The public school system is an easy and oft criticized entity. As a matter of fact I think most politicians and individuals take quite a bit of joy out of criticizing our public school system and everybody has an answer on how to fix them.
My children attend public school. And I am happy with them.
That is right, soak that in, I like my public school.
Oh sure I have days when the teacher does something that I shake my head about or some sort of federal regulation requires something I think is stupid, but as a whole my kids have great teachers, with involved parents. Here is a brief description of what I think our public school system does right:
1.) Families: Lucy attended private school for a year and I found the parents I met to be pretentious, exclusionary and snobs.
The first time Lucy came home from kindergarten telling me that “Anna Claire has six American Girl Dolls and I ONLY have one” I knew we weren’t going to be at that school for long. In addition, her private school was homogeneous – all rich and all white.
The families I have met at our public school are wonderful. Because it is a public school and because most parents realize that the success of the school relies on them (and not the thousands of dollars they donate) they are heavily involved. As a matter of fact they place a maximum on the number of parent volunteers that can attend class parties, or field trips.
Lucy has made wonderful friends and the parents of these children have become friends to David and I. These parents are actively engaged, grounded and frankly “more like us”.
2.) Diversity: In case anybody has noticed the white population is shrinking which means children need to learn to manage in a world where not everybody is white, not everybody is rich and not everybody is Christian. The kid’s school hosts a “World Culture Day” every year where families from the school are invited to come and educate the students about their culture. This year alone the kids got to “visit”; China, India, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and Pakistan. Lucy and Max have friends from a diversity of cultures and religion and when Lucy came home explaining that “Adrian doesn’t celebrate Christmas because she’s Hindu. So, I told her that I would give her one of my Christmas presents” – well, I was proud. Instead of judging Adrian, or thinking she was a horrible outside person that we should fear Lucy chose to share her “Christian” culture. This is more in line with what I want to teach my children – the respect and tolerance of other cultures and religions – not to fear and judge them.
3.) Teachers: The kids have had GREAT educators. I’ve had some small issues here and there with their teachers, but overall the kids have had strong teachers. I don’t see ignorant, lazy teachers who are “teaching to the test” but a group of educated and professional men and women working hard to accomplish a daunting task in an impossible situation. Max’s kindergarten teacher was gentle, kind and supportive. Lucy adored her first grade teacher and although her second grade teacher was tough she kept the kids on task.
Lucy is reading at a fifth grade level, and Max is right on schedule for his grade level. They are learning about the founding fathers, the election process, science, art, and music. They go to a nature center about four times a year. And the teachers accomplish all of this while still trying to deal with students with a variety of issues from behavioral problems to academic challenges.
We are all quick to point out the faults and errors of the public school system but there are a lot of successes too. I graduated from public schools and continued my education through public institutions. Most of my friends, co workers and peers all were the product of a public school education and most of them I would consider to be successful and morally upright people.
The key to a moral and well-rounded education has always had more to do with parents then with the school. Perhaps the parents from the kid’s school are not from a homogeneous background but in the end we all want the same thing for our children – a good, safe, well rounded education. And for our family the public school system fits us just fine.