Monday, January 14, 2008

Kate and Ryan get in a fight over private vs. public

"Mama! Mama! Mamahhhh! MAMAHHHHH!"

At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, Alice started screaming. This, of course, woke Sam, who also began to cry. The children share a small room that's separated from Ryan's and my room by a paper-thin wall. If anyone makes a sound, we're all awake within seconds.

When the fussing started, I was in a deep sleep. I felt like I was being woken from the dead—everything ached. (I was up until 1 a.m. the night before watching The Wire on Netflix.) But I pulled myself up, grabbed the kids, and lugged them into bed.

When Alice and Sam come into bed, they snuggle up on either side of me, with their heads on my chest and my arms tucked under their bodies. It's sweet and cuddly, but I'm stuck flat on my back and typically my arms fall asleep—while I don't. On the other side of the bed, Ryan sleeps comfortably and restfully. Sometimes I resent him when I look over at him sacked out and happy.

I never fell back asleep on Sunday—everyone else did. And so I sat there thinking about all the reasons my husband was irritating me. Mainly, I was angry because Ryan missed MCDS's deadline to apply for financial aid. I've put so much work into this process; he couldn't meet one measly deadline. I was also infuriated by his slovenly habits, which included leaving his crap all over the house, piling his dirty dishes in the sink, and failing to put down the toilet seat. And I was mad about the Disney princess flashlight he bought for Alice because I hate Disney and because it was on one of those lead-recall lists. And I was mad because he bought a box of sugary cereal. And because he never makes dinner, never cleans up the kids toys, never puts away his clothes, never lets me sleep in, never refills the toilet paper, never, never, never . . . (Please keep in mind: I was sleep deprived and thinking irrationally. My husband is actually a terrific guy and he does do quite a bit around the house, including the laundry sometimes.)

When Ryan and the kids finally started to peep at 8 a.m., I was grumpy. While Alice and Ryan jumped about on the bed, I picked a fight with Ryan.

"At some point, we need to move out of our condo and into a house—something with three bedrooms," I said. Normally, I feel like we never need to leave our cozy pad but on this particular morning I wanted, more than anything, a room where I could escape my family. In our current living situation—nothing like that exists.

Ryan responded, "If we end up at private school, there's no way we're ever leaving this place."

"You don't want to send Alice to private school, I know it!"

"That's not true. I just think it's going to be a huge financial struggle."

"You just want a new mountain bike."

"No, I've given up on the new bike. I'm trying to be realistic. You need to realize that if we send the kids to private school it will be a huge financial commitment and I don't think you've given this a lot of thought. We'll have to make huge financial sacrifices. It won't be easy. We won't take vacations. We won't save for our kids' college or our retirement. And you certainly won't get private school for the kids—and a third bedroom for yourself."

That's when, I hate to admit, I started to dig into him about not being ambitious enough in his career—and not making more money so we could comfortably pay for private school. (My husband actually works very hard and he's a scientist, restoring rivers to make them pleasant places for salmon—something that I'm usually very proud of.)

Our fight on "private vs. public," I'm ashamed to say, was entirely unthoughtful and shallow (the debates between visitors to this site are more sophisticated). Our fight focused on finances. We didn't talk about the differences in curriculum at private and public schools. We didn't talk about the teachers. We didn't talk about our role in this greater society. We didn't talk about how we want to make a difference in the world. And we really didn't even talk about our kids. Of course, we care about these things immensely, but I'm not going to lie: This fight was about money.

After 20 minutes of screaming and yelling, Ryan walked out the door—without saying a thing. I let him go. I needed a break. I brought my—our—kids back into bed and we hugged. Alice smothered me in kisses and said, "It's going to be okay, mama."

I told her that she has the world's best daddy, but sometimes mommies and daddies disagree. She said, "I know, mama. It's okay." She gave me more kisses. (Sometimes I wonder where this loving, nurturing child of mine came from.)

We went on with our day. A morning play date. A birthday party at My Gym in Potrero Hill.

I figured that Ryan had gone for a bike ride. He rides on the weekends, and his bike wasn't in the garage (I checked). But at 2 p.m., when I still hadn't heard from him, I began to worry: "What if he crashed on his bike?" "What if he's really angry at me?" "What if he wants a divorce?" I started to realize that I really loved this man.

After the birthday party, I called Ryan and left a message on his voicemail. "I'm sorry. I regret so many things I said. I know I was mean. We can work this out. I'm just really stressed out about this school thing. Alice's screening at Live Oak got me excited about private school again but I think we need to be open to all our options. I love you. Call me."

He phoned about five minutes later; he was just over the hill. When he arrived home, I was relieved to see him. We talked—this time I was rational. And we realized that we can't make any decisions before we receive word in March. And I'm realizing, that's what is so frustrating about this process—the uncertainty. If only we knew today, what we'll know in March or August or September. The uncertainty can drive you to the edge.

120 comments:

  1. i was hoping this debate would emerge. it's a touchy subject in our household at the moment too. looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Don't sell out...

    ReplyDelete
  3. don't sell out? don't judge people! if you were secure in your own decisions, you wouldn't feel the need to say things like that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is going to be GREAT!!!!! Angry conflicted liberals. Can't wait.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, I agreed. Dont sell your kids out.

    Put off buying the plasma tv and $100 per month satellite cable.

    Spend the dough on your kids.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Can the trolls (who are probably the same person) please leave? What are you adding here?

    Kate, please remember that they are just the vocal minority. We want to hear what you say!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Kate and Ryan,

    I think it is good to have this discussion and do what it best for your family. When we went through the process 3 years ago we had a choice of a private school and a public school. Our gut reactions, when we opened the letters, helped us choose our path.

    Take your time and think clearly on what it would mean to your family if you went private/public. What would you have to change? Can you do this for another 10 years (whatever the negative impact is)?

    You have to think about you and your family and that decision is different for every one of us.

    Good luck and thanks for the blog.

    BTW - we are so happy with our decision and every year I realize we did the right thing - for our little girl and our family.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Here's a question I have for private school parents. How much of an impact does the tremendous affluence of some private school families have on the community and on the values of some the students?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kate,
    My husband and I also had very different ideas about whether public or private school would be better for our son. My entire education was in private schools (a PK-12 school in another state that was a cross between Nueva and MCDS but somewhat less affleunt) and then a SLAC, whereas my husband attended public schools in the Bay Area and then continued on to UC. As you might imagine, I assumed that private schools were unquestionably superior, whereas my husband wasn't so sure. We both ended up in the same science Ph.D. program and pursued related careers. In retrospect, it seems that my husband had some advantages from attending public school. For one thing, he is comfortable talking with people from a variety of backgrounds, whereas I have difficulty connecting with people who seem slow, have pronounced accents, or aren't terribly articulate. Also, my husband is much more relaxed about things. This might reflect the fact that he felt confident about his academic abilities relative to that of his peers and had the free-time to pursue other interests like sports, while I spent so much time doing academics (i.e. 3 hours homework/night in the later years of ES) and constantly competing with other kids who were also in the 95th percentile. On the plus side, I was the only one of our scientist friends who was never bored in school. We are currently sending our son to an SFUSD ES, with which we are generally pleased. The decision was essentially made for us as, due to his end-of-summer B-Day, our son was not directly admitted to any of the private schools to which we applied. (He was waitlisted everywhere, including Nueva, as I mentioned in an earlier thread). Since he was quite tall for his age, socially confident, and already reading, we decided to enroll him in the SFUSD school to which he was assigned rather than holding him out for another year and re-applying to private kindergartens. Several years later, he is thriving both socially and academically. Yes, he is bored some of the time, and yes, I do think that some of the teachers could provide more challenging work for students who have already mastered the basics. (This varies from teacher to teacher and also depends on how much the parents pushes-i haven't been very pushy.) On the other hand, we've been able to supplement our son's education with outside trips to museums and libraries, piano lessons, sports teams, etc. Overall, our son seems happy, confident, and socially comfortable with adults and kids from a variety of social backgrounds. I think we made the right decision.

    ReplyDelete
  10. to the last poster (SF_Scientist_Mom), how hard is it for you to incorporate/juggle the sports and piano lessons into the week? Are you working full-time? Does your son attend the aftercare program at his school at all? I probe this issue because I work full-time and worry that I will need to cut down on my hours at the office to supplement the areas that are lacking in the public schools. I know this varies dramatically from one school to the next, but it would help to know how you work it all in.

    ReplyDelete
  11. who is this person that keeps calling everyone a troll all over this blog?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Scater,
    I do work FT, and my son attends a free(!) afterschool program at his SFUSD ES. My husband takes him to sports practice one afternoon/week, and I take him to his piano lesson on the week-end. We both attend his sports game on Sat or Sun (if there is one). We visit the library most week-ends and museum typically when there is no sports game, it's a long week-end, or we feel particularly energetic.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Flipside to scientist above:

    My wife went public k thru lawschool in an excellet school district in the midwest.

    I went private 4th grade thru graduate school...due to a lot of financial sacrifice by my parents and following my brother not being taken care of in 1970's (pre-prop 13) public schools due to a slight learning disabiliyt.

    During the kindergaren process for our kid we talked a lot about the differences between our experiences.

    It became clear to my wife, and me, that my experience was far richer, broader and gave me more appreciation of all aspects of the world and the people, animals, plants, etc that inhabit.

    Made no difference to our standard of living: the public vs. private school choice. She's smarter and more accomplished than I am. However I have a breadth of experience due to my education that she wishes she had.

    So we decided we wanted this same breadth for our daughter and went private.

