Monday, July 21, 2008

Do SF parents have chips on their shoulders?

The other day I was talking to a friend about schools in SF. She sends her kids to private school though she has lots of friends in public. She started to tell me about her friends' remarks against private schools. "They'll say these things right to my face and they know I send my kids to private school." And then she posed the question, "Why do so many parents in San Francisco have chips on their shoulders?" Of course, this works both ways. Public school parents have told me about comments from private school parents. It seems that parents are quick to judge the other side (anyone who reads this blog knows that).

Anyway, I'd like to throw the question out there: Do SF parents have chips on their shoulders? If so, why?

166 comments:

  1. I think sf is a very smug town by nature. The parents are very defensive and competitive, and need validation from the general public no matter what choice they make. It's brings out a lot of defensive tactics and hurt feelings. There are valid reasons for choosing public or private. Bottom line.

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  2. It seems to be human nature. Everyone wants validation that their choice is the "correct"one. I wonder if parents are just really insecure and it makes us all feel better if we put others' ways of parenting down. Call it the "Britney Spears is a worse parent than me" syndrome.

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  3. I wonder if partly it is due to the fact that many people are waiting until they are older (mid to late 30s) to have children - and these folks tend to really WANT children, it is a very conscious decision for them, unlike in my parent's generation when having children was really just the "next step" and not questioned very much. As a result I think I see (and I include myself in this of course) a lot of "over parenting" - which I think can contribute to a sense of defensiveness. I don't think it's just SF parents - just take a look at that crazy NYC urban baby blog.

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  4. I have a theory about this because it is so ubiquitous in parenting. It seems parents (and mothers, especially) are constantly judging each other's choices or, at a minimum, perceiving others to be judging their choices. This also seems to be at the root of a lot of conflict between SAHMs and WOHMs. My theory (or I guess, hypothesis) is that the predisposition to judge other people's parenting choices serves an evolutionary biological function and is, therefore, to some degree innate. The most successful parents over time are the ones who are good at evaluating information and making the right choices for their children, thus enabling them to survive to reproduce. Thus, many modern parents are at this point descended from a long line of people who got us here by having an effective capacity to judge for their children. You don't just throw that out the window because the nature and complexity of the choices has changed dramatically as a result of modern life.

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  5. It's a natural reaction, when another parent disparages your school choice, to snarl back at that person.
    I think mostly it is bad manners to tell people that you think what they've chosen is awful. There seems to be a a city full of people who were never taught manners by their parents. What is the point in criticizing a person's choice? To make yourself feel superior? What reaction do people EXPECT to get when they do that? APPRECIATION? Heck no. And the people are so dense that they cannot even see how their words can be construed as insulting by others. For instance, the constant attack on charter schools here of course causes ugliness -- I don't blame those parents at all for barking back. What if the same person was always saying that private schools were the reason for all problems public schools face? That private schools were part of some vast right wing conspiracy? All nonsense, all hyperbole, and all blanket hysterical statements like that do is outrage people.

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  6. I don't think that it is an SF phenomenom-I grew up in the Silicon Valley in the 1970s. When my parents switched us over to private schools due to different issues for each child ("my issue" was that Prop 13 had just passed and my mom, a former public school teacher, saw the handwriting on the wall re funding), most of my parents' friends made snide comments about my parents' choice. My parents chalked it up to fear-fear that their decision reflected on the other parents as being not involved or bad or not loving their kids enough to pay for private school. None of which, of course, were true. It is each parents' individual choice and has no bearing on what others do. The phenomenom is as old as the hills as is the need to show respect for other's opinions and choices.

    Jeanine

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  7. Yup. Odd that people get threatened by other people's choices, they must just be really insecure people.

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  8. When my kids started in SFUSD, the common wisdom was that (as one friend puts it) "anyone with two nickels to rub together chooses private school." Once you got slightly more savvy, you worked up to the "there are only five decent schools in SFUSD, and if you can't get into one of them, you have to go private" viewpoint.

    The scorn heaped on our public schools was palpable.

    And I'm a product of Marin County in the '60s and '70s (I graduated from Tamalpais High in 1971), where the hip, cool, enlightened people went private because, you know, public schools were factories designed for churning out mindless drones. (Also, though my K-8 schools were close to 100% white, there were actual black students at Tam, which serves largely-African-American Marin City as well as Mill Valley and Sausalito. There were possibly a few too many black students for the comfort level of those hip, cool enlightened parents.)

    If you read Anne Lamott -- an author whose work I greatly admire -- the parts of her writing that reveal her own upbringing reflect that situation. She's exactly my age and was raised in Tiburon (like me, she grew up in a place that then actually had working-class parts of town and is now so wealthy that doesn't even sound credible). Her family was hip, cool and enlightened (though apparently not wealthy), and she commuted to private high school in the city under that philosophy -- public school was a mill for mindless drones.

    Well, IMHO it's quite apparent why public school advocates would push back after decades of that, now that we have some forums and have gained some credibility.

    It could certainly be said that we have chips on our shoulders. But then, too, any thinking person understands that the strength of the community is tied in with the strength of the public schools. So it's also for the greater good that private-school folks should be prodded to think a little more deeply about the social impact of their choices, rather than being allowed to pretend that they live in a bubble and have no impact at all.

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  9. Would you say that about someone driving a Hummer or installing a huge lawn around their house? Because those are very apt anologies -- personal decisions that have a negative social impact on the community.

    "Odd that people get threatened by other people's choices, they must just be really insecure people."

