Public School Versus Private School- The dilemma

I spent years attending Camp Ramah in California and made many of my closest friends there. I have attended a number of wedddings, births, funerals and assorted parties with these people. And now that most of us are married and parents it is hard to find the time to see each other.

For years we threw a New Years party that became “famous” within our little circle. It ran for about 13 years or so uninterrupted until one of our own died. But that is a post for a different day. I only mention it because today many of us gathered for a birthday party.

It was a nice chance to celebrate an adult birthday. Not that I mind the children’s parties, but it is just nice to have some time to be Jack the man/friend and not Jack the daddy.

Anyway among our gang the oldest of our children will soon be entering kindergarten, and my son will be but a year behind them so I am very interested in the topic of where to send the kids to school.

I am the product of public schools, as are most of the people who were at this party. Off the top of my head I can count three doctors, two lawyers, a “retired” astrophysicist, a law professor, salesman and some engineers. If I translate that into university attendance it reads: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, Cal State Northridge, UCLA, Cornell, USC and UCSD.

We have become the yuppie crowd we laughed at, but that is ok with me. And now we are all ready to invest more heavily into the future of our children, education. The question on all of our mind’s is what is the best thing we can do to provide for them.

How can we best serve their educational needs? Will public school make the grade, is private school the mandate we need to serve. How can we prepare them so that they can be successful in life.

So we wrestle over things like how to make sure that they are exposed to many different kinds of people, how do we who have managed to live lives of privilege keep our children grounded and respectful of others who do not have the same advantages.

In theory we all want to send them to the local public school. They should be able to go with the other children of the neighborhood and receive a great education while simultaneously learning about people of different backgrounds.

But we look at the public school and wonder the same thing. Is it going to be enough for my child? Will the teachers be devoted to teaching? Will they strive to make our children learn all that they can? Will they help to motivate a love of learning? Will the other students be smart enough to push our children so that they can reach their full potential.

Or will we need to look for a private institution that has a smaller ratio of students to instructor, newer facilities and access to resources that the public schools cannot match to serve our needs.

There are no simple answers. Idealism is replaced by the concern of not sacrificing our children for the ideals we hold to be important. That is, it would be great if we all sent our children to public schools and the parents rallied their support so that they received the best education possible.

But it doesn’t happen that way because so many of the parents who have the resources to send their child elsewhere do. So you are forced to look hard and consider whether your child is going to be left behind because of your ideals. Maybe you can find alternative sources to expose them to people.

On the other hand we know that there are many private educations that do not compare to the public, lousy schools that cost more than the public school you fear might be lousy.

There is really only one thing that we can answer with any certainty. The values we hope to instill in our children will come from home. As parents we have the ability and the obligation to teach our children to value their education and to demonstrate the benefits to them.

So if we do our job we can expect that they will strive for everything we ask for so that they have a brighter future.

And in the end I come back to the same place over and over again. What is the ultimate goal of this rat race.

In my mind ultimately I want children who grow up to be mensches, to be people of character and integrity.

From a career standpoint I want them to be happy, but I would prefer that they pick careers that do not require a ton of financial struggle. In the end that is not my decision to make. But I can tell them that while a degree from Harvard can open many doors, it tends to be more limited than some would like to acknowledge.

Once you get a job and some experience there tend to be fewer questions about where your degree is from and more about what you have done outside of school.

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1 Comment

  1. Anshel's Wife November 15, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    We send our kids to a Chabad school. It is a tiny school. Not even 50 students (75 kids including the preschool and kindergarten). We don’t have many resources. Most parents don’t pay full tuition. My husband and I worry constantly about our children’s education. We decided that if our kids need help in secular studies, we would hire a tutor. We also decided that if we were to send our kids to the local public school (which is the best in the city), then we would have to hire a tutor for the Jewish studies. We have even considered moving to Chicago or another city with a school with a better secular education.

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