normal people and others who are, for lack better word, asshats. Here's a little whack from the cluestick: if your kid grows up to be an asshat it will have little to do with what school they went to and a lot to do with what kind of parents they had. Simple as that.

So here's my nickel's worth of free advice. Send your kids where you believe they will receive the best education. If that's a public school, fine. If that's a private school, that's fine too. Don't waste an ounce of energy worrying if people will think badly of your kids because of where they were educated.


Mari said...

You could also be born, bad to the bone too. But thinking more on that one could blame the parent's genetic makeup on that one.
Anyway, we had kids in the public high school that I attended who also belived their parents could buy them out of a situation. Being around poor kids, whose parents couldn't buy happiness, may have made them worse.

Ben Whelan-Morin said...

My parents had a different take on it. They wanted us to experience the diversity of public schools.

Dawn Henderson said...
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