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  10. Yup, just the sort of insecure weirdness I was talking about, combine that with a pathological need to try to control other people's actions and an astonishing sense of smugness and righteousness and my goodness what an unpleasant result.

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  11. Whenever I see a social phenomenon such as this one, where (mostly) women behave hypercompetitively with each other, I have to wonder, who benefits from this?

    Think about who benefits when women compete with each other in terms of appearance. For starters, every company manufacturing any kind of beauty or anti-aging product. Clothing and shoe manufacturers, and makers of accessories like hats, jewelry, or scarves. All the places that sell these things and the companies who help them through advertising and marketing. Exercise and fitness places, spas and salons. The whole diet industry. Glossy magazines and other media devoted to fashion, beauty, fitness or appearance. This is just scratching the surface. What if woemn didn't care so much about their appearance? What if middle aged women didn't feel they needed to look younger, and 12 year old girls didn't feel the need to look 20, or 4 year olds to look 16?

    Isn't there a similar industry that benefits when women become competitive about their parenting choices, or any time women focus on how they can differentiate themselves from other women rather than what they have in common? The insecurity many women feel about the choices they have made often results in spending money, either as a way to relieve stress through a consumer high, or as a way of trying to purchase that they may feel they have sacrificed because of the choices they have made. In the case of the working mom, she may try to purchase the kind of quality time she imagines that the stay at home mom has in abundance with her children. Is this why we are seeing these all purpose family fun centers springing up in neighborhoods like the Marina, places where the family can go together, and Mom can take yoga while the kids take a kiddie ceramics class? Or she may fill her child's day with various enrichments, like music lessons, or art, or ballet, or organized sports, regardless of whether the child has interest or inclination, as a way of making sure that if the child's time is not spent with Mom, at least it won't be wasted in front of a TV or computer screen. or she may buy her child more toys, or clothes, or expensive snacks to make up for time not spent together.

    The stay home Mom may spend more than is practical on nice clothes for the times when she does venture out into the world, because of a fear of looking frumpy if, for example, she meets a working friend downtown for lunch. Will the working friend, who wears nice suits or dresses every day, judge her if she wears her usual casual attire? Or maybe she feels compelled to cook elaborate meals from scratch every day (spending more at the grocery store), even though the family might be happy with a simple roast chicken, or to be a Martha Stewart when it comes to her home.

    Okay, maybe I am starting to sound a little paranoid here. What about the political ramifications of women being encouraged to compete rather than cooperate? Who benefits politically if women do not vote as a bloc on issues like education, because they haven't yer recognized that it is more important that all schools, whether public, private, or parocial, provide an excellent education to every child, than it is to squabble over who made the best choice in picking a school for their own child?

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  12. How about discussing the substance of my post rather than just cowering behind anonymity and slinging insults at me?

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  13. But if it's accurate that choosing public school has a positive social impact on the entire community, while choosing private has the opposite, is it productive to avoid addressing that by taking this viewpoint?

    "...it it is more important that all schools, whether public, private, or parocial, provide an excellent education to every child, than it is to squabble over who made the best choice in picking a school for their own child?"

    I understand that the squabble isn't pleasant, but would you say that about the Hummer or the huge lawn too?

    If it's NOT accurate that choosing public school has a positive social impact while choosing private school has the opposite, let's hear why (instead of just seeing the usual barrage of anonymously slung insults).

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  14. In case anyone doubts what Caroline is saying about the scorn heaped on public schools, just Google the phrase "failing public schools". Right away, it brings up 36,500 references to that phrase. And yet, how many of us are sending our children to a public school which we feel is a "failing public school?"

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  15. 9:21 here-
    I guess I didn't make my point very well about who benefits when moms squabble over who made the better choice of school for their child. What I meant to say was that the biggest problem in public education is lack of funding by the government (which supposedly supports public education.) I suspect that if public schools received two or three times the money they receive now, no one would be sniping at anyone else about their school choice. The idea that urban public schools benefit when middle class people enroll their children is based on the idea that these are the parents who can bring the most in terms of resources to the schools, and whose children may need less in terms of those resources, leaving more for others. So yes, I agree that at present, middle class parents entering urban schools help the common good.

    But if women banded together across this great nation and demanded that our leaders fund public education at a much higher level, so that public schools didn't have to rely so much on the resources that middle class families bring, then there wouldn't need to be so much sniping about the choices people make, because the schools wouldn't have to rely so heavily on the resources brought in by the middle class. At the same time, with higher funding, the public schools would be more atractive to everyone.

    My point was to suggest that maybe the same factions of our government who do not want to increase funding for education, are also those who have a vested interest in keeping women divided on this issue, in encouraging the divisiveness, because what if we all got together and agreed that we would only vote for candidates who promised to spend more money on our schools?

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  16. Here! Here!
    I love this blog!
    Even with all the sniping, these are much more thought-provoking intelligent posts than the SF Gate comments---have you read those lately? eeeks!

    Makes me glad I live in the Bay Area. (now I'm being smug--LOL)

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  17. Sure, but when parents choose private they de facto remove themselves from the realm of advocacy for funding public education. Of course it is possible for a private school parent to make a big effort to be a public-education advocate, but the effort has far less credibility, force and impetus.

    The most effective push would be for parents to band together and agree to send their children to public school AND to focus their advocacy on public school funding. Every empowered, resourced parent who chooses private school weakens the effort just a little. That's just the way it is; you can't get around it. Sorry to be so uncomfortably blunt, but...

