Sunday, April 26, 2009

I was for public schools...when public schools weren't cool

Opening of Anne Foster's article:

The New York Times ran an article on April 6, 2009, called "The Sudden Charm of Public School." The article details the panic of Manhattan families who have suddenly decided, given the economic times, that they may send their kids to public schools. For families who planned on private school and didn't consider public school zones when they bought homes, they suddenly care very much which public school their kids might attend. Stating that it used to be a taboo in certain circles to even suggest you're interested in sending your kids to public schools, the article quotes one parent as saying, "Now it's actually kind of cool and in vogue." Oh, my ... what a difference a dollar and a day make. It reminds me of Barbara Mandrell's hit song years ago: "I was country ... when country wasn't cool."
The reality is that public schools have been cool for many people in the United States ever since our nation instituted the noble experiment of educating everyone. Public schools educate approximately 90% of the kids in this country, so I would welcome these newly found converts and tell them that it never was necessary or even desirable to spend $33,000 a year on private school tuition. Save the money instead for college -you'll need it there, to be sure.

Read the complete article The New Vogue Public Schools from Parents for Public Schools new director.

Middle class families ( who might have otherwise selected a private school) are sending their children to public schools because of current economic woes. The greater number of blue-collar and poor families have always had public schools as their realistic option. Having the vast majority of our children co-existing, co-learning and collaborating in our wonderful, far-from-perfect-but-central-to-democracy neighborhood public schools is the (get ready for a barrage of mixed-metaphors) caldron, salad-bowl, floral hot-house, global arena, market square, agora, amphitheater and community commons where democracy will flourish and future economic wellbeing, equitable and inclusive, can be possible.

Phew... and all in one breath.

Family leadership for public education can make it so. We're Everywhere. Engaging and empowering parents to create excellence in every public school.(PPS)
Schools that work for all children.(IDRA)
Every child: one voice.(PTA)


Hanifa K. Cook said...

I have never understood why private schools are given so much preference over public schools. Parents have to plan as early as before the baby is born about saving money for their kids' future.

Melanie Kissell said...

"I was country ... when country wasn't cool." Well, that's two of us - Barbara and Me!

Great perspective here, Aurelio. I'm a single mum with four daughters, including a set of twins and all four of my girls attended public schools. The last of the bunch are about to graduate from high school in about two weeks.

Here's a revelation ...

All four of my daughters are 4.2 GPA students. Imagine that. :-)

I've had the experience of two different and distinct school districts and, in each case, I don't have a "public school" complaint to offer up.

"See" you over at Twitter,

Dave Scotese said...

I have a dissenting opinion. I can't tell if comments here are moderated, so I'll see if this one goes up, and if so, then I shall proceed to dissent. Otherwise, I can only leave you with two names and a blunt suggestion for Hanifa Cook:

John Taylor Gatto
Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt

Hanifa, do some research comparing the success rate of public school graduates to that of everyone else in the real world - not government work, but the real work that represents the backbone of the American dream that we are losing: small business.

Dave Scotese said...


Ok, my dissenting opinion is that this: "our wonderful, far-from-perfect-but-central-to-democracy neighborhood public schools" has the same ring of truth as this: "our horrible, far-from-evil-but-central-to-societal-decay local mom-and-pop shops".

Private school is NOT the (only) alternative. Look up "teenage liberation" or Grace Llewellyn.

School is compulsory for a reason, and it isn't because parents are too stupid to care enough for their young. It's far more nefarious than that. Conformity is a subtle but destructive thing, but it is the main goal of public schools. Public school is an example of the simple fact that when people don't have a choice about whether or not they pay for something, the thing they pay for will slowly stop serving them and start serving whoever enforces the demand that they pay for it.

I believe your argument is that we should fix them, and that this takes parent involvement. The problem with this argument is that it does not restore choice to the people paying for public school. It is like using painkillers to deal with the pain of a broken ankle. It might feel good, and you can walk again, but the damage will get worse.

Parents should get involved by demanding their money back. Vouchers approach this, though they aren't ideal. Ideally, the state would offer services that could be bought willingly, rather than forcing citizens to pay for them whether they use them or not.

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Dr. Erika Burton said...

I think all schools are what the community makes of them. While I can respect Dave's point here that we might be providing a band-aid approach for something that cannot be covered to heal we can work together to build a common understanding whereby we can grow together in one direction.
Parents need to understand before they can make an informed decision as to even where they should send their children. At this point their decisions are usually misguided.
Erika Burton, Ph.D
Stepping Stones Together, Founder
Empowering parental involvement in early literacy skills