    ReplyDelete
  14. i've posted in another thread about our family's discussions on this very topic -- i was educated in california public schools through grad school and my husband in public and elite private schools in france -- so i won't bore you with details here. (suffice to say we both believe the public school experience is the superior, more complete, one.) but i do want to add a few things all your thoughtful comments have gotten me ruminating on.

    1) never underestimate the impact that attending school alongside the wealthy and entitled will have on your (presumably not-wealthy) child.

    2) shouldn't personal initiative play a role in a kid's growth? classify this one under the broader issue of overscheduling, but i am wondering if it really benefits kids to expose/enroll them in every activity under the sun. won't they choose to follow up on interests themselves? isn't that a good thing? i like the idea of a kid with some free time to read/go for walks/pursue personal projects/fantastize/hang with friends.

    3) i still believe our kids benefit most from the simple, unplanned times they spend with US -- more than the enrichment programs they attend, the specific curricula at whatever school they attend, etc. i know parents can't -- and shouldn't -- teach their kids everything they need to know, and i have the utmost respect for what educators do, but that doesn't negate the value of unguided personal growth and exploration.

    4) what is the goal of primary education? is it to create a confident little person who can move forward into secondary education on her own, making her own choices about her future? is it to birth a gigantic pulsing brainiac? is it to put your kid on a track to an elite college? is it to put your kid on a track to make lots of money? is it to make up for your own life deficits? what the hell is it???? (i don't claim to know...and am getting more confused by the moment....)

    ReplyDelete
  15. billy goat gruff: i haven't seen the term troll used "all over this blog." i have seen the term used on other blogs, and, in general, it appears to refer to posters who, instead of wanting to contribute authentically to the conversation, post something provocative just to cause trouble and rile people up. i would guess that posts saying things like, "Angry conflicted liberals. Can't wait," are what this person is referring to. That comment is typical of those I see attributed to trolls -- no real contribution to the conversation, but something meant to be provocative just for the sake of being so. while I don't know who is using this term on this blog, i hope this helps answer your question.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have heard several tales from reliable sources of public schools drowning kids in homework. One reason we're interested in private is to avoid hours of homework a night.

    ReplyDelete
  17. One anonymous asked how the affluence of some private school families affected the community and values of some of the students.

    With our family, I have to say I don't think money versus non-money mattered very much at Convent for high school. It had to do with the values the families instilled in the kids, and some wealthy families had great values. We paid full fare but had almost nothing left over. All the families we met were friendly, and my husband and I are both quite shy so it's hard for us to mingle. Our daughter chose her friends carefully, and they seemed to be good kids, and ranged from St. Francis Wood to full scholarship. Some of the wealthier kids were shallow and materialistic, but our daughter made fun of them. I expect she was embarrassed by our small home and mismatched furniture because she almost never invited a Convent friend over, but she never showed any sign of resentment that we did not have more than we did. I could not say the extent to which the religious atmosphere at Convent (which overall was pretty light in my opinion) contributed to our daughter's group of friends being less inclined to judge others based on possessions.

    In contrast, my son, who's 5, complains that we don't have more money than we do, and it does not seem to be based on competition with other kids but his own whims. I guess when you're five and want a toy at Target, but the bank account only allows replacement of outgrown shoes, your world falls apart.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think the troll term has to do with the fact that in childrens literature the troll character often keeps kids from crossing over bridges.

    Similarly the "troll" in this blog with their silly comments prevents us all from crossing the metaphorical bridge to our kids future.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Our family dilemma is probably the same as many.. In our hearts we feel if it wasn’t for the financial impact we would certainly choose private school. It just seems absolutely obvious to us that the private schools we applied to will provide a very enriched learning experience. We have heard enough feedback from administrators in pre-schools and adults in general to truly believe our child will meet the bar regardless of how high it is set. I am also confident my daughter is not the sit down, memorize, and test type of learner. She has to be engaged by a high participation curriculum..

    With that said the financial impact although we can afford it would be a huge hit on our family. Not something to take lightly.. This leads us to seriously evaluate public school. We feel after the tours there are good options but none of them appear to the eye to measure up to privates that we visited.

    Our biggest concerns:

    Private - Money, administration not being truthful with us because of the money we pay, how can you measure the impact of a private school education, how do we ensure our kid takes responsibility for her own education and doesn’t take our sacrifices for granted

    Pubic - perception of lowering the bar, especially once we get to upper classes 3rd - 12th..
    Influence of no child left behind and our kid being a good test taker but not have much knowledge...
    Statistics...perceived notion small percentage of SF public high-school students go on to 4 year university (outside of Lowell, SOTA, and SF state)....

    Anyway I could keep going but this is probably enough for now.

    ReplyDelete
  20. But don't children need to be good test takers to get into college (SAT) and grad school?

    My husband (product of super-crunchy progressive private school) has always admired my test skills (product of public school). Knowing how to ace standardized tests has certainly helped me in life, no joke.

    ReplyDelete
  21. 1) never underestimate the impact that attending school alongside the wealthy and entitled will have on your (presumably not-wealthy) child.

    Also, never underestimate the impact that feeling wealthy and entitled in comparison to your peers will have on your child. In the real world, there will always be someone smarter, richer, and better looking than you; best get used to it now. At public schools, 25% of San Francisco's population is pretty much unrepresented: People with Money and Lots of It. To put the world into sharp focus for your kids, you can't beat hanging out with families that have never seen snow AND with families that go skiing in Gstaad.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Funny, I think that that mix could only exist at public schools. Do private schools have genuinely poor people?

    One previous poster here, whom I happen to know personally (and whom I like a ton) was one of the people who openly committed to public school. She also has great personal wealth (although I don't think she would use it to ski in whatever city that was - she is more the type to give a lot to charity or use it to invest in a startup).

    Having attended public school among the middle class hordes, then attended college and grad school among the wealthiest people in the world, I can tell you that there is no getting used to materialism. I see no problem with avoiding it!

    Sure, there might be reasons to send a child to private school, but I certainly hope that "teaching them to interact with the socialites" is not one of them. If it is, tell me what school and I will try to avoid it!

    ReplyDelete
  23. All this and we haven't even heard about Kate and Ryan's fight yet!

    ReplyDelete
  24. You seem to assume that everyone with money at a private school is a materialistic socialite who does not give to charity or invest in startups. In fact, private school in San Francisco is the most likely place your kids will be exposed to major philanthropists and brilliant inventors whose investment and genius have helped our society and our world.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Marlowesmom, my public school kids have not been overwhelmed by homework. It seems to be about right.

    My third-grader can almost always get it done in one hour of "homework club" in afterschool, not counting the occasional interactive projects that are supposed to be done with the parents (e.g., family history kind of thing, or for the very early grades, assigned homework to read aloud to your child for 20+ minutes/day).

    The fifth-graders receive packets for the week (through Thursday night) that allow them to set their own pace and take into account extra-curricular activities (e.g., my kid rarely gets any done on Tuesdays due to an outside commitment). Sometimes this means finishing the homework at home in a larger bundle on another night, though this could also be related to my kid choosing to read a book during homework club--especially if the book of the moment is very exciting.

    There are also regular "bigger" projects like biographies and science reports that require additional work at home, but these are paced over several weeks and classroom time is also provided for them, especially for research in the school library and improving the various draft with teacher and peer commentary. Often there is also fun afternoon time to create cover art for the report, in league with the art teacher.

    My kids are bright and verbal, and maybe other kids are struggling, but that is our experience. Now, we will see about the honors programs on the middle school level next year, and I bet Lowell is a whole other story with its college-level work.

    Now am I going to get a response that our public school isn't rigorous enough? ;-) Seriously, my kids are bright and have had a great experience so far with a variety of approaches, many of them hands-on and partipatory, and they test on the high end in all subjects.

    To the last poster, I'm just not sure that's true. By the numbers, I would bet SF public schools have graduated far more interesting people. Carlos Santana (James Lick), the Breyers brothers (justices) come to mind right away, though I know there are more.

    I spent three years in private school myself, and also a high-end private college, and I know of course that there are good and interesting people in those schools. It's just that.....the deficit I saw was that a lot was handed to my classmates on a platter, and they didn't even seem to know it. The old saying about born on third base, thinking they hit a triple. Many of them became accomplished and successful, yes, but in standard sorts of ways, i.e., exactly lacking that inventiveness that you mention, and also the drive to go beyond what came easily based on what they were given. Again, that was my observation and maybe others see it differently.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I hated the public schools I attended (low bar, no validation). It was miserable. But everything turned out fine because of my amazing parents. And as an adult I do appreciate the perspective gained from growing up in the "real world."

    Where I come down on this:

    * Parents and their values are so much more important than the kind of school a child attends. In other words, if private school is going to mean no savings for retirement, it is NOT worth it.

    * That said, private schools may make more sense for sensitive, shy children or kids with shaky self-image.

    * Just as parents of publics talk about supplementing their kids' education with extracurriculars, parents of privates can make sure their kids stay grounded by making sure they have some experiences outside the wealthy bubble.

    ReplyDelete
  27. yes! Kate hasn't even shared the gory details of her fight and here we are...

    My husband went to a fancy-schmancy private school in Manhattan and has little good to say about the "f-upped rich kids" that went there. at the same time, his eyes were wide and glowing on the tour of the private school we both, finally, could agree was "impressive."

    i used to joke that this private vs. public issue was going to put a major strain on our marriage. but now having seen so many wonderful public schools -- and having become genuinely excited about contributing my energies in that direction -- i think our marriage will be okay. either way, the kids will be alright, and possibly even better off in public if that's where we end up.

    at this point, i just want to know! (says me, the control-freak, who could never wait to find out the sex of our babies in utero!)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Is that "access to philanthropists and inventors" person for real? Or is that just someone wanting us to think negatively about private school parents. Would someone really say that stuff out loud? Maybe I'm naive.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Liz, actually I did not ask about public school homework, I posted in response to a parent who asked about how wealth affected community at private school, but I'm glad to hear your kids have manageable homework loads in public school.

