Friday, October 05, 2007

About 978.58 miles, give or take

That's exactly how far I'd go for my kids. It's how far I went when we moved from New York City to Mayberry.

OK, so that's not really what the Parent Bloggers Network meant with today's Blog Blast question, but watch while I string this together.

We moved because we wanted more space, safety, and time (which we'd get by eliminating commuting from our daily routine). And we wanted good schools, without having to pay exorbitant tuition or be a part of the loony urban private school admissions scene.

I believe in public school. Every child has a right to a free, high-quality education, one that will prepare him to be a successful, productive adult. And everyone in a community--young or old, parent or not--has a responsibility to make sure that education is available.

But was I willing to stand on principle and send my kid to a school where only two-thirds of her class could be considered "proficient" in language arts? Where 80% of her classmates would qualify for free or reduced lunch? Where the paint was probably chock full of lead, and the textbooks out of date? Where she'd be Left Behind before she even finished kindergarten?

I wasn't. It was enough for me to juggle a job (with commute), a child, a husband, and an apartment, without trying to add "singlehandedly reform crappy public school" to my list.

My ethics, in this case, took a back seat to my child's immediate needs--and I still feel bad about it. Because this is how we got into this mess. The smart, savvy parents walk: to the suburbs, to the private schools, even to their own home-school classrooms. The just-trying-to-keep-their-heads-above-water parents stay. They don't have the time (courage, wherewithal, awareness, language skills, etc.) to agitate for change. Things get worse and the cycle continues.

Since moving back to the crummy school district is not an option for us, and neither is coming up with a magic answer to this country's public school crisis, I'll have to start smaller. If I win the prize on this blog blast, I'll take my winnings and donate them to a public school teacher through Donors Choose. If Random.org doesn't smile on me this time, I'll take all my BlogHer Ads earnings from now through the end of the school year and donate them instead.

I'll tell my kids how lucky they are to live in a place where school is free, fun, and actually educational. I'll tell them that not every child is so blessed. And I'll tell them that they just might be the ones who could make it right.

14 comments:

Lara said...

i think your donation plans are great. i hope you win. :)

Magpie said...

I know, I know. It's a big reason why we moved out of the city too. Well, that and that we couldn't find an apartment that we could both afford AND want to live in. But the school thing. It saddens me. I know that there are good public schools in the city, but they are few and far between. And the huge irony - I work at a public school - more specifically a non-profit with an associated public school. So I'm enmeshed in the system for better or worse. And it's a huge unwieldy mess. Though, it is a pretty good school :)

jen said...

what a terrific post...what a terrific idea, too.

mothergoosemouse said...

You know that I know EXACTLY (by less than a city block) where you're coming from.

The flip side was to do as Magpie did and move further out to the good public school districts. And then we'd spend even more of our days commuting and away from our families.

I loved the area, but it was a crapshoot, especially without having extended family nearby.

ewe are here said...

I'm with you on this one: I absolutely agree that children are entitled to a free, solid, well-rounded education at the public's expense, and I think it's disgraceful that there is such a HUGE variance in the quality of public schools. But the other reality is, I'm not going to sacrifice my childrens' futures by putting them in a crappy public school and fighting to improve it.

My husband thinks that politicians' children should be required to attend their local public school. Whiel I agree with this in principle, I disagree with it in reality. Even though it is their parents that have the ability and means to a large extent to change the public schools for the better, they shouldn't have 'to pay' for their parents' career choices; kind of like 'sins of the fathers' shouldn't be placed on the sons' shoulders...

I'll stop rambling now.... :-)

Lapa said...

Keep going.

Patois said...

What a wonderful idea, and what a wonderful set of parents your children have.

Leeanthro said...

We believe in public schools, too. We are not going to spend $10,000 a year on private elementary school when that money could be going into a college savings plan. I also believe in being invovled. We belong to a cooperative nursery school and I am on the board. I think a lot of it is what you make of it. Of course we'll probably have some problems along the way, but we probably would in a private school, too.

Karianna said...

Yup.

I thought:

"Diversity will be GREAT for my kids"

and

"We'll supplement!"

But then when reality hit and we were faced with remedial studies, racism, gangs, and violence, we ran to the very-white affluent town where parents are *too* involved with their kids' lives.

TB said...

Yup, aside from the weather, that's why we're here in Florida too. We gave up urban living for the ultimate suburban cliche and something I never thought I would do in a bazillion years. We live on a golf course.
BUT it's safe and quiet and a great place for Myles to grow up.

Lisa said...

I hear ya. This is why we live in the 'burbs. And when we looked at new houses, the school district (as well as the schools Seth would be attending) were a big part in deciding where to live.

Kelly said...

This particularly hits home with me. We live in a great small town, a vibrant community with a weekend farmers market, a small organic grocery shop, an arts community...we even have a town poet laureate! But our schools blow, partly due to the fact that we draw from neighboring towns that are more than economically depressed, crime-ridden, and full of broken homes and families.

Long story short, my daughter was tested for admission into a nearby private school, and the psychologist who tested her assured me I was making the right decision. I don't doubt it, but I can tell you I feel a hefty dose of that liberal guilt. Each person who flees is another one who has given up, in a sense. But it's my children, and if I have any control over their destiny, this is the path I am choosing. A trailblazer, I am not.

Binkytown said...

I've been fortunate enough to not have to make this choice, but if I had to, I would do exactly what you did. I'm sorry you didn't win!

Lady M said...

I'm a big believer in public schools, but acknowledge the vastly uneven playing ground. We're now trying to move into a better school district. I don't know if whether we'll end up in a school population that is just as over-privileged as I fear a private school student body might be.