    Meanwhile, for readers who are inspired to rededicate their efforts to advocating for public school funding, the PTA is a vehicle for lobbying and advocacy that already exists and that many parents don't fully appreciate.

    You know the PTA as an organization within schools largely viewed as a fundraising tool. But its greater function is political advocacy. The California state PTA has eight volunteer but professional-quality lobbyists working in Sacramento, and with a million members statewide and the force of its familiar name, it does carry weight with legislators. The equivalent is true in every state and in D.C. It's not executed perfectly (far from it), but the PTA (founded in 1897) has built a structure that I don't believe could be duplicated today. It's just sitting there waiting for advocates to join in and increase its effectiveness and power.

    (www.pta.org or www.capta.org)

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  18. I guess I am havign a hard time with Caroline's comments that basically infer that parents who chose private school in some way or another are destroying publci schools. Please correct me if I am wrong. I have 2 two year old twins and have yet to decide whether they will go public or private (hence my addiction to this website) but I have to say I do take some offense to her implying that my chossing to go private for my children due to my decsision based on their preceived educational needs means that I am ruining public schools for everyone else. I thought that the beauty of living in the US was freedom of choice. I understand that public schools don't get the funding for my two if they don't go public but isn't that my choice? And why can't it be respected?

    Jeanine

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  19. Please excuse the typos-at work and was typing too fast!

    Jeanine

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  20. So, with that reasoning do you think that people who have strong religious beliefs and want a religious education or want a single-sex education for their children should be FORCED to go public?

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  21. Not to mention that many private school parents pay property taxes which benefit the city's resources including our school.

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  22. 10:20 and 10:21 here--Sorry for the confusion:

    My responses were to Caroline's posts.

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  23. Caroline, once again, says: "How about discussing the substance of my post rather than just cowering behind anonymity and slinging insults at me?"

    Please explain to me how this is NOT an insult to many people on this board? --->
    "private-school folks should be prodded to think a little more deeply about the social impact of their choices, rather than being allowed to pretend that they live in a bubble and have no impact at all."

    Yes, without you, Caroline, we would never think of anything!

    "usual barrage of anonymously slung insults"

    You may not be posting anonymously, but the barrage of your insults is relentless.

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  24. No, I don't think anyone should be "forced" to go public, and it's exaggerating my viewpoint to say that parents who choose private are "destroying" public schools.

    I believe strongly that all parents should make the choice they feel is best for their children and family. and of course they should have the right to make that choice.

    Yet their choices DO have a social impact, just as choosing to drive that SUV or install that huge lawn, or live in a gated community, would. I think that responsible, mindful people take that into account in making the decision. Denial is not a socially conscious or principled reaction (nor is shooting the messenger, especially via cowardly anonymous insults).

    For those new to this blog, San Francisco Magazine did a terrific piece on private schools a few months ago, much-discussed here some time ago:

    http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/schools-gone-wild

    The article quotes a former headmaster of Marin Country Day who left to go into community work in Oakland. He warns that the rush to increasingly privileged private school will result in "an ever-more-gaping canyon between the haves and have-nots" and says, " 'we've absolutely trashed the American dream.' "

    Here's my own blog commentary on the social impact of private school:

    http://tinyurl.com/273sud

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  25. If you don't see a difference between personal namecalling and discussing the substance of an issue, Anon, it's hopeless.

    Namecalling while cowering timidly behind anonymity is particularly cowardly.

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  26. It may not be said gently enough to be heard, but Caroline has a point. In a country where yes, we do have individual choice, those individual choices have an impact when taken as a group. Since the advent of economic and racial integration in most cities, lots and lots of middle class and/or white folks have left the public schools for private. If those same parents stayed or returned to the public schools, the schools would be stronger in all kinds of ways--public funding, PTA funding, volunteer efforts, middle class base of kids (see Kate's New York Mag article posted today). Warren Buffett said famously, recently, that the way to improve the public schools is to ban private ones. That ain't gonna happen, but the point is that yes, just like Caroline's example of the social impact of buying a Hummer or planting a huge lawn, there are wider social implications for one's individual choices.

    In my opinion, that does not mean that everyone who chooses public is evil. There are good reasons to choose private school for individual children, especially in a flawed system such as we have. Plus, we all make our accomodations in this system of consumer choice. Some of us focus on going green, others advocate for public schools.

    I do think it appropriate, however, to ask my friends with incoming K-ers to consider public schools, both as good and viable options for their kids, and also because it is a community-supporting decision to send one's kids in that direction rather than private. I don't judge their decision--I know how crazy the system is, and sometime I know their kids and their particular needs--but I ask them to consider it in that light.

    However harshly she states it, I believe that is Caroline's point, and it is a valid one. There is a middle ground in this discussion, and it does not lie in trashing Caroline once again, or in dismissing her wider point altogether. We've been through this one already folks....

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  27. ^ Well stated, 11:40, but I have to wonder if the way that Caroline addresses these issues doesn't indeed alienate and anger more people than it informs. Nobody likes to be preached to, after all.

    -Another Anon Gal

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  28. I agree that no one likes to be preached to, and I'm definitely open to hearing whether there's a better way to say it. I've come to believe that there IS no way to convey this message in a way that doesn't offend some people, though. I've been very clear that I think parents' first responsibility is to do what they think is best for their children, BUT that it's also the responsibility of mindful, ethical people to consider the social impact of their choices. Is that language harsh?

