I’ve recently begun thinking about where I want my own children to go to school. Having children is far down my list of immediate concerns, but it’s an important thought to ponder nonetheless. I myself am a “product” of public school. Though I attended a private church-run preschool, I was in public school from kindergarten to senior year in high school and am currently attending a public state school for undergrad. Does this mean I am expected to send my children to public school as well?
The majority of parents I know whose children attend private school attended private school themselves. In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t think of one family I know in which the parents attended public school while the children attend private school. Why is that? Perhaps parents who went to private school as children could not see their own children doing any differently, or perhaps they don’t lean either way, but the public schools where they live are just tragically lacking – lacking in resources, in funding, in quality teachers, in positive experiences for all students.
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But not all parents involved somehow in public school themselves choose the public route for their children. Michael Godsey is a public school teacher in California who sends his daughter to private school. He discusses at length the culture that has been established at her school that he argues will simply never happen in public school: “…there will always be this culture of coolness, the norm of disengagement.” One specific detail he mentions is that any disruption or interruption to student engagement and immersion in his daughter’s school is seen as “annoying” to both students and teachers alike. Here is a man who has dedicated his life to public school and still opts out of the public school system for his own child. Shouldn’t he have the right to do so without fear of criticism?
The first problem is that Godsey even had to feel the need to write this article. His title alone – “Why I’m a Public School Teacher But a Private School Parent” – is enough to demonstrate that he is not the norm, a fact of which he is certainly cognizant. Is society too harsh on parents who choose private school, especially toward those who attended public school themselves?
There are of course so many different factors that come to mind when one considers making the choice between public and private school. Differences in funding and, subsequently, resources, quality of teachers, and testing are just three of so many. But the most important factor to me affecting this decision has to be location. One large improvement that must be made in America’s public school system is consistency in quality across all fifty states. If the public schools in a family’s district are of extremely poor quality and they have the means to send their children to private school, why not? Why not give their children the best schooling experience available?
And so I return to my initial thought: Where will I send my own children? I have no idea yet, but what I do know is that while I am a proud “product” of public school, I will never feel the need to also send my children to public school just for the sake of saying that I did. I value the public school education I received and still receive, but we must leave school choice up to individual families without placing shame or guilt on parents who chose one way or the other.