    A very good point I heard is that you can't really homework measure by "time" anyway, because it depends on the kid and their focus and work style.

    Another thing I have heard is that parents should keep an eye on is the quality of homework. Is it reinforcement of skills you'd expect them to be learning in class or deeper exploration of class topics, or does it seem like you're teaching them substantive subjects from scratch? I had a charter school (not in SF) parent friend who said he thought his kids were so busy with enrichment activity at school that the parents had to teach the core subjects via homework.

    ReplyDelete
  30. People talk a lot about the enrichment necessary at public schools, but I have also heard that private school parents end up supplementing a lot: supplementing for standardized test tutoring, supplementing for private music lessons, horseback riding, etc..

    One thing that scares me about private schools is that we'll blow our whole wad on tuition, and then our kids will never be able to compete because they'll have no money for private tutors or expensive birthday parties.

    Are there any private school parents here that are not very wealthy? If so, can you discuss what it is like to be among the lower class amongst the more privileged? Do your kids feel deprived? Are they at a disadvantage academically if you can't afford private tutors?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Our kids attend private school so one thing I would say to the previous post is that all private schools are not the same. Now we're at Friends and we used to be at SF Day. Both of these schools had a different atmosphere than what I saw at some of the single sex private schools in terms of the obvious affluence of the families. Also, Friends and SFDS are very different from one another in terms of the affluence level.

    Friends tries to mindful of the fact that there is a wide range of affluence among the families at the school. For example, babysitting is offered for all school-sponsored, parent-only events so that people who might not be able to afford a sitter can attend.

    As for the kids, big fancy birthday parties, trips, belongings, etc are not the norm for either of the schools my kids have attended. Similarly, my daughter is in 4th grade, and at least at Friends there are few kids at this point with their own cellphones, ipods, etc.

    As for tutors and the like, we haven't needed those services so I can't speak to that. But if your child needs extra support, it is a fact that public schools are in a better position to provide this than private schools. AS far as activities go, there are many opportunities for afterschool activities right at school, which as a working mom I love. You can get financial assistance to pay for them.

    ReplyDelete
  32. let's all go to public schools and make them better. privates don't need our resources and energy. publics do! maybe your grandchildren will grow up and attend public schools. think big and make a change!

    ReplyDelete
  33. 33 comments on a blog post that hasn't been written yet may be a world record for the blogosphere! Kate, you rock! Just for that you should win the debate, whichever side you're on. (Husbands should stay in the kitchen where they belong and leave the thinking to the brains fo the household -- just kidding! Sort of!)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Like I said...

    "This is going to be GREAT!!!!! Angry conflicted liberals. Can't wait"

    It's too much schadenfreude...please stop!!

    ReplyDelete
  35. while we're waiting on tenterhooks for kate to weigh in...had some fun looking up famous folks who went to high school in SF/bay area (CLEARLY, i am going to get fired):

    bill bixby (the incredible hulk) (lowell)
    benjamin bratt (lowell)
    stephen breyer (lowell)
    margaret cho (mcateer - now SOTA)
    clint eastwood (oakland tech)
    jim fregosi (junipero serra - san mateo)
    lemony snicket (lowell)
    mike holmgren (lincoln)
    richard levin (lowell)
    pierre salenger (lowell)
    rob schneider (terra nova, pacifica)
    alicia silverstone (san mateo)
    oj simpson (oh, dear) (galileo)
    david straithern (redwood HS, larkspur)
    willie wise (balboa)

    their private brethren:
    jerry brown (st. ignatius)
    dianne feinstein (sacred heart)
    dan fouts (st. ignatius)
    joe spano (archbishop riordan)

    ReplyDelete
  36. The thing that fascinates me about this entire blog back to its beginning is the clear opinion of many posters that those who chose private schools are selfish, inferior, evil human beings who don’t care about others.

    On the other hand there is no comparable belittling / denigration of public school attendees by those who chose private.

    Why is that? What about different strokes for different folks.

    I pay $8,000 per year in property taxes toward public schools that my kid may not end up attending.

    Where’s the “Attaboy, thanks for the fiscal help, we know you’re trying to do your best just like we are.”?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I see the prior Live Oak admissions director is now at SFDay . . .

    ReplyDelete
  38. To the poster who left SF Day for Friends, what was the reason and what differences have you seen in the parent community, academics, etc?

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hi -- To Kim's list, let's add Richard Serra, awesome and famous sculptor, to the list of the public alums. He grew up in my former neighborhood, the Sunset.
    As to the commentary of the second-to-last poster, there has been PLENTY of anti-public commentary on the blog in the last week. In fact, it has tipped me from being very "different strokes" to siding adamantly with the publics. A decent education should not be the privilege of the few and wealthy. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I keep thinking about that "philanthropists and inventors" post. It's driving me batty. And I am looking both at public and private!

    Here's what I think:

    Philanthropist = gives to charity = how about people who work at nonprofits? Those people don't make a lot of money and usually can't afford private school.

    Inventor = usually a Ph.D., professor, academic. Doesn't make a lot of money. Usually sends their kids to public school.

    I think that the meaning was meant to be "large donor to the arts" and "one of the early employees at a start-up." Those things are wonderful (statuses usually obtained either by being born into wealth or being lucky in the Internet boom), but I'm not going to pay $20,000 just to have my kids with them.

    I do think that there are great reasons to send a child to a good private school. Small student-to-teacher ratio is one. Good music program. Arts. Teachers. Religion. But hanging out with the tony-tony's ain't one of them.

    It's like saying "I hope that my child gets into Harvard so that he can be educated among the children of philanthropists and inventors!" It seems to me that more often, one hopes that their children get into Harvard because Harvard offers an exceptional education and opens the door to many career choices, ranging from non profit work to academia, to the higher-paying stuff that makes one a "philanthropist" (marrying rich is usually the fastest way, actually).

    So anyway. I went to public school AND I went to Harvard. Harvard takes lots and lots of students from public and private schools. In my mind, it's about finding a good fit for your child. And certainly many public schools can offer that good fit. I happen to think some private schools can too. I just don't think that a school that is attended by people who want their children only to be around the wealthy would be a good fit for our family. So I wonder genuinely what school that previously poster sends his or her children to. It's an honest question.

    ReplyDelete
  41. And to the Friends parent who was brave enough to write that response above: Thank you. That is actually comforting. Friends is in fact one of the schools we are looking at, and I'm hoping that its new location in the Mission will scare off some of the truly-snobby. It seems like a lovely community.

    Sorry, Caroline, I know you have issues with Friends, and they are based in political beliefs which come from a really good place (and with which I do usually agree), but it seems that Friends offers a bit of the antidote to the more Pac Heights feel of other private schools.

    Of course, it is no less expensive. And it doesn't have a lot of openings. Ah well.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I'm the poster who left SF Day for friends. We made the switch because of a particular episode at Day that told us that it wasn't the place for our family. Prior to that event we had a good experience there.

    There are many wonderful families at SFDS and we made some great friendships there. On the whole, I personally like the parent community at Friends better. I feel like the parents at Friends are just more interesting people as a group, and I feel truly comfortable there rather than feeling like I need to "perform" when I'm at the school. I also happen to like the mixture that the school has of being very focused and on message on the one hand, and being very comfortable with winging it when the need arises.

    One thing about SF Day is that in my view that school is one of the worst offenders out there in terms of talking the "inclusive" talk while emphatically not walking the walk.

    ReplyDelete
  43. n the other hand there is no comparable belittling / denigration of public school attendees by those who chose private.

    Why is that? What about different strokes for different folks.
    -----------------

    Maybe not on this blog, but as a public school parent, I have had people insult me to my face! My husband's boss and colleagues, people in the grocery store line responding to my elementary school t-shirt, lots of 'well, MY child is so bright, public school simply wasn't for us."

    Believe me, it happens - a LOT.

    ReplyDelete
  44. -- Maya Angelou (Washington)
    -- Carol Channing (Aptos and Lowell)
    (she did a fundraiser at Aptos four years ago, at about age 83)
    -- Richard Serra was Aptos and Lincoln
    -- Jerry Garcia (Balboa)
    -- Constitional scholar Laurence H. Tribe (Aptos and Lincoln -- he painted a mural that's still in the Aptos library)
    -- Alex Tse ("Sucker Free City" writer) (Alamo/Presidio/Lowell)
    -- William Hewlett (Lowell)

    Pat Paulsen was the most famous alum of Tamalpais HS in Mill Valley when I attended, but Huey Lewis (ne Hugh Cregg) was two grades ahead of me there at the time!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Tom Hanks -- Skyline HS, Oakland
    Robin Williams -- Redwood HS, Larkspur

    ReplyDelete
  46. I wasn't familiar with Nueva before reading this blog. I looked at the website last night and in the financial section they say that they offer loans to help parents meet their financial obligation. Are people really taking out loans for private school? When do these people pay off these loans - when their children are in college? I realize that private schools are attractive to some families for a variety of reasons. And for the truly wealthy, the cost is not an issue. But when I hear stories about people performing financial gymnastics to attend, I cringe. I don’t think some people are truly honest with themselves about their finances when evaluating these choices.

