Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kickin' It Private School

At the risk of sounding the bell for round two of MonkeyBoy versus La Lubu, I must speak the name of public education in light of the front page article in the SJ-R on a new program at Lanphier High School. The program was put in place in response to an astonishing low retention rate for freshmen in the 2003-2004 school-year when over 200 students (sic), around 40 percent, failed to finish the school year. At least I assume that these figures are astonishing, because if they aren’t, then the state of public education is much worse then I would have imagined and the Lions may need to be listed as an endangered species.

You can center much debate on the perceived character and fate of those that left school, although unless they return to finish their high school education it’s a pretty safe assumption that their future won’t be filled with hope for prosperity. What may be discussed less is the harm being done to the other 60 percent who are being educated in an environment that is obviously rife with chaos and disruption. While this may be evidence that teachers at LHS deserve to be paid more, I don’t see how bumping up their salaries will empower them to deal with a situation involving over 2,100 suspension-level incidents among a single grade, in a single year.

A year or so ago, a report was published that revealed that nearly 40 percent of Chicago public school teachers sent their own children to private schools. The Sun Times’ Neil Steinberg facetiously joined in the outrage by feigning shock that 60 percent of public school teachers care so little about education that they send their kids to public schools. Of course he was attempting to get a rise out of the humorless teachers’ unions, but he also meant it as an indictment of the state of public schools in Chicago.

I’m not one who thinks that kids can’t get a good education in Springfield public schools. In general, those students whose parents or guardians are committed to their learning will do just as well as their private school counterparts. To the same effect, those who are determined not to learn most likely won’t no matter where they attend. It is the kids that fall in the middle who are jeopardized. The ones who could just as easily be swayed to succeed in school as they could to give up or get by.

I feel confident that the public schools would provide my kids the education they need to succeed in life. On mild days, when the rattle from my well-traveled and ailing Nissan Sentra rings especially loud through the open window, I often wonder what kind of deal Walt Skube could make me on a sweet-humming new or preowned vehicle, if only I would free up the necessary funds by trading private school tuition for the carefree world of taxpayer funded schooling. But then I’ll read an article such as the one in the paper today, and the rattle becomes a little less embarrassing and quite a bit more affirming that the tuition is money well spent.

There are some who will level charges of elitism against those who remove themselves from the fray of the public education system. But my choosing to spend my hard-earned and tightly-budgeted money on what I perceive to be a more advantageous learning environment for my children is no more a sign of elitism than if I were to spend it on an SUV, a flat panel TV, or two-packs a day and a nightly visit to the tavern. It's a sacrifice that to me, is worth it.

Others believe that private schools shelter children and fail to expose them to the rich tapestry of a diverse society. This may be true if they are attending a boarding school in Switzerland but decidedly less so at an elementary school on Stevenson Drive. In my daughter’s class of 16, there is both an African-American and a Hispanic child, putting the minority percentage just below the stated goal for representative minority staffing on the city’s police and fire departments. And in this the age global communication, where the media is constantly filling every moment of life with images and messages that emanate from every walk of life, sheltering a child to the point of abject naivety would require a Branch Davidian-type effort.

It is true that my decision to send my kids to private school is an attempt to filter out some of life’s harsher elements. And I figure that it can only enhance the learning experience if their teachers don’t spend the better part of their day dealing with disruptive students.

When I attended the first parent’s night at my daughter’s new school and saw that the parents of all of her classmates had taken the time to attend, I knew that my decision, while fiscally demanding, would be ultimately rewarding. I suspect that many of you parents of public school students have similar feelings towards their schools. But I bet there isn't anybody at your fashion-permissive school who looks as cute as my daughter does in her plaid jumper.


Monkey Boy said...

Forget the public school children, they could never be as good as their private school counterparts...............................................................................just kidding La Lubu!

No need for me to argue with anyone on this topic, as I agree whole-heartedly. They need to argue with you this time.

La Lubu said...

Naah....I'm copasetic with this post. Actually, most of the parents I know who send their kids to private schools aren't doing so out of a reaction against the public schools, but for what they perceive as the particular benefits of a particular private school. And this being Springfield, there's always the "legacy" factor.

I don't have any beef with anyone who sends their kid to a private school, whatever their reasons. What I have a beef with is the knee-jerk reaction that a minority of folks have, where private=good, public=bad.

I'm sure she's a little cutie pie in the jumper. But probably not as cute as mine in her "Hello Kitty" t-shirt (and "Hello Kitty" sneakers, too)!

Monkey Boy said...

"I'm sure she's a little cutie pie in the jumper. But probably not as cute as mine in her "Hello Kitty" t-shirt (and "Hello Kitty" sneakers, too)!"..............with a pack of smokes rolled up in the sleeve.

Just kidding!!!! I couldn’t resist.

You could fire back with something like...…. “But I bet there isn't anybody at your fashion-permissive school who looks as cute as my daughter does in her plaid jumper”………and silver spoon perfectly positioned on her tiara.

La Lubu said...

Bite your tongue, monkeyboy! If I ever catch the little one with a pack of smokes, she's gonna get an old-school foot in her culiddu (that's Sicilian for "little butt").

I'm liberal, but I'm still somebody's mother.....capisce? ;-)