School Choice

Conversation with an acquaintance in anticipation of school starting:

Acquaintance: I’m not happy about my son’s class placement. Well, the teacher is good, but the kid who rubbed his penis against another kid and then peed on his leg last year is in my kid’s class.

Me: So ask to get your kid switched.

Acquaintance: Well, what do you think about Karma? You know, that he’s meant to be in that class?

Me: I think you need to get your kid switched.

Acquaintance: I was not really happy with Kid Genius’ education last year. He didn’t learn anything.

Me: He’s what 6 or 7?

Acquaintance: Yeah. These are the formative years. The FOUNDATION.

Me: No they aren’t. First grade is for fun. Really, elementary school is a waste, generally speaking.

Acquaintance: Do you really believe that?

Me: Yes. It should be a lot more fun than it is. I mean, can your kid read and comprehend what he’s reading? That’s all that counts, really.

Acquaintance: Yes…he can read, but I’m worried about his math skills.

Me: They’ll come.

Acquaintance: Yes, but he learned like nothing last year.

Me: It’s public school.

Acquaintance: But don’t you think they should learn something?

Me: In theory, yes. But it’s public school. I don’t have high expectations. In fact, brace yourself, because third grade is a black hole. My girlfriend’s kid went backwards last year.

Acquaintance: But I’m worried about academics!

Me: Obviously not too much, otherwise you wouldn’t have your kid in public school.

Acquaintance: But you have your kids in public school.

Me: Yes, and the administrators don’t like me much. And I home schooled last year because third grade stinks. And my kid is probably two years ahead in math. She won’t learn a thing this year.

Acquaintance: Doesn’t that bother you?

Me: It’s a trade-off. The private schools have their own problems as does home schooling. I can push academics at home. You could home school.

Acquaintance: Oh, I could never do that. I’d be crazy. But I did teach Boy Genius more math in one day than he learned all year.

Me: Yep.

Acquaintance: I don’t know what to do.

I probably wasn’t too supportive. In fact, I know I wasn’t. It’s a crap-shoot. Some years a kid gets a fantastic teacher. Sometimes the teacher is mean, or hates boys, or hates girls, or is lazy and apathetic, or is stupid. Or, and this is the case with third grade in Texas, the curriculum just stinks. No one wants to teach third grade. The year is spent teaching to the TAKS test and kids and teachers hate it.

And while the happiest I’ve been curriculum-wise was this last year home schooling, there are other trade-offs. Families have many choices to make. Anyone who opines dogmatically about home schooling or public schools or private schools or parochial schools seems to have an ax to grind, to me, since all choices have positives and negatives.

In some ways, I resent the pressure. When I was a kid, a parent’s character wasn’t called into question based on the schooling choice he made. (Well, home schooling families seemed a little strange–turns out they were just ahead of the curve.) Everyone went to public school or Catholic school. Each year, a bunch of rebels got kicked out of Catholic school, came over to public school and usually excelled at sports. That was the extent of choices. And I might have just been completely unaware, but I don’t recall many aspersions cast based on what school a kid went to. The bigger thing was the school district.

Not now. A good parent volunteers in a classroom so many hours per week. A good parent home schools. A good parent supports public school education. A good parent invests in their child’s future with private school.

In the scheme of life, does it make a huge difference? I really would like to know. Because what I see in the grown kids is this: there are good products out of every kind of education and the parents, not the schools, have everything to do with that.

Cross-posted at

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