    For us, if we can’t make SFUSD work for our family (I believe we can), we’ll move and we will make it work in the public system somewhere else in the bay area. We are not interested in adding yet another long-term financial commitment to the list of financial commitments (mortgage, retirement, college). We also want the financial freedom to have some creativity in our lives. Shit - maybe we’ll save enough to buy land somewhere, start a small side business, help a friend with a down payment, give more to charity or politics? Thes are the things that we talk about over red wine after the kids have gone to sleep. Who knows? But I do know that if we choose to start sacrificing for private school, our options would be a lot more limited for the next 15 years (and I don’t even want to think about how old I will be in 15 years)

    ReplyDelete
  47. Kate - It is about the money. It has to be.

    By all means, sit down and have those uncomfortable and perhaps unpleasant financial discussions.

    Oh - and by the way, I hope you don't feel like you are alone in lashing-out at your partner for not making enough money (when stressed and sleep-deprived). I have done it to my husband (and he to me) at different stressed-out episodes.
    The bay area can be a tough road financially and sometimes the stress gets to all of us. But hell - we are in it for the long haul... Good luck Kate!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Alright, I LOVE this blog.(as well as 'The Wire' which I was just watching here on my laptop with headphones on so that my kids don't start swearing like a Baltimore cop or a dope slinger. I'm almost through season three and I just started watching a couple of weeks ago.)

    My kids are in public schools here in the city. They have done well and have had okay, good and outstanding teachers. But what I really have loved about the public schools is that they have learned to mix it up with kids of so many different backrounds, both ethnic and economic, at a time in their lives when those factors don't really matter to them. So it just becomes part of the fabric of their everyday lives. These are just the kids that they eat lunch with and ride the bus with and play dodgeball and foursquare and jump rope with. I have to think that these experiences will broaden their world in a way that a school with less diversity cannot.

    And although we now could probably afford to send them to a private high school (which wasn't the case when our kids were entering Kindergarten) we will, most likey, be in public schools throughout their high school years.

    And I did not know that Jerry Garcia was a Balboa graduate. Just another reason to keep Balboa on the radar...

    ReplyDelete
  49. I'm sure a lot of you have thought of this already, but it really doesn't have to be one or the other. You could do public K-6 and private 7-8 (7th and 8th grades are challenging years anywhere). Or you could do public K-8 and private 9-12. Or vice versa. Or some other iteration.

    I know a lot of families in SF do some version of this. Anyone want to share their experience?

    While I strongly agree that no one should ruin their our financial futures for private, I also don't know if I side with taking very militant positions one way or the other. Hell what about boarding school 9-12? How about living abroad? IMHO it's all about finding the best fit for our kids, and kids are all different.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Jerry Garcia actually dropped out. I was thinking maybe Bal should give him an honorary degree.

    For that matter, Robin Williams attended Redwood but then moved and graduated from a private prep school in the Midwest.

    Well, I said Kate should win that battle just for doing such a great blog, taking a chance that she was the one advocating for private. Now I see that it's not that clear-cut anyway.

    Honestly, I swear it -- even if you took private completely out of the picture, you WILL get an SFUSD school you're happy with. If not the first round -- though the majority of families do -- you will if you work through the process. It will be a stressful period IF you don't get a choice on the first round, and then it's done.

    Yes, many families move back and forth between private and public, including shifting from one to the other for middle and/or high school. My daughter has a friend/classmate who transferred from Nueva to Aptos for the middle school grades, even. (Yes, he's a very high achiever.)

    It's impossible to know all the reasons and situations. I just know it's common.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Several of the private schools add 10 or so new kids in 5th or 6th grade, so that's an opportunity to make the switch from public to private if you want to make that choice.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Kate,
    Thank you so much for posting with such honesty. I can't blame you at all for being upset about your husband missing such an important deadline. I'm sure you're very proud of the wonderful work your husband does. Feeling like we have little to no control over something as important as our children's education is unbelievably stressful. I'm sure most of us have had our uglier moments during this process (I know I have). We're just not brave enough to tell everyone about them! This whole private vs. public debate is so tough. In my mind, both options have merits and drawbacks. Like you, I've decided that I can't get too stressed out about the whole thing until we have a better idea of what our options are in March. While I realize that we can change schools after the first couple weeks of K and can likely get into a public school we like (sadly, there were not many about which my husband and I agree), I fear that I will lose my sanity going that route. Maybe we'll get lucky and have a choice we love in March. I can't think about the "if not" version right now. Aaaahhh!

    ReplyDelete
  53. So it's a done deal I guess. With the missed financial aid application deadline, the private school letter results are moot. Alice is going public.

    ReplyDelete
  54. So anyway. I went to public school AND I went to Harvard.

    based on your post i highly doubt that

    ReplyDelete
  55. Not very nice, and unfair/completely unwarranted. Guess this is a sore subject for some. Hope no one is stifled by those who seem to want to stop the discussion. (Because I'm really enjoying reading all this so I hope everyone keeps talking).

    Even though we're only looking at publics, my husband and I have had some silly arguments as well. For both of us, the process has really caused our anxieties and our own feelings about our respective public school experiences (mine very good, my husband's very bad) to rise to the surface. And while choice is wonderful it is definitely more stressful, especially given the randomness of the lottery.

    In terms of anxiety over the next stage ... it was helpful to me to look at the wait pool stats from June 2007, which can be found here: http://portal.sfusd.edu/data/epc/WP-list-06-05-07.pdf
    I really don't know how many people get in during the course of the summer or after the 10-day count. And the numbers will obviously be different this year, with certain schools like Miraloma and Flynn getting more popular and maybe the overall increase in demand that some are predicting. But looking at these figures gave me some sense of how things shake out by the beginning of the summer -- schools like Alvarado and Clarendon still have long lines, but schools like Buena Vista and Fairmount which are difficult to get into during the first round seem to be able to accommodate most people.

    ReplyDelete
  56. According to Live Oak's website, the tuition assistance deadline was just this Tuesday, so I don't see how a deadline could have been missed on the Saturday prior.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Someone asked for shared experience about moving from public to private for high school. I did it & our daughter did it starting 2002, and it was definitely the right choice for both of us for very different reasons. I was totally lazy in public school and got straight A's except for PE, and I lived in what was supposed to be one of the best districts in Washington State. Private (a Seattle-area sister school to Convent of the Scared Heart in SF) made me really work for B+ and A- grades and there was a group of kids I could be smart with, which was not the case in my public school environment in the 1970s. The small classes fostered great class discussions. The homework built skills and required deep exploration of class subjects. At Convent here, our daughter got really small classes and the teachers were able to take the time with her to instill skills and confidence and really mentor her. I don't think a huge public school would have either noticed where she needed help (because she was doing OK, just not as well as she should) or given her the confidence she developed. She'd previously dealt with some messy family circumstances and social disruption, and was lost in the shuffle academically at her huge public middle school. Pretty much everyone I've ever met who went to a private college prep high school has, notwithstanding complaints about some snotty materialistic classmates, said that the education itself, and the social focus on college, was the greatest gift their parents ever gave them.

    That said, I've known a fair number of kids who did brilliantly well going public all the way. There are public high school classes that push the kids just as hard if not harder than private school where there can be a lot of hand-holding.

    In my view, the main difference between many public high schools and the hardcore college prep privates is the greater potential for social misdirection. It happened in my husband's family (they all went to big public school in LA and he's the only child out of 4 to attend and finish college, and both his parents are college educated), and it's happened to enough friends and acquaintances with kids around our daughter's age that it scared us. Really bright kids with so much potential get into social groups where the focus is all on having as much fun as possible right now, and they end up dropping out and working at Jamba Juice. Sometimes the kids get their acts back together but sometimes they don't. Some of my husband's siblings who are pushing 50 are still not able to take care of themselves.

    Of course you cannot completely buy your way out of trouble. A few of the Convent kids ended up leaving at some point during their four years of HS and we heard some of them got involved in some pretty scary stuff. HS is still HS and you can't control your kids as much as you would like.

    And it's true privates have an unfair advantage in that they get to cherry-pick the most educable kids and ask those who are under-performing to leave, while publics have to take all comers.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Someone asked for shared experience about moving from public to private for high school. I did it & our daughter did it starting 2002, and it was definitely the right choice for both of us for very different reasons. I was totally lazy in public school and got straight A's except for PE, and I lived in what was supposed to be one of the best districts in Washington State. Private (a Seattle-area sister school to Convent of the Scared Heart in SF) made me really work for B+ and A- grades and there was a group of kids I could be smart with, which was not the case in my public school environment in the 1970s. The small classes fostered great class discussions. The homework built skills and required deep exploration of class subjects. At Convent here, our daughter got really small classes and the teachers were able to take the time with her to instill skills and confidence and really mentor her. I don't think a huge public school would have either noticed where she needed help (because she was doing OK, just not as well as she should) or given her the confidence she developed. She'd previously dealt with some messy family circumstances and social disruption, and was lost in the shuffle academically at her huge public middle school. Pretty much everyone I've ever met who went to a private college prep high school has, notwithstanding complaints about some snotty materialistic classmates, said that the education itself, and the social focus on college, was the greatest gift their parents ever gave them.

    That said, I've known a fair number of kids who did brilliantly well going public all the way. There are public high school classes that push the kids just as hard if not harder than private school where there can be a lot of hand-holding.

    In my view, the main difference between many public high schools and the hardcore college prep privates is the greater potential for social misdirection. It happened in my husband's family (they all went to big public school in LA and he's the only child out of 4 to attend and finish college, and both his parents are college educated), and it's happened to enough friends and acquaintances with kids around our daughter's age that it scared us. Really bright kids with so much potential get into social groups where the focus is all on having as much fun as possible right now, and they end up dropping out and working at Jamba Juice. Sometimes the kids get their acts back together but sometimes they don't. Some of my husband's siblings who are pushing 50 are still not able to take care of themselves.