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  29. (I agree that it's harsh to accuse posters who sling insults anonymously of cowardice, but I have tolerated this for a long time. Someone anonymous accused me publicly, with my name and identity known to all who read it, of:
    "insecure weirdness" ... "a pathological need to try to control other people's actions" ... "an astonishing sense of smugness and righteousness" ... "an unpleasant result"

    And people are calling MY language harsh? Have I really said anything that's anywhere in that realm, aimed at any individuals? And if I had, which I have not, it still would not have been under fraidy-cat cover of anonymity.)

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  30. Caroline: Maybe I'm naive, but I think spreading positive messages about all that is offered at public schools is a good way to go and I think you and many other public school boosters have done that with your involvement with PPS. That speaks volumes and seems much more effective IMO.

    On the other hand, I've also had a really hard time as a parent who didn't get any of my choices in the lottery.

    We came very close to moving out of the city because of this. (This is a city I love that I've lived in for over 15 years...)

    -Another Anon Gal

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  31. Yes, I know a positive message is always better received. But do you think it's sufficient to say "a small lawn is just as good" or "a patch of drought-tolerant native plants would look better" to someone who's really focused on putting in a big lawn? That is, is it actually sufficient NOT to bring in the social impact?

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  32. Well, if you spread the word and lots more people spread positive messages about public school it can have a ripple effect. It certainly did for our family when we went to look at schools we might not have considered. The "buzz" was there.

    If you attack those who choose private and charters (let's not get into this again, PLEASE!) you alienate and anger those who you might want to convince.

    -Another Anon Gal

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  33. I guess what I'm saying is that I think it IS possible to state your opinion and your researched information without p--ing people off.

    Right now I need to get back to work, though. I spend WAY too much time on this blog.

    -Another Anon Gal

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  34. But I don't see that I'm attacking them when I say parents should choose what's best for their kids but need to take the social impact into account. How is that an attack in any way, and/or what words did I use that could be construed as harsh or an attack, about or aimed at parents who choose private school?

    I agree that I was harsh to the anonymous insult-slinger; deliberately so, but only in response to a barrage of invective aimed at me (publicly and by name). That's a separate situation.

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  35. (OK, I also agree that I was snide about unnamed parents of the past who chose private school partly to avoid putting their kids in a public school with African-American classmates. Is it out of line to convey that message, though? To me it's exposing and speaking up against veiled racism, and is that a bad thing to do?)

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  36. Caroline, Just as a reader who does not comment about what you have to say (which I generally agree with), I must say, it seems to me that you don't know when to stop. You always seem to want the last word.

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  37. Well, I guess you shut me up, Anon 12:27. But since I've been made into the subject of the discussion it doesn't seem that out of line for me to speak up (far) more than I would if these anonymous posters stuck to the actual subject of the discussion.

    If you want to get me to post less, an easy way would be to discuss and respond to THE SUBJECT MATTER of the posts rather than me, my tactics, my character, my language, etc. (even my age, in one example ...!)

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  38. hi Jeanine:

    Don't let this blog scare you away. My advice to you is when the time comes to tour schools, look at everything: Public, private, charter, schools nearby, schools you would not have considered, language immersion, schools outside of SF, etc. You will know quickly what will work best for your family. Always trust your gut and take others' opinions with a grain of salt. Good luck!

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  39. I have to say Caroline, I am offended by your comments. I chose a private school for very personal reasons. To suggest that my choice creates a social impact is ridiculous. Talk to the State about the social impact created by lack of funding in the public schools. This is exactly the smugness that was referenced at the top of the comment page. Live and let live, Caroline.

    We're glad you're happy with your choice. No need to point fingers at the rest of us.

    For the record, I always post anon. I'm entitled to my privacy. Please stop calling us who make this choice cowards. Again, it's rude.

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  40. Jeanine,
    I understand that you are coming from a well-intentioned place, so I hope you don't feel attacked by my comment, but your comment made me laugh a little. You said "When my parents switched us over to private schools due to different issues for each child ("my issue" was that Prop 13 had just passed and my mom, a former public school teacher, saw the handwriting on the wall re funding), most of my parents' friends made snide comments about my parents' choice." You can see how some might take that as a judgment that those parents who opted to stay in a public school after prop 13 passed were either uninformed or were willing to send their child to a less-than school. In essence, your comment is passing judgment on those families, as much as thier comments passed judgment on the choice your parents made.
    Maybe it's just semantics but it seems to me there is less judgment in saying "my parents were concerned that prop 13 would limit my educational opportunities." That's a valid concern, but doesn't assume that a post-prop 13 public school education is in fact lesser than a private school education.

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  41. This is 11:40am again. I guess I'm with 12:27, Caroline. Since Kate is remarkably tolerant of the range postings here, you have every "right" according to her rules/customs on this blog to answer every point, but I don't think it is effective for you to do so.

    I am one who also tends to agree with you (not always, but certainly on the wider points), and I greatly appreciate your bravery in taking on uncomfortable issues in such a public way. I'm not sure that many of those points would be raised if you did not. I don't want you to be making an absolute choice between your current level of conversation and absolute silence. But there are times when it might be more effective to let others' responses, particularly the nasty personal attacks about your age and such, just to lie there. Look, they speak for themselves. The rest of us understand that they do not address the point of your arguments. Your silence is a great treatment for the worst of them, really it is.

    I also think you can trust that there are enough of us here who can take up those points and find new ways to express them without you having to answer every time. Or, at least, you could wait a few hours to see if that happens....that might help to de-personalize some of the back-and-forth, and also bring forth arguments that are stated in new and maybe more persuasive ways than when one person has to prove the point.

