Public vs. Private School: Part Dos

I need to first say: I love you all for the comments and insight and the honest conversation you opened up. The tone stayed earnest, candid, and open-minded with none of the vitriol and mean girls attitude that troll the Internets.

And I learned a lot in a short time. I wrote my post knowing I couldn't explain everything in one sitting but I could at least start a back and forth about something that is a) very important to me and to decisions we are going to make for little Emmy Stevie Wonder and b) is something that I really want to learn more about and see from different perspectives.

Who knew a blob could help me achieve that?

I'm still not firm on whether public or private school is the route we'll take. The second Emmy gets a slushee thrown on her cheerleading or badminton or chess uniform, I will Bing "how to homeschool your kid and not turn her into a social pariah." But until then, here's more of what I think, mixed in with your brilliance.

1. I'm not talking about any run-of-the-mill public school when I say "public school." I am talking about what my colleague Liza termed "private school lite." Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos. They are public in name, but, let's be honest, exclusive in practice. Bougie and elitist? Yes. But at least they are bougie and elitist in a public school-technically-anyone-can-go-there-if-if-they-can afford-the-rent-or-mortgage-kind of way.

2. Why is that preferable to private school? I'm being idealistic here, I know, but there's part of me that thinks you're better served when you go to school with kids that might come from radically different backgrounds. And private schools seem to attract a more homogeneous crowd, even with the token brown kids who are there on scholarship and star in the admissions videos. Which I learned about in a conversation with one of those kids.

3. I know you're paying for it either way. Either you pay tons of cash and yearly property taxes for a house so you can go to private school lite, or you pay the 26K a year for private school. Blood is coming from that stone one way or another.

4. I definitely don't want to "make a social experiment out of my children by telling them 'pull up your boot-straps and go to public school'" because I did. Bill--you're right, I wouldn't send Emmy to the same public schools I went to either because they are in shambles now. But as long as there are good public schools out there, I will do my best to seek them out, live in their districts and give them a try. Because what's the alternative? Privatize everything? That would be awesome but even more unrealistic. Just look at merit-based teacher pay. Not happening.

5. KD's response: "with its high Chinese and Indian populations, Cupertino is not the diversity mecca you might think it is either. And have you seen the suicide rates for those high pressure schools on the peninsula? Who do you think is jumping in front of all those Caltrains? Just know that "nice" school technically are public schools, but they can be just as homogeneous as a private school."

I totally agree. I have also used the Caltrain argument many a time. I don't want to put Emmy in that kind of a pressure cooker. High school is supposed to actually be fun, people. It's not all 5.0 GPA's and piano practice. And those districts you mentioned--Campbell, San Mateo, Mountain View--thanks for your .02. It was worth at least a dollar.

6. "At the end of the day, Emmy will learn more from you, your husband, and the rest of your family than she will in (pre-college) school anyway. If she goes to public or private school, she will be equally as brilliant because she has a family who is actively involved in her education. THIS is what makes all the difference, in my opinion." This is from Kristin, a smart teacher who is in the trenches in Santa Cruz County. I trust her opinion.

7. Also from Kristin, about the reality in a lot of public schools: "I have seen that many teachers at this school and my district are forced to teach to the lowest common denominator. Students are ill-prepared for reasons that are out of their control. I've taught Kindergarten students who have come to school without ever having held a pencil prior to their first day in my class. I have also attempted to teach social studies to eighth graders who read at a second grade level. To try to extract meaning from writing when you can't read is a difficult hill to climb."

8. I think my biggest hangup comes from this: I'm lazy. I'm not a good teacher. I'm impatient. I want to trust in the system of public schools to teach Emmy the way my parents trusted in it to teach me. My friend Kiet sends his 1 year old and 4 year old to Montessori schools. His kids are awesome and smart and photogenic. Montessori school is expensive.

I'm like, Kiet, "You and I didn't have no fancy Montessori school. We're doing just peachy though, right?" But his response was, "But what if we did? Would we be more successful, would we have gone on to do bigger and better things if we had those resources?"

And folks, that's the million dollar question. Would I have been happier or richer or "better off" if I had gone to private school? Will Emmy?

I only know what I experienced as a public school kid, so the comments and perspectives that you've all shared are gratefully read and pondered on and continue to weigh on my mind.


Here's what I learned from you about why private school is better. And so far, the overwhelming response has been that private school IS better. So Jeremy, you win.

1. Smaller class sizes.

2. More immunity to CA budget B.S.

3. Better access to elite colleges. Kelly said: "I have to say I got in to every college that I applied to and was recruited by even more, not because I'm super-smart but rather because I graduated from Mitty."

4. Teachers have more resources.

5. Higher "perceived" and "actual" parent involvement.

6. "Private school's advantage was the discipline it gave the students (respect, sharing, caring, sports), the rules (uniforms, attending class etc), and zero tolerance," a comment posted by "Ferris Bueller." I do like the uniforms and zero tolerance aspects of a private school.

7. From Sean on Facebook: "I'm a product of the Canadian public school system so i can't comment on the quality of U.S. public schools. However, the vast majority of my classmates at Harvard Law School were alums of elite private schools. Same for the folks i met at the Med school and the Business school, so play the odds."

You do know how much I want Emmy to go to Harvard. Crimson is such a pretty color on her.

But one thing you don't get if you go to private school: public school street cred. I may not be a lot of things. But I does have me that public school badge. And I wears it proudly.