    Of course you cannot completely buy your way out of trouble. A few of the Convent kids ended up leaving at some point during their four years of HS and we heard some of them got involved in some pretty scary stuff. HS is still HS and you can't control your kids as much as you would like.

    And it's true privates have an unfair advantage in that they get to cherry-pick the most educable kids and ask those who are under-performing to leave, while publics have to take all comers.

    ReplyDelete
  59. "Mainly, I was angry because Ryan missed the deadline for private school financial aid applications."

    Seriously, if that were my husband and he was given that task, and we agreed that we were entertaining both private and public school... I would DIVORCE him! That ain't just an "oops."

    This sounds more like Kate -- in all her diplomacy -- saying she and her family have decided to choose public school after all.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Yes, considering that (1) no deadline was really missed and (2) she would never offload such an important job to her husband, I don't buy it either.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Major disclaimer that I leave typos in casually written copy like this all the time, even though I'm an editor by profession, so I'm NOT dissing. But this is a great one:

    Convent of the Scared Heart

    It's true that for kids who are attracted to trouble, or who are OK with working at lowest-common-denominator level, private might give them a better shot because of the selective student population. That said, I (and undoubtedly all of us) know teens who have gotten into trouble at private schools too.

    I don't really think it's very nice to accuse Kate of being dishonest on her own blog, when she has bared her soul.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Looking on their Web site, the deadline for MCDS admission forms was Friday, Jan. 11. She was probably referring to that one.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Yes, he missed the MCDS deadline. Not Live Oak. I clarified this in the write-up. I'm writing this stuff up so late at night that I'm not always thinking clearly.

    ReplyDelete
  64. kate, pls ignore the idiots who were giving you grief about your last post and whether you were making things up. what jerks.

    it sounds like you had a stressful weekend, and i could relate to many of the issues you brought up. thank you for being so open with your experience.

    i too would be pissed (rightly so) at my husband if he missed such a deadline, especially after all the hard work you put in. it would be incredibly frustrating. part of me wonders -- and here i go sounding like a jerk as i pull amateur hour trying to psychoanalyze your husband's motivations -- if he was being passive-aggressive and missed the deadline on purpose. it sounds like he really wasn't on the page with you about private school. perhaps you guys were meant to have this big fight about it, and his flaking on the application, was a way of bringing things to a head (i'll shut up now.)

    i think my husband did even less work in this whole process than yours did, and part of me is resentful of it. but that seems to be a theme in our marriage -- one we need to get to a counselor to talk about (but that's a whole other can of worms). i find myself thinking, so is this the way it's going to be? am i going to be the one always scheduling parent/teacher conferences, packing lunches, taking the kids to soccer or karate, going to PTA meetings, while meanwhile picking up my husband's socks from the floor every evening?

    one reason i decided not to go with private (and after i saw several public schools i was happy with) is that it would mean me having to go back to work full time. i work part time and basically do all the household related stuff as well as kid stuff. i had visions of me working full time and still taking care of everything. i think it would be too much. it's already too much (and i won't even get into the whole "taking care of kids" is a full time job in itself argument). sometimes i feel like i'm living a cliche. I have women friends who say they've learned to just give their husbands very concrete tasks to take on -- like filling out a financial aid application -- but more often that not my husband doesn't take care of it. So I end up feeling like a big control freak, because I feel I can't count on him to follow through.

    I didn't mean to go on and on, but your post definitely hit a nerve with me. Thanks again for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Boy, I thought only my wife and I had this fight all the time. I told her the same thing Ryan did to you about a house or private school because we cannot afford both. Makes me wonder why we live here sometimes as it is so stressful to live in SF. Misery loves company, thanks for sharing Kate.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I noticed "Scared Heart" after I pushed the "publish" button and it made me laugh at myself. I thought about correcting myself but it was more fun to be corrected. Sort of an apt error given the anxiety reflected in this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  67. You know, I enjoy the trolls, idiots, snarks, and meanyfries here. They don't seem to stop conversation in its tracks -- quite the opposite. And I always prefer a pithy statement that provokes any sort of thought over a repeat, long-winded soapbox speech. Either way, the thing to note here is that a number of people are apparently posting under different guises, some of which are false ones. Among the people who unintentionally shoot their own cause in the foot with their idiotic statements and lousy writing are those posting idiotic statements and lousy writing -- and not-so-kindly attributing them to the "enemy camp."

    ReplyDelete
  68. My husband and I wonder if we've been seduced by the down-to-earth and lovely admissions directors and will find a very different vibe if/when we arrive at school.

    My preconceptions about some of the private schools we toured were so off base I wonder if my preconceptions about school communities is off base, too.

    Just as many of us were pleasantly surprised by what we saw when we toured public schools I wonder if some of the posters on this blog might be surprised at what some of the privates offer in terms of community.


    Private school parents: do your schools deserve their reputations--snooty, exclusive, inclusive, progressive, crunchy?

    Hamlin and Town parents -- do you feel you have to dress up and "perform" every time you step on campus?

    Friends parents -- is the school really walking the talk?

    SF Day -- is the atmosphere really as exclusive as I've heard?

    MCDS parents -- is it as wonderful as it seems?

    Ultimately, if we go private it will be because that's where we think our daughter will receive the best and most consistent education. We just hope that we'll be able to make it work for us. Would I feel more comfortable in a public school setting? Probably yes. The jury is still out on whether I'd feel confident in the education our kids are getting.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Private schools provide a superior education, or so the story goes. Ok, but couldn't a public school education (to the extent that deficiencies even exist) be supplemented to equal or better a private school education for much less than $20,000 a year?

    My guess is yes.

    On the flip side, how does a parent remedy the main weakness (imo) of most private schools -- lack of diversity?

    In my mind, this can't be done in any meaningful way.

    Add to this the externalities associated with the public vs. private decision, and ... well, there isn't much of a decision for our family to make.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I don't think you can get an "equal or better" education in public school by supplementing with additional classes. There are features of the classes and curriculum in private school that can't be replicated in public school - just as, as the above poster points out, the diversity of public schools can't be replicated in private school.

    It's up to every family to decide if the differences are worth the price tag.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Half a year in I can say SF Friends is as advertised.

    They're not perfect but a lot of effort goes towards simplcity, caring and inclusion. We could not be more pleased.

    ReplyDelete
  72. If you want to avoid angst about public schools I recommend putting off watching season 4 of "The Wire".

    ReplyDelete
  73. My child is attending private now, and now that "we're" in it, the grass is always greener on the other side. I'm glad we took the big leap into private because the mystery is gone.

    I see the pros and cons of public and private. The money, the diversity, the access.

    So knowing what our money buys being in a private school, we wanted to see what life could be like if we went public. So we did the tours, close to 20 schools I think.

    In the end we thought, sure we'll shoot for public. We liked what we saw. More importantly, we could see our child - happy and thriving- in some of these public schools.

    But two things come to mind.
    1) What will people think at the current private school when/if they find out we left for public!!??

    Who gives a SHITE. It's what is right for OUR family.

    and 2) If we choose to stay for one more year or not, we can re-evaluate it at anytime and know that public is also a right choice for us.


    This is not being said by parents who have the money or luxury to go private.

    We've just realized there isn't a wrong choice for schools, as long as the parents care. And it seems to me, all the parents who have read, looked at, compared any or all parts of this blog - you cant go wrong with where ever you decide to send your kids.

    ReplyDelete
  74. i've heard more often than not that going to gingerbread events and auctions and things like that don't matter if you're trying to get into some of the private schools. it's the admissions people who make the the evaluations to determine if your kid is right for the school. these admissions people aren't at these events so they wouldnt know or see your enthusiasm anyway. there's no way friends can put in a 'word' for you.

    everybody is nice when they want something.

    ReplyDelete
  75. SF Day - I don't think "exclusive" is the right word. I do think it's a school where the comfort level is with kids and families that fit within certain parameters. They're not very comfortable with kids who don't meet the norm. Quirkiness isn't celebrated there.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Anonymous @ 8:23,

    Could you describe for me the benefits of a private school education that couldn't be duplicated by a public school education plus $20,000?

    I agree that publics can't necessarily replicate the form of a private education. But I'm not at all convinced that publics (with or without the extra $20,000) can't duplicate the substance of a private education.

    ReplyDelete
  77. To the poster who claims that an equal or better education is not possible at a public school.
    Every year I have a student or two who has defected from the privates (I've had some students from many of the above mentioned schools) In many cases it's parents who's children have special needs. Some of them have learning or behavioral problems that privates are unwilling to address. Some of them are gifted students with parents who feel they need more challenge. Some of them ran out of money...In almost every case the parents are just as happy with the public school route. I have had a few very gifted students with parents who felt that their children were much better served by the public schools.
    Every child is different and what's better for each child is subjective. Also private school teachers are not required to have teaching credentials and some do not. That does not make them better or worse, just different.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Yes, that's exactly my point - private school education is different than public school education no matter how many extra classes, etc you do on the side. The differences have much less to do with the academic program than with the structure of the school - in private school there are more teachers per student, your child is not at the mercy of whatever the SFUSD/State/Feds decide is best for them, the curriculum is not driven by standardized testing requirements.

    I think kids get a great education in public school, but it's not the "same or better" education as private school - just as if private schools were able to deal with their diversity problem they still wouldn't provide the "same or better" education as public schools. The two are just different.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Question for MCDS parents: Do "middle-class" (as in middle-class for Bay Area, which is upper-middle-class everywhere else) families feel comfortable there? The atmosphere is wonderfully laid back but we've heard there are a lot of seriously wealthy families at that school.