    @1:05, I would not judge your choice of going private, which as you said was made for very personal reasons. We are all making choices all the time in an imperfect world. The school world is certainly a world of imperfect choices! And I am in no position to judge anyone, for real, when it comes to PCness (or environmental correctness either).

    However, I just think you can't say that going private over public does not have a social impact. Of course it does. Your impact as one family is small, but taken as an aggregate, the move of middle class folks to private schools in the last 40 years has had and continues to have a tremendous social impact in our country. So does the use of air conditioning in a mass way, and the planting of lawns in desert climates, and the mass consumer movement to SUVs in the 1990's. (So, too, the mass movement to cars in India and China right now.)

    None of this has to be a judgment upon individuals, but can be made as a wider social observation. If we feel as individuals or as a wider society that all these indvidual choices are creating unsustainable situations for us as a group of humans, then we can try to change them. We can try to persuade parents to consider the public school option, and we can work to make public school better and therefore more attractive. We can ask people to be more mindful of the social impacts of their individual decisions on the common good. If the situation gets too dire, we can do it by fiat or "pay or play" market forces: ration water or electricity, or raise their prices, or ban private schools or tax them out of range. (Not saying we are at that place.)

    My point is, I don't think you have to feel personally defensive to acknowledge the larger point that our individual actions do have an impact. For whatever reasons, and I do trust they were good ones, picking a school was one area where you chose the individual need over the common good. We all do that, we just make our judgments as to where and when, so again, no judgment, just that I think it is good to be aware, i.e., mindful, that we do make these choices.

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  42. Choosing individual need over common good? Sorry, that's an attack. It's a perfect example of the SF "chip on the shoulder."


    This is my child, not your political agenda.

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  43. She offends people unwittingly. She can't help it. She has written that same stuff about SUV's and lawns at least 100 times on this blog in the last three months. She is obsessive-compulsive, ignore her.

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  44. 1:11-Much better said! I did not mean to offend anyone and it was on my part just semantics. To finish off the story of my transfer to a private high school school post Prop 13-I was bullied at the private high school for four years with an admisntration that knew about the bullying and did nothing to stop it (offenders were star athletes). I have asked my mom what, if anything, should would have done differently and she says that she wishes that I had gone to our local public high school which is currently ranked per US News and World Report as in the top 10 in the nation! Your point exactly 1:11! Thank you and I did not take it as an attack at all. Constructive cristicism is what I like about this blog and it has educated me no end as to public and private school choices out there.

    Thanks also to 12:42-yes, I have learned so far as a Single Mother by Choice that I just need to go with my gut and stick with it!

    Jeanine

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  45. In a country where yes, we do have individual choice, those individual choices have an impact when taken as a group.

    Having choice is of far greater importance than the impact of one particular choice among many. Exercise it or lose it; we are all doing our part.

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  46. Caroline, you do your own causes a disservice with your repetitive relentlessness. We're as likely to kill the message as the messenger.

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  47. I find it interesting that there seems to be such a black and white view of private and public schools on the list. It seems to 1) suggest that there are no benefits to going to a private school and 2) foster the idea that the "social impact" of kids who go to private schools is that they will only bring benefit to other people who went/go to private schools.

    I went to private schools starting when I was 10 years-old and through to boarding school in high school. My family had nothing when we immigrated to the US. I mean nothing. One suitcase and we started over again. I grew up in extremely modest circumstances (to put it politely). I got financial scholarships to go to private school starting when I was 10. And it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    I was exposed to such a new world - my whole horizon opened up - I saw that there was a life way way beyond how I was growing up. I had amazing classes and teachers (especially at prep school). Going to private schools exposed me to parents of friends who did a wide range of things - doctors, lawyers, CEOs, scientists, professors, teachers,(even ranchers!) etc. It allowed me to meet people from all of the world, one of my best friends at prep school was from Hong Kong, another good friend from Mexico City.

    And the kids I want to private school with have grow up do extraordinary things for their community - with huge "social impact." There is the range of folk from doctors to lawyers to engineers, of course. But some are teachers (in public school, no less), one friend leads humanitarian relief efforts for an NGO on the Sudan, one is an assistant ambassador for the US in Europe, one is a dedicated community organizer and ED for an urban renewal program in MD, etc. In fact, most of my private school friends have put me to shame with regard to the type of giving back they do. I work in high-tech and volunteer my time when I can.

    And frankly speaking, based on where I was grew up, I would never had picked up any of this from my local public school.

    So having said that, am I anti-public school? Absolutely not. We will look at both public and private schools for our child and make the best decision from there. I think the social impact we have comes not from whether or not we choose a public or private school. Rather, it comes from whether or not we can raise our child to becoming a great adult, who appreciates her community and gives back, whether it's through her career or otherwise.

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  48. Addressing the original post:

    It works both ways. I can't tell you the number of times at places like Hetchi Hetchi camp, the subject of schools came up.

    And when I told private-school parents that my kids were enrolled at Yick Wo School and Marina Middle School, their jaws dropped.

    I could see in their eyes that they wondered if I was illiterate or insane, or perhaps illiterate and insane.

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  49. Choosing individual need over common good? Sorry, that's an attack. It's a perfect example of the SF "chip on the shoulder."

    Well, it was meant as an observation, not an attack, because obviously we all choose our individual needs over the common good, all the time; it's normal and human to do so. Maybe Mother Teresa was the exception, but saints are frankly hard to live with. The question is, can we take the common good into account sometimes, and when.

