Wednesday, June 07, 2006

And Yet Another Graduation

As I listened to our friends’ daughter, Lizzy, give the valedictory address at our neighborhood high school last night, I realized that I had never seen that football field before. Our children had gone to a private high school in the city, where they had a completely different experience.

On the way in last night, there was a table where attendees could pick up a headset for simultaneous translation in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic. This attests to the fact that the school is 85% minority. For many of those families, this was probably the first child to ever graduate from high school. They carried bouquets of flowers and balloons and extended families welcomed their graduates with shouts and whistles.

All of the speeches lauded the school’s efforts to rise against all odds from this melting pot and make a name for itself. It now has an established IB program and many of its graduates are going on to reputable colleges. Lizzy will attend Pomona next year. For many of the other graduates, however, formal schooling will end with high school and they will join the work force in some capacity.

The expectation at the school our children attended was that everyone would go to college, many to Ivy League schools or their equivalent. Although the students were not ranked, there was definitely competition to excel. The average SAT score was above 1400. Graduation ceremonies were held in the comfort of Lisner Auditorium, with nationally known speakers.

Last night’s experience called in question our decision to pay our way out of an education dilemma. In the end, was it the right thing to do? By going to the local high school, our children would have gotten a much better sense of the reality of society. After all, most of their high school friends came from families much wealthier than ours. They were intellectually stimulated and challenged and they were completely prepared for the rigors of college. But they missed out on those other experiences that can only come from attending a diverse school like our neighborhood high school.

Aside from the fact that we were spending their inheritance to educate them, I sometimes wonder what effect attending public schools would have had on our children. Is this something that makes a difference for life?


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I do think there are pros and cons of each but at the same time, They did miss out on the diversity which reflects the real world out there, albeit a much newer world than we had at the same age.

My small semi-rural town is fairly WASPish and is just now starting to have residents who are from diverse backgrounds, Many Japanese are here because of our Honda plant.

I think this has been good for the kids in this area, some of whom have never even left this town very much, in the same way that it has been good for them to see the two children in wheelchairs try to cope with their lives.

Kids need to put things in perspective and then are better able to fit themselves into the big scheme of things. In fact, they can first SEE the big scheme, and realize the broad spectrum representative of our world and its society.

I'm sure you'll see to it that they gain more perspective with future broadening experiences in some shape or form and still be glad you gave them the eduaction and influence you did.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh . . . my . . . goodness.

I stumbled upon this post this afternoon . . . it has touched on many of the emotions that we have been grappling with for the better part of 2 years! So many sleepless nights going through the “private school-public school debate” (with a fair amount of guilt for even considering the private school road), navigating through the ridiculously intense and perilous waters of the Washington, DC private school application process, and then being wildly elated (as in “Lotto winner elated”) when we got into our first choice school . . . and this was for Kindergarten, mind you . . . all this for the opportunity to pay $23,000+ per year for Kindergarten!!!!

Yes, I know, I am shaking my head as I write this . . . . and I can see myself an easy target for those in the blogosphere. I can only assure you that I am otherwise a well-adjusted, level-headed, even likable individual. I only want to be the best parent I can be.

Needless to say, we are going through a period of serious buyer’s remorse and doubt and second-guessing. But I suppose that’s part and parcel of parenting, yes?

As we are in roughly the same financial boat as you (“friends came from families much wealthier than ours”; “spending their inheritance”), I would be curious to know whether this difference in financial wherewithal ever reared its potentially ugly head during your experience.

Anyway, take care.

Stillwaters 20007

4:39 PM  

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