    ReplyDelete
  80. I can't remember if I've posted some of Sandra Tsing Loh's commentary on private vs. public here. I Googled for some of her good quotes and found one embedded in a brief profile of her, so I'm posting it:

    Stop the Insanity!
    The Atlantic, 9/1/06
    Sandra Tsing Loh is no shrinking violet. During the 1980s, as an L.A.-based musician and performance artist, she made a name for herself with outrageous piano “spectacles,” playing concerts on the back of a flatbed truck at rush hour or showering a raucous audience with autographed $1 bills. When she serenaded spawning fish on a Malibu beach at midnight, nearly a thousand spectators showed up to watch and listen.

    But last year, Loh found herself huddled alone in the driver’s seat of her white Toyota minivan, crying in a deserted parking lot in the rain. Her four-year-old daughter, Madeline, had just been denied entry to a private school, and Loh lacked the courage to face the world.

    Madeline had been turned away after failing an exam that asked her to identify her favorite ice cream (mango) and list a few animals (lion, tiger, hippopotamus). Her answers had displeased the school administrators, who determined that the little girl was not developmentally ready for kindergarten.

    At that moment, Loh wrote in the June 2005 Atlantic, “I saw the error of my relaxed, irreverent ways…. If her mother had been paying any attention, I thought, my daughter would not be sitting alone come September with no kindergarten to go to, One Child Left Behind.”

    Today, Madeline is happily settled into a public magnet school, and Loh has become a vocal advocate for public education. In her new incarnation as a “big-barreled Mother Jones-like figure,” she welcomes the chance to review four new books about parental mania for the October 2006 Atlantic. Given the choice, she admits, she would prefer to hurl the books at the heads of hysterical parents while a therapist hollers, “Stop the insanity!”

    Instead, in "The Drama of the Gifted Parent," she lets loose a stream of jocose words, having fun at the expense of litigious lawyer fathers, “leafy/Waldorf School” mothers, and Harvard graduates who make their living polishing high school essays for $299.95 a pop.

    As a veteran of the kindergarten admissions frenzy, Loh is candid about the lure of private education. The problem, as she sees it, is twofold. First, she highlights the absurdity of “academic parent-child hit squads,” teams of overachieving adults and their offspring who will stop at nothing in their high-speed pursuit of the Ivy League.

    “I worry,” writes Loh, “that unless they join some sort of MTV-sponsored witness-protection program, such children have no hope of ever getting laid.”

    When it comes to progressive parents, those who favor eucalyptus-scented campuses where their children can study Nordic mythology and African percussion, Loh fears that the taste for alternative education is widening the canyon between rich and poor.

    It all begins innocently enough, she writes. A sweet, well-meaning European devises a new theory of early childhood development, and an exclusive school springs up around it:

    In Los Angeles, this woodland gnome is typically a sweet and fragile eighty-something educator (think wonderfully old-fashioned cardigan, white hair perhaps growing out of the ears) who in Austria in the 1950s invented some sort of benevolent alternative-learning theory whence gently flowers the school’s educational philosophy. If [the school] now allows in, by breakneck competition, only the most affluent and privileged (with the occasional Savion Glover–brilliant inner-city child, for color; or perhaps an heir of Denzel Washington)… it’s not the helpless and unworldly little gnome’s fault—it’s just something that happened along the way. Hey—you wouldn’t blame John Dewey!

    In Loh’s eyes, America is ripe for a new cultural revolution. This time, she envisions young people burning not bras and draft cards but copies of U.S. News & World Report. College dropouts such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have paved the way, proving that success doesn’t hinge on a prestigious college education, let alone kindergarten aptitude.

    In the end, she says, the “yellow brick road” that leads to a six-figure income at Goldman Sachs is a mirage. “Many of us, unsure of how we got where we are in the first place, are just as unsure of what education will best prepare our children for an unknowable future.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200609u/tsingloh-interview

    ReplyDelete
  81. As a kid I attended public schools and private schools.

    The private schools were better.

    No question. Even as a 10 year old I knew this.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Just a couple of observations on diversity in public schools:

    1. Some of them are not very diverse - AFY is very heavily Asian for example. Grattan is becoming increasingly white (much to the distress of the principal).

    2. When I was touring I noticed that on the whole the white kids hung out with the white kids, the black kids with the black kids and so on.

    Of course the public schools have more racial and economic diversity than private schools, but let's be realistic as to how diverse the experience for our children will really be.

    ReplyDelete
  83. I find this public/private divide SO interesting. We're from Canada, in BC you can go to public school, you can go to a very few Catholic school or you can go to boarding school (with a few exceptions if you live in the town with the boarding school). Granted the Canadian school system is better than the US one in general, but still, I can't help thinking that most of the doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, scientists and any other field that requires a degree, went to public schools. And many, many of them are here in high tech jobs too, if more energy was put into great public schools (as many here have advocated) we could have a system like that here. Then again, BC also doesn't have a private university/private colelge system either, and everyone seems to turn out ok. Wouldn't it be interesting to see how a private school did with test scores and kid outcomes, if they were just assigned 20 random kindergarteners? Especially if they had to keep them until 12th grade.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I also attended both public and private schools, several of each. The privates were "better" in some respects (facilities, teacher:student ratio, field trips) but overall I was made a happier and more grounded person by the public schools I attended. Part of the problem of private schools for me was that while my family could afford to send me, we had little left for the things that many of my classmates took for granted (ski trips, horses, fabulous clothes etc). Like anon above, I also thought (aged 10) that the private schools were "better" but I also started to believe that the kids who attended them were too. I don't want that for my children.

    ReplyDelete
  85. On the flip side, how does a parent remedy the main weakness (imo) of most private schools -- lack of diversity?

    step out yer effin front door and go to the park or library

    ReplyDelete
  86. Re. ski trips, horses,etc. I'm the guy that said by age 10 I knew my private education was better than my public education.

    My parents chose education over ski trips, horses, etc. We drove for vacations vs. flying. I didn’t ski until I was in college. My parents drove 15 year old cars. The "sacrifice" was not a sacrifice. We didn’t feel like we were missing anything by not skiing. We lived near the beach in So. Cal. It was free, every day.

    Additionally my grandparents raised 9 kids in lower middle class circumstances in the midwest in the 40’s and 50’s. All went to “private” catholic school. All 9 kids graduated from college: a very proud achievement for my grandparents. Certainly sacrifice was required on the part of my grandparents. Did they do the right thing by going private in grade school? Who knows but it was a choice they had, a choice they made, and they figured out how to get it done.

    Public vs. private is a personal decision that none of us has the right to make for others.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Sakes alive! The libertarians have adopted Caroline as their poster child! No kidding!

    Conclusion of the article in which she has a starring role: San Francisco is one of a handful of public school districts across the nation that mimic an education market.... And it demonstrates that even within a limited pseudo-market, when families become consumers of education services with the right of exit, schools quickly improve to attract them.

    ReplyDelete
  88. A number of people here seem to compare the cost of education as public:$0/private:$20,000... like "what's all that $20,000 buying?" But it's actually more like public:$9000/private:$20,000. If you're trying to decide what an education is worth, first look at what it costs abstractly, then look at what it's worth to you in terms of value/affordability/sacrifice.

    ReplyDelete
  89. One question I've always had about those figures -- friends of mine on private school boards tell me about half of the tuition parents pay ends up going to facilities and facilities-related costs. Does the $8-9K per student figure for public schools factor in facilities-related costs? Or are those costs substantially less because the district already owns the buildings and so isn't paying rent/a mortgage? Just wondering if anyone knows the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  90. I'm no expert, just a parent, but I believe the per student public school allocation includes central administration support for basic custodial services at each school. But it does not include rent or mortgage because, as you point out, these are already owned by the district. Not sure how much of the per pupil money is allocated for regular maintenance beyond daily upkeep.

    At the schools with more active parent bases, there are fall/spring work parties to shampoo the rugs, paint bookshelves, and build nice things like gardens and play structures.

    Also, a separate, bond-funded stream of money (Prop A--not the transportation one from the most recent ballot, but the schools one from several years ago) is right now being spent on deferred maintenance and facilities upgrades, including disability access and a small but noticable amount for "greening" the schoolyards. This special bond money is not included in the per pupil annual numbers. Somewhere online there is a list/schedule of the many schools benefiting from Prop A money. We definitely saw it at our school.

    An analogy to the bond money would be capital campaign fundraising in the private schools (to which private school parents are often pressured to contribute during their time at the school, on top of tuition). If the private school is paying rent or mortgage, though, that is probably considered an annual operating cost and so is folded into the income/expense budget--meaning that yes, the $20,000+ tuition helps to pay for it, perhaps even at a substantial percentage given real estate realities around here. A look at the annual budget should also indicate the amount of this, plus what is spent on custodial services and normal maintenance.

    Not sure how much is also accomplished by volunteer work parties in the private sphere--maybe this varies by school culture, with Synergy and Live Oak expecting this, and some of the really wealthy ones in Pac Heights charging more and expecting less in volunteer labor? Maybe some private school parent has this answer.

    ReplyDelete
  91. When I was touring I noticed that on the whole the white kids hung out with the white kids, the black kids with the black kids and so on. ...let's be realistic as to how diverse the experience for our children will really be.

    I wonder about that too. Which is worse: to see segregation in action at a public school? Or to hang out with the one black kid at a private school?

    ReplyDelete
  92. Caroline, thanks for posting that Sandra Tsing Loh article. It made for a very interesting and fun read - especially the parts that describe why private schools are so alluring to our generation in that "post-feminist families have moved from being citizens to consumers." I guess liberalism has been commodified as has everything...