    I make the choice to fly in airplanes, despite their high carbon loads, because I want to see my family. I tend to feel the winter cold more than some so I put the thermostat up a notch in the winter though it gives me a pang (and I pay for it, too). I own a car. Probably some day soon there will be market and societal forces that will persuade me not to do these things. In the meantime I certainly do not deny that my carbon footprint is higher than most people's in the world. I am mindful of that, and it is not something I am most proud of!

    Yet I have good reasons for taking that airplane ride every year--family needs, past tragedies, present joys that are part of making life meaningful to me. I can argue that it supports certain activities that have a positive social impact, just as the poster at 2:21 can argue the same about her private school classmates. I am mindful of the contradictions in all this, and somehow live with it too. As well, some of my other choices in life are a little more clearly community-directed in terms of environmental impact, like my daily BART/walk commute.

    Somehow, for most people I know, life is lived well not in perfect good or in evil, but in the muddled middle. I have no desire to "one-up" anyone on the smugness scale because of school choice or recycling or anything else. I figure most of us have our outward-to-community and inward-to-self parts. We make these choices in different ways.

    I DO think it is helpful, though maybe this needs to be done in a less preachy way, for folks to be clear about the facts of social (and environmental, etc.) impacts of the choices we face. Not all of which are clear-cut either. My dad installed a wood stove during the oil shocks of the 1970's, and we heated our home with wood. All great in terms of oil consumption, but terrible for the air--but he didn't know that. It is good to have the info, as best we know it now at least. (The carbon load stuff seems especially confusing these days!).

    That's why the NY Times Magazine article Kate posted today is interesting, as it cites the research showing beneficial impact of economic integration. That's why the debate on the social impact of increasing privatatization in education is important, because privatization tends to isolate low-income communities in the public schools, which is a factor in educational failure, whereas economic integration, which would require a reversal of white/middle class flight to private schools, tends to be a factor in educational success, overall. We have a societal interest, perahps, in encouraging more integration and less privatization, therefore.

    We can make the choices we make, often for very valid and good reasons, including very personal ones--I would never say that those should not be taken into account--but denying that our choices have an impact, in the aggregate, is just putting our head in the sand. I know that some here (the poster @1:52, perhaps?) would argue that we should just all make our individual choices and that market forces or social forces will move accordingly. I'm not so sure. I certainly don't want an ultra-PC or super-authoritarian culture; I value freedom highly and tend to think that any system needs to take individual freedom of choice into account to some degree, or it will fail; but I also think that an Ayn Rand philosophy of following only our individual good will lead us to a bad place too. Some muddled middle ground ethic in which we encourage ourselves and our friends to weigh individual and common good (when these are not completely in harmony) makes sense to me. Hence the encouragement to consider (though not necessarily choose) the public school option.

    And yes, @2:21, there is probably a lot more impact to made in imparting values at home! School choice is only one way, and depending on the choices it can go different ways. I am glad you are keeping your options open to both private and public and plan to think about your options in terms of your children's social education as well as academic. That is all I ask of my friends on this issue, that mindfulness.

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  50. Well, I'm in a bind, because the discussion about ME rather than the substance continues, and when I'm misconstrued, I'm now being told I can't correct misconceptions but rather that I have to wait and hope someone else does it. If I weren't working on my computer today and e-mailing at the same time, that would be easy, but I am working on my computer much of the day.

    In another forum I might respond to someone offlist in that situation, but obviously that's not possible here. So one more post, and one request, and then I'll cease and desist.

    1:05, I was not referring to ALL anonymous posters as cowards. I was specifically referring to people who attack me with personal insults (and who attack others too -- Kate has suffered her share) while posting as "Anonymous." THAT is what I view as cowardly -- not the act of posting anonymously in and of itself.

    I also wanted to ask a favor of those posters who say they think I have a point but that I undermine it with harsh language. I posted a link to a blog commentary I wrote a few months ago on the social impact of private school (reposted below). I posted that on the freeform sfschools blog. I'm now doing a blog on www.examiner.com, and I'd like to update that commentary and post it there (which my editors are fine with, by the way). If there is a person of goodwill here who truly believes that I'm undermining a valid point with harsh language, would you be willing to go over that post and alert me to specific spots where you think that's the case? Probably we'd want to do this via e-mail rather than on this blog, though whichever forum you prefer is fine with me. You may e-mail me at cgrannan at gmail dot com. Thanks.

    http://tinyurl.com/273sud

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  51. I just want to thank 2:21 PM for her/his post. This blog is so much more interesting and nuanced when people are given the space to express all different perspectives.

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  52. Caroline, first I want to thank you for everything you do for our public schools. It is obvious that you are very involved in many ways and I am sure that with more parents like you, our schools would be better places. I don't want to pile on, but I agree with those who say that you don't always need to respond to everything said about you here. Especially the anonymous posts from what seems to be just one very angry, compulsive person who attacks you with uncommon venom. It has become easy to recognize this person's style. I have come to think of this poster as "The Kook"; I think of her (and I bet it is a "her") as wild eyed, wild-haired, a bit of spittle hanging from her lip as she furiously bangs away on her keyboard, muttering to herself as she finishes her latest anti-Caroline blast before getting up to pour herself another cup of coffee, and kick the cat. I think that most of us who read this blog are reasonable people. We are not stupid. We know that just one person with an agenda can hijack a blog under the anonymous cloak, posting mean things and then posting again to agree with herself. When The Kook gets going, I just roll my eyes and move on to the next message, but sometimes I also cringe, because I know that you are going to take the bait and respond. Someone earlier suggested that it would be more effective if you just let the nastiness aimed at you sit there, where we can all see it for what it is. No need for you to obscure the issue by responding. The Kook undermines her own credibility by her constant, repetitive, and mean attacks on you. Be better than her. Just ignore it. That's my 2 cents.

