Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Public or Private?

No… dirty minded people. I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about schools. This has been a HUGE topic of conversation in our group of friends lately, as quite a few of us have preschool to kindergarten aged kids. We also live in various areas of the DFW metroplex. Dallas has a notoriously poor public educational system overall – however, there are some very respectable pockets where schools appear to be great. There are other Independent School Districts around Dallas that have solidly rated public schools, so it's a mish-mash, and everyone feels differently.

I myself am a proud graduate of a public school system education, as well as a state university. I followed that with a master's degree from a small private institution, not because it was super-cool status symbol stuff, but because I could attend at reasonable cost and they offered night classes which I completed while working full time. I am not a product of fancy-schmancy schooling, but have a respectable job making a better than average salary, and I'd like claim 'reasonably smart' as one of my personality characteristics. Same goes for my husband. He went public and state all the way as well, other than post graduate work he completed to be able to keep people alive during surgery. It still boggles the mind that my husband, who for all the crap I give him about his severe case of CRS (can't remember shit), gets paid a boatload of money to do anesthesia. And apparently, he's damn good at it. But don't tell him I said that, his ego won't squeeze through the friggin' door.

So for the 2 of us to be arguing about this seems silly, right? Not so much. We, like most of the rapidly shrinking upper middle class, are far more worried about the education of our youngster than is probably within the realm of reasonably sane lines of thought. We want to make sure she has every opportunity, every advantage, and putting her in a challenging academic environment is a hallmark of ensuring her future success. Right? I honestly don't know.

It was less than 100 years ago that nationwide compulsory education became law (1918 – just so those of you with 'research OCD' don't have to look it up). Since that time, not only do we pay a ton of taxes to ensure every child has a 'proper' education, but now in many circles, its considered a form of child abuse to send your kid to a public school. Like every kid who graduates from Podunk High School is doomed to life as a factory worker, which by the way, hardly exists anymore to begin with. Fundamentally, I think that's crap.

There are lots of kids who will graduate public high school, get scholarships either through hard work or genetic smarts, go on to college (and/or be the next Mark Zuckerberg) and be very successful productive adults. By the same token, private school education will produce a decent percentage of complete idiots who are wholly incapable of holding a decent job.

As true as the above comments are, the odds are actually in favor of my husband's opinion: private = better; public = lesser. So I'm torn. It's not that I think my bilingual 4 year old is superior (proud mommy moment)… she's probably not… other than in my eyes which see her as truly exceptional from time to time. Truth be told, I usually have to bribe her with brownies to get her to trace the letter A. Sigh…

Maybe the fact is, it doesn't quite matter yet. Or maybe it does. Who the heck knows…. But in the meantime, until we experience for ourselves what the local elementary school has to offer, how will we know if she's challenged enough? Maybe the playing field only equalizes once you get past the 'I know all my colors, letters, and can count to 100' stage. If the lesson plans in 2nd grade are goofy and sad, and my kid either a) comes home every day complaining she's teaching the teacher how to read, or b) can't read at all yet… maybe that's the time to pull her out and pay through the nose for private education.

So the bottom line is – I have no idea what we'll do. But I'll tell you this. Nobody is going to bully me either way. I won't have someone looking down their nose at me for sending her to the very well rated public elementary around the corner, NOR will I allow someone to shame me for going private when I have a "perfectly good ISD elementary" in our backyard. Our decision is ours, your decision is yours. Each child is different, and everyone comes at this from a different angle. Live and let live, I say.

Tell me YOUR opinion!!! Post a comment if you're brave, or shoot me an email if you're not. I'd love to know what you think – and feel free to tell me I'm off my rocker if you want.

Happy 'hump day' everyone!



  1. I hope that someone else has this answer, since I do NOT! I have no idea what the best thing is, but I'm starting to believe that it's the KID and the PARENT(S) and maybe not so much the school. And, of course, the teachers... But public or private, it's not like you get to choose your teachers. Perhaps the only thing we can do is to make a decision that we can live with. Also, there is no reason that you can't change your mind later, right? I struggle with my daily but I think for us, Public is going to least this week :)!

  2. I have seen both sides of the coin. Good public schools and bad private schools. Bottom line is that if you have the choice of districts and schools (i.e. if you were moving and could choose anywhere and actually base that decision on school districts)do your homework. My pops is a school teacher and had to do this research to find decent places to work. He learned that schools and districts with 30% or less of the student body on the free lunch program were much better all around. Sounds strange? Not really, it has to do with the poverty ratio. Schools with less than 30% had more motivated students, more up to date technology and were able to pay their teachers better. It really sucks to think of it that way because to judge based on circumstances like poverty is a smack in the face of humanity, but it is what it is and some statistics have proven useful.

    Last thing, as a mom of three over the age of's not always the school that will give your child the best opportunity. Kids learn more than most could ever imagine from their parents. If you're active in their schooling they'll do better regardless of the sort of school they attend.

    Sorry for hijacking the comments! I'll be off now! TahTah! :)