    ReplyDelete
  93. step out yer effin front door and go to the park or library

    lol ... is that all I need to do? Maybe I should supplement that with monthly excursions to Chinatown for dim sum. You know, to make sure that the diversity experience is complete.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Yeah, two birds, one stone; that's all you'll be able to afford for dining out after private school tuition.

    ReplyDelete
  95. I attended public school (in So Cal) throughout my education, my spouse attended private (in S.F.). Our eductional experiences could not have been more different. My partner was subjected to huge classes, corporal punishment, and a "dunce cap" for misbehavior. We both went on to attend public universities and graduate study. To make a broad generalizaion that private is "better" than public is just plain wrong.
    I currently teach at a public school, but at one time in my career worked as a substitute in mostly private schools. I "subbed" at Synergy, The San Francisco School (my personal favorite of the privates), S.F. Day, and Live Oak and some Catholic schools. This was many years ago, but in my experience every school is different and schools in different cities and states are different. I've also taught at more than one public school. Some public schools are better than some private schools and vice versa. In the Bay Area we have some public schools that have received national honors for their outstanding programs. We also have some wonderful private options. Having taught here at both, I take issue with the persistant value judgement that private is superior to public, it is wrong, wrong, wrong (at least in San Francisco) There are bad private schools, too! Some with unqualified teachers, huge class size, and poor adult/student ratio.
    I am going the public route for my son, but I seriously considered The San Francisco School for him, as well.
    I have to say that I hope that some of these posters get into their chosen private schools, because I sure don't want them to "end up" at my "inferior" public school! We will do just fine with families who really believe in the concept of building quality public school communities and make that their priority and don't just accept it as the second (or third or fourth) choice.

    ReplyDelete
  96. On the cost issue (and it looms large for our family), I don't think the repeated "free versus $20,000" is really fair comparison of public v. private cost for a lot of families. Some privates (esp. parochial) don't cost that much for starters. Some privates have longer school years, so if both parents are working, you have fewer weeks where you need to pay for alternate care. Some privates include a lot extras that you would otherwise (a) have to pay for yourselves, (b) have to take the initiative to locate & enroll in, and (c) have to get your kids there yourself. Some privates offer cheaper aftercare than you might be able to find for the public school you get assigned to. Some privates offer decent financial aid packages. Some publics are going to hit you up for donations and volunteering just like the privates do (though they may not apply as much pressure). Of course if you've got a stay-at-home parent or can organize some kind of cooperative after-school and school vacation care arrangements, the dollars out of your bank account are not going to be so steep. I'm not saying that there's no price difference, only that there are more factors in the equation than "tuition" versus "no tuition." Some of those factors are family- specific and some are school-specific.

    ReplyDelete
  97. Re what parents pay, it's true that public schools REQUEST donations. (Some -- mainly high-end suburban schools and charters -- all but tell you they're required, though that's illegal.) But there's still a pretty big difference between having to pay tuition and being asked to make a donation. And private schools request additional donations of all kinds too.

    Re my being the libertarian poster child, yes, it's true! You'll note that the author emphasized that I'm an outspoken opponent of the school "reforms" beloved by the libertarians and the right -- vouchers and charters.

    OK, I swear I have no ax to grind about Nueva, about which I know almost nothing. With that disclaimer: I just gave a ride home to one of my 8th-grader's classmates, who transferred from Nueva to public after 6th grade. He said something to the other kids about how easy Nueva was, so I interjected a couple of questions. He said Nueva was much easier than Aptos, he was unmotivated at Nueva partly because there are no grades, and he didn't like it. That's all I know; just passing it on.

    ReplyDelete
  98. I have to say that I hope that some of these posters get into their chosen private schools, because I sure don't want them to "end up" at my "inferior" public school! We will do just fine with families who really believe in the concept of building quality public school communities and make that their priority and don't just accept it as the second (or third or fourth) choice.

    We absolutely believe in the concept of building quality public schools and communities and will muck in like everyone else if that is the choice we make for our family. Just not sure how that quality-building works in reality, especially given the uncertain fiscal situation in California.

    This blog never fails to inspire meaty dinner conversation at our house. Thank you, Kate!

    ReplyDelete
  99. To the teacher whose spouse attended private:

    You said some privates where you subbed were not as good as public due to large class sizes etc. Sounds like the private your spouse attended and the privates that you thought not as impressive were the parochial/catholic. Is that fair to say? Seems like there is a difference between the parochials and the more elite private and those 2 groups cannot be lumped together as "privates" in this discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  100. When it really comes down to it, the most important factor for your child is his or her teacher. Most teachers are in the field because they love it -- the pay certainly isn't scaled to the difficulty of the job.

    The press is relentless in criticizing the public schools. Or if it's a positive story it's generally of the "failing school gets slightly better" ilk -- hardly the bar most of us are reaching for. But the reality is that most schools are really pretty good, at least the ones that anyone on this blog is considering. At any school you may have a teacher that just doesn't mesh well with your child, and occasionally a teacher that is really burned out and need to retire.

    I think it's unfortunate that the press rarely covers private schools -- probably because they could never get in the door, and if they could the school would be under no obligation to provide any information about demographics, test scores, free lunch eligibility etc. so you could actually make a legitimate comparison. I remember that the Wall Street Journal did an article about admissions at SFDS that set off a firestorm of controvery, probably because it was such a rare event.

    I love that Sandra Tsing Loh is a journalist who has actually taken the assumption that public schools are automatically inferior. I think she might be leading the bandwagon! I'm can't pretend that any budget cuts won't be absolutely devastating, particularly when we've worked so hard to build up good quality enrichment. But ultimately if my kids are being well taught, that's what matters.

    ReplyDelete
  101. After attending our very good neighborhood public elementary school, my 12-year-old son now goes to a private middle school. (Full disclosure: We live in Oakland, not SF.)

    The HUGE financial commitment aside (we don't qualify for financial aid because our house is worth more than $500K -- in the school's opinion, we should sell the house and rent in order to pay the tuition; you should know, too, that financial-aid grants are often for relatively token amounts), I have to say that spending his days among kids who are, for the most part, wealthier than he is has had a big impact on our son -- and not necessarily a good one.

    We're a middle-class family, but middle-class seems to be the minority at his school. Many of his classmates have big, fancy houses and go on big, fancy vacations -- e.g. Paris for winter break, skiing in Aspen for February "ski week," etc. There's an awful lot of label consciousness -- our son is embarrassed to wear Old Navy when his friends are sporting Abercrombie & Fitch. He's embarrassed to be seen in our 1990 Volvo when his friends get dropped off in new Lexus SUVs. He's embarrassed to have certain kids over because they might not approve of our comparatively modest house. He wants to know why we can't have *his* 13th birthday party in the ballroom at the Claremont with a live band and catered food. And on and on.

    Granted, a lot of this is typical preteen-angst stuff -- I'm sure he'd find a reason to be embarrassed about his family no matter where he went to school. But I don't think that being around kids who are so much more privileged than he is has helped.

    The financial disparity has also impacted our relationship with other families at the school. We have not formed the kind of bond with the parents at this school that we enjoyed at our neighborhood elementary school. Many of them are very nice, but they're in such a different social and economic strata that we really don't have much in common. The mothers seem to be either full-time, stay-at-home moms who play a lot of tennis, or totally driven, type-A career women who aren't around much -- with few falling in between those two extremes.

    (That said, we are friendly with many of the other families whose kids, like ours, transferred in at 6th grade after attending public elementary schools -- they just seem more down-to-earth, and more solidly middle-class like us. The families of the kids who've been at this private school since kindergarten, though, are almost uniformly loaded. And some of them, on top of paying the $20K tuition every year, also give upwards of $100K during the annual fundraising drive. So don't forget about those annual drives in your financial calculations. At our school, every family is expected to participate, and the amount you give is published in the school's annual report. Next to those $10K, $20K, and $100K donators, our measly $200 annual gift looks pretty sad -- and I can't help but feel we're silently judged for it.)

    It's interesting to note, too, that while this particular school is very ethnically diverse (some 40 percent are students of color), it's not very *economically* diverse. There are a good number of African-American families, for instance, but they all seem very well-off. So what looked to us like a lot of groovy diversity has not turned out to be very diverse in other ways. And there are only a couple of same-sex parents -- vs. at least half a dozen at our neighborhood school. I guess two-mom families typically don't pull down the "captain of industry" salaries required for private school.

    All that said, I think we made the right decision to send our son to this school, because in many ways it's the right environment for him at this point in his life. But I'm also increasingly leaning toward going back to public for high school -- and toward NOT sending our daughter, who's in 4th grade, to private middle school as we'd originally planned. Not just for financial reasons, but also because I don't think it's healthy for our kids or for our family to be constantly reminded that others have so much more, and to feel ashamed of our comparatively modest situation.

    Which is all just a very long-winded way of saying, don't discount the economic-disparity question in your consideration of public vs. private.

    Good luck with whatever you decide -- and know that either decision is a good one provided it's right for *your* family.

    All the best,

    Leah

    ReplyDelete
  102. The financial disparity has also impacted our relationship with other families at the school. We have not formed the kind of bond with the parents at this school that we enjoyed at our neighborhood elementary school. Many of them are very nice, but they're in such a different social and economic strata that we really don't have much in common.

    This is my experience and I find it so interesting how one can feel misplaced and seperated from other families based on socioeconomic situations. But, this is tue for me.
    It seems like alot of people make preschool work but as we move on to public vs. private it seems like it is more based on pocketbook than just principles.