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  53. Agree with 4:06.

    Caroline, obviously you have been studying SF school-related issues for years, and I value no one's expertise and wisdom more than yours.

    But you should learn to ignore the kooky element on this board that insults you out of spite behind the mask of anonymity. These people are cowards. They aren't worth your time.

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  54. I don't think it's out of "Spite". I am not "Ms. Kooky" not do I hurl insults at her, but Caroline does tend to rub many people the wrong way, myself included at times. It is always a little annoying when one person hijacks this blog and makes the issue be about them. When Caroline responds to every post, that seems to be what happens. Can we talk about something else now (please?!?)..

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  55. yet another cowardJuly 22, 2008 at 4:22 PM

    "But you should learn to ignore the kooky element on this board that insults you out of spite behind the mask of anonymity. These people are cowards. They aren't worth your time."

    And those who praise behind the mask of anonymity aren't kooks and/or cowards?

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  56. "And those who praise behind the mask of anonymity aren't kooks and/or cowards?"

    Actually, they are sheep.

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  57. Arrrrrggggghhhh...

    Is there ANYone here who wouldn't be incredibly frustrated by having people post comments (whether positive or negative) aimed at you and about you and being told that you couldn't respond?? Cruel and unusual! I can't do it...

    Thank you to various thoughtful posters.

    I have actually tried both ways, when Ms. Kooky starts in. (I'd rather she not kick the cat, but better that than her kids...) I think you're just not noticing the many times I've taken the high road and ignored it, because they don't create discomfort and thus are easy to ignore.

    But at that point I feel like if no one else DOES respond, the attacks just sit there in the air, which gives them credibility. Today I was just in a mood to go "I'm not taking any s#!t." It could happen to any of you (that mood, I mean).

    When I seem to be responding to every post, it's because the posts are about me rather than the subject at hand. Honest! Go back and look!

    When there's a one-two combination of "your views have merit, but it's your fault that you get attacked for them because your words are too harsh" and the venomous attacks, it feels to me like that validates the attacks.

    I have to comment on the use of the names of mental illnesses as insults, by the way. I've been called (by Ms. Kooky or the Ms. Kookies) "obsessive-compulsive," "paranoid," and possibly more. As far as I know I don't actually suffer from any of those illnesses -- though I certainly have loved ones who have various mental illnesses -- but I question using them as insults. Would you insult me by calling me diabetic or accusing me of having MS? Or is it OK to use "you retard" as an insult?

    I am REALLY trying to get some of the people who say it's my harsh language that draws these attacks to help me out by letting me know what language is harsh and how I can soften it.

    My own feeling is that it really is the message and not the language -- and that that's why others are so reluctant to say what I'm saying. (I resolved years ago not to be afraid to speak up when I think something needs to be said, after learning that I'm more likely to regret staying silent when I wanted to speak up. Speaking of my age -- it's something I gained along the way.) But I am used to being edited and I'm open to being shown where I'm wrong.

    (Anonymous compliments are in a completely different category from anonymous insults. I'm sure most people don't need to have that pointed out.)

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  58. yet another sheepJuly 22, 2008 at 4:59 PM

    That was a well-landed insult, 4:30. I say that sheepishly, of course :-).

    I guess the title of this thread lends itself to this conversation, and maybe I should just get off this thread therefore, but I personally would be glad to see us turn to productive conversation about schools.

    For example, I'd be interested to see more responses to the post about the New York Times Magazine article, and attempts at economic integration. Could it work here? Could we design a system that integrated our kids economically--in the hopes of creating schools that work for ALL--that did not lead to even more middle class flight than we have had in the last 30 years? Could such system address the needs (often said to be important here on this blog) for more certainty in assignment and perhaps a more neighborhoody feel--while also guaranteeing (i.e., enforcing) an economic mix of poor and middle class kids? We should all be paying attention to Louisville and other places that are really trying this! Also, someone commented on that thread that one possible omen of success is the Louisville district's attempts to do community outreach BEFORE implementing the plan. Good idea, one that does not happen so well in SF, in my experience.

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  59. Caroline said: I feel like if no one else DOES respond, the attacks just sit there in the air, which gives them credibility.

    I'm a supporter of your work and agree with much of your perspective, Caroline. I am glad you speak up. I would just say, respectfully, that I don't think that if no one else responds that the comments sit there in the air, gaining credibility. I actually learned from dealing with my ex-husband that a well-timed silence, while venomous words just hang there, is sometimes a more effective way of giving the words less credibility. We tend to give credibility to that which we focus on.

    Put it this way: I like reading your informational and historical posts, and I also like reading your articles (like the for which you are seeking feedback), even when, or sometimes especially when, they are stating a strong point, one that is sure to invite comment. You certainly start discussions--and make people think. But I'm less happy reading your posts when you are giving a point-by-point, and often defensive, response with one of your detractors.

    Anyway, that's just my 2 cents.

    Regarding feedback on the piece you posted the link to today, I think it's actually pretty good. Not everyone will agree with it, obviously, but the argument is pretty clear. Again, these are the posts of yours that I really enjoy! Hopefully people will engage with the actual arguments you make and not respond too defensively or personally.