    ReplyDelete
  103. I just want to clear up one misconception that I've seen around here. In school parlance, the term private is not synonymous with exclusive. Nor is the term independent a soft-pedal euphemism for private. Private schools are those that are operated and financed by individuals and institutions rather than by governments. Within the category of private schools are independent schools (schools that are governed by a board of trustees) and parochial schools (schools that are governed by a church or other religious organization).

    ReplyDelete
  104. So, when you say independent schools in San Francisco, those are private schools not governed by a religious organization or church.
    I think it was Caroline who said she did not like the term independent, but it is accurate to call Town, Hamlin, Burke etc. independent schools. Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  105. I asked my kids whether the kids at their (public) schools mostly hang out with kids of their own race, or whether it is more integrated.

    They all said (independent of each other) that in elementary school everyone usually played together, but in middle school it was more segregated. Not completely segregated, but it seemed to them that there were larger groups of kids that were asian/latino/african american/white that separated themselves from each other. Not a scientific survey, but just an observation from within.

    ReplyDelete
  106. Re terminology:

    I think someone else initially criticized the term "independent schools" as a euphemism, though I may have voiced agreement.

    Perhaps it is a technical term used to distinguish unaffiliated private schools from schools with a religious affiliation. But it sure appears that "independent school" is used nowadays as a euphemism to avoid the connotation of "exclusive private" school, with its whiffs of a history of elitism and racism.

    I can see the more aware voices in the private-school community trying to lose the joined-at-the-hip adjective "exclusive," as in "one that excludes" (raising the question "whom does it exclude?")

    The less savvy or more traditionalist in the private-school world still proudly use the term "exclusive." I would imagine that the more aware cringe when they hear the term.

    Any private school that can choose to accept or reject applicants is inherently exclusive. I would assume that any private school would prefer to be in that situation -- either having more applicants than it has room for or having the ability to reject undesirable applicants, no matter how many openings it has.

    ReplyDelete
  107. either having more applicants than it has room for or having the ability to reject undesirable applicants

    er... wait a minute... that sounds like everyone here's top 7 publics... "there's just too many of you and you don't add diversity... so SEE YA!"

    ReplyDelete
  108. To the last anonymous -- yes, some (many?) SFUSD schools have more applicants than openings. They use a blind lottery process, remember?

    Private schools choose and reject based on a very close examination (obviously -- read Kate's descriptions of the process) of each applicant's and family's perceived personal attributes and defects.

    So if you are "rejected" by an SFUSD school in the lottery, it means your number didn't come up in the computer -- bad luck of the draw. Even with the diversity index factored in, you were still a blind number.

    By contrast, with private school, a rejection is based on careful examination and the resulting decision that your child and family didn't measure up to the other candidates. (Yes, I know, "not the right fit.")

    I think most readers of this blog are too savvy to be misled by the implication that SFUSD schools' process is in any way comparable to the privates'.

    ReplyDelete
  109. THANK YOU to the poster from Oakland for talking about how lack of economic diversity has colored her family's experience of private school.

    Are there any "middle-class" SF private school families out there willing to comment on this? Do your kids struggle with this? Do you?

    ReplyDelete
  110. On public vs private and to Anon poster on 1/17 9:10 pm.
    Our child is at a good SFUSD public (no, not one of the alternatives like AFY or Lilienthal). We have families who left French-American, Presidio Hill, Burke's, parochial and others who turned down MCDS, Hamlin, Town, etc. They all seem to be uniformly glad they chose our public SF school over private. I don't think you should be so concerned about what your private friends think, but rather what's best for your particular child and your family. For some, public would be best, for others, private.

    My good friend whose kids are in private is very pleased with her private, yet wishes they had considered public more seriously. The tuition rate increase at some of the privates in the past 5 years has been significant. She works so they can pay for their children's private elem education. For some of the families attending SF private, the significant expense makes them WANT to believe that the public school education in SF is (or must be) inferior. But it is very case-by-case. There are some SF publics I would never send my kid to, while I would (and do) send my kid to certain SF publics over certain SF privates.

    ReplyDelete
  111. Our kids have little trouble fitting in with kids of different economic means at the private school they attend. They've have never been outside of California, but they can make a snowboarding day trip to Boreal sound as enviable a Christmas vacation in Aspen. They wear clothes from Mervyn's, but, in the sincerest form of flattery, some of the kids have adopted their sk8r style, which is achieved in spite of (or perhaps because of) $9.99 over-sized garments and home haircuts. Self-esteem and individuality are important to us, and their school incorporates those values into its curriculum.

    Yeah, I DO hear a lot of whining from my kids around not-having-ness. Sometimes it's caused by our shortage of disposable income compared to their friends' families, but mostly it's caused by our shortage of material desires compared to their friends' families. Whether you're at a private school or a public school, I assure you that other kids will have stuff that your kid wants and you, too, will have to sit through the lobbying efforts and brainwashing attempts and ask yourself the hard questions: IS an iPod is educational? DOES a Wii have more redeeming social value than a Playstation? ARE cell phones a safety necessity in today's world? CAN you keep a pony in San Francisco? HEELYS?!!

    (Hell, now that I think about it, based on the number of people here that have said they have 20 grand but choose to spend it on something other than education... public school parents: get ready!)

    As for fitting in with other families at our school, we rally around common interests, in our case athletics, food, and politics, and set about BBQing and shootin' the shit while our kids play b-ball. Some of us drive up in Mercedes, some of us drive up in beaters, but we sure have a blast. We don't pretend to NOT notice who has more money and who has less, but after a couple drinks, it doesn't much matter anyway. In good fun, we all make the families with the nicest houses host our pot-luck cocktail parties as their punishment for building big kitchens.

    If net worth needs to serve as your common ground, I think you'll have a hard time fitting in no matter where you end up.

    ReplyDelete
  112. Brilliant! Thank you to the two posters above. Don't suppose you're willing to tell us which fabulous public and whichfabulous private? Please?

    ReplyDelete
  113. If you post your email or cell phone, I can tell you privately, having been a mom in your shoes. But out of respect for our schools' families' privacy, I would prefer not identifying our fabulous public school. My point wasn't about our specific school, it was that there are more private school converts to SF public school than one thinks.

    ReplyDelete
  114. Why wouldn't you post the public or private school that you are so proud of..... ?? Don't get it at all...

    ReplyDelete
  115. For some of the families attending SF private, the significant expense makes them WANT to believe that the public school education in SF is (or must be) inferior.... We have families who left [private schools] and others who turned down [private schools]. They all seem to be uniformly glad they chose our public SF school over private.

    Of course. These are both prime examples of cognitive dissonance reduction. Everyone has a psychological need to bring into alignment their actions and their beliefs -- their wants and their haves.Beyond that, these comments don't illustrate much of anything.

    ReplyDelete
  116. If you post your email or cell phone, I can tell you privately, having been a mom in your shoes.

    Yes, please e-mail me at orangetatami@yahoo.com. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  117. I just want to suggest that the public v. private issue seems to assume that public schools are 'sit and get' test-prep teacher-centered situations. I don't believe that any kindergarten program (and beyond), public or private is really like that. There are many more features to be concerned about, which Kate points out...

    "Our fight focused on finances. We didn't talk about the differences in curriculum at private and public schools. We didn't talk about the teachers. We didn't talk about our role in this greater society. We didn't talk about how we want to make a difference in the world. And we really didn't even talk about our kids."

    These attitudes about public school being a test factory while chldren sit passively foster fear in the hearts of middle class parents (such as me!) and create a culture of questioning the public schools, when in fact, there are lots of opportunities to see demonstrated evidence of learning in both pubilc and private schools. Private schools "market" their educational programs, but often cannot come up with the real evidence to demonstrate they "walk the talk." Although private schools are subject to fewer legal restrictions and have more overall autonomy, that doesn't necessarily make them better, nor does it mean that they have the training and know-how to teach your child. It's not just about challenging kids--it's also about caring about them, identifying where they can improve and knowing how to move them there. I think what's more important that public vs. private is the right school for the individual. For example, Live Oak is a different environment from San Francisco Day. Which one matches your child best? Is Alvarado a good match for your kid or is another school? It's hard to know what will work before one has the lottery results. I can't wait for March when we all find out where Alice will go to school!!!

    ps are admissions in private schools need blind?

    ReplyDelete
  118. ***ps are admissions in private schools need blind?***

    No. (Nor in colleges either, the insiders say, no matter what colleges claim.)

    ReplyDelete
  119. On Town School.

    Our sons go there. We are considered wealthy.

    However, the school environment feels diverse (probably not as diverse as the public schools I guess).

    A lot of the students are on financial aid of various measures.

    BUT, I have NO idea who is on financial aid, and which parents are of more moderate or limited means. I do know some who are wealthy, but only because I knew of their parents before school

    In NO way is Town an exclusionary environment. All the parents interact well in my experience. Our boys LOVE it.

    Yes, wealth differences will become apparent when vacations, etc are compared, but that is always true - and was true on more moderate differentials even in the homogeneous public school I went to.

    The cost/benefit analysis is a different important matter, post financial aid consideration. However, I would not use the diversity argument when it comes to public vs private school (flip sides of the same school).

    ReplyDelete
  120. I have personal experience with Town and Hamlin.

    They are not snobby environments at all, but truly try to provide the best education for children.

    The teachers and administration are very committed and caring.

    They are expensive without doubt, but they try to make it reachable via financial aid.

    I am certain many of the public schools are quite good.

    I would not be intimidated by the rumors of wealth at these school. Everyone is very low key. No one tries to show or brag.

    ReplyDelete