    That's really what makes a lot of us cringe--the defensiveness on all the sides.

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  60. I would like to thank 2:21 for the post. As a long time lurker and infrequent poster, this is why I love this community. It gives people a chance to view topics from multiple perspectives. 2:21 gave a nice defense of benefits of private school, albeit from a very personal view. Who knows if this applies in general? Whether it's Caroline or otherwise, all perspectives should be heard and valued.

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  61. "It is always a little annoying when one person hijacks this blog and makes the issue be about them."

    I agree. And she ALWAYS does that, on any thread she is on. And I guess if thinking that makes me a "kook", I am glad to be one of the "kooks".

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  62. "In case anyone doubts about the scorn heaped on public schools, just Google the phrase "failing public schools". Right away, it brings up 36,500 references to that phrase. And yet, how many of us are sending our children to a public school which we feel is a "failing public school?"

    36,500 references is tiny.

    Just google "great public schools" and you get 25 million hits.

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  63. Well said, 5:41:

    "I'm a supporter of your work and agree with much of your perspective, Caroline. I am glad you speak up. I would just say, respectfully, that I don't think that if no one else responds that the comments sit there in the air, gaining credibility. I actually learned from dealing with my ex-husband that a well-timed silence, while venomous words just hang there, is sometimes a more effective way of giving the words less credibility. We tend to give credibility to that which we focus on."

    In my view, the person who resorts to ad hominem attacks has lost the argument. No need to respond. Just do a silent victory dance in front of your computer, having taken the higher ground. To respond just lends credibility to the attacker in my opinion.

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  64. One point that hasn't really been brought up here (well, not in so many words). I think that one factor operating in the negative judgements about people sending their kids to private schools is... envy. If public and private were just two different but equal choices to make (religious, same-sex, different teaching philosophy etc.) it might be different. But it is really incredible how much more (in terms of student-teacher ratio, resources, "elective" options like music, art, languages etc.) private schools can offer. And many of us can't afford that.

    I'd like to think that I would still have chosen public school for my children even if we were rolling in dough, but it is hard to see all that our friends' kids are getting that ours will not.

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  65. IMO the differences between the top SF public and private elementary schools in terms of academic education are difficult to discern. The privates tend to have more extras, nicer facilities, and more affluent and "together" families. Some parents feel that's worth $20K/child/year, and it's their choice to make (assuming they're fortunate enough to have the choice).

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  66. "I believe strongly that all parents should make the choice they feel is best for their children and family. and of course they should have the right to make that choice.

    Yet their choices DO have a social impact, just as choosing to drive that SUV or install that huge lawn, or live in a gated community, would. I think that responsible, mindful people take that into account in making the decision. Denial is not a socially conscious or principled reaction (nor is shooting the messenger, especially via cowardly anonymous insults)."

    Part of the problem about making generalizations is that they are often wrong. I agree that one of the best ways to support public schools is to attend them and work to make them better. I did send my child to public Kindergarten last year. It was an "up and coming school". In many ways she (and we) had good experiences there. For a number of reasons (that I won't elaborate on here) we decided to leave the school, so redid the lottery for 1st grade AND reapplied to a couple of private schools we really liked. The experience of going to a public school for a year - while wonderful - was also eye opening, and we realized that there were many aspects that were not the best fit for our daughter, or our family. When we got a spot at a private school we took it. It is something that I am very ambivalent about for many of the reasons that people on this blog cite - I have thought about it over and over. I have considered pulling out of the private even though we have already paid a huge chunk of money -

    SO, I DO really resent the above quote, in particular, "I think that responsible, mindful people take that into account in making the decision" - implying somehow that I and my partner have not thought this through AD NAUSEUM. Not to mention the fact that we actually spent a very involved year at a public school, so actually have some real experience to draw on, unlike a lot of the people who voice their opinion about private v public.

    There are lots of ways to contribute to society. I have been serving the urban poor for about 15 years and currently work in the Tenderloin every day. I don't drive an SUV. I recycle. I resent the implication that because I made an informed decision (mind you very INFORMED) about my daughter's education, that I am being labeled as "in denial" or whatever. The number of social problems that plague our society today are immense. We all have battles we choose to fight (or not) - we all have hypocrisies. But please don't judge my decision (or anyone's) to send my daughter to private school in a vacuum.

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  67. Hi Bigandtinygirl -- then it sounds like the answer to this is: "We did," and what more needs to be said?

    "I think that responsible, mindful people take that into account in making the decision..."

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  68. Bigandtinygirl, you obviously *have* made a mindful and informed decision, taking into account issues of social impact, based on lots of thinking and conversation about this and also the particular experience of your child's K year. You and your partner have weighed all this against the particular needs of your child. You have also considered this decision in light of the many ways that you work on / contribute to social justice in non-school settings. Goodness. How have you not been mindful and informed? Speaking as a public school advocate, I have no quarrel with your decision to switch schools.

    I'm also pretty sure that the words you quote are definitely NOT aimed at you. I'm not the person who wrote them so cannot speak to her intent, but as I read them, the concern is that people not deny that there is a social impact in choosing or not choosing the public schools; the statement urges that people therefore weigh that choice as we might weigh any other choice with a social impact. But the statement you quote definitely also says that ultimately the family should make the choice that is best for the child and family.

    Well. You have acknowledged the social impact, you have weighed the impact, and you have made a difficult choice, but the one you feel is best for your child. Seems to me you are actually a poster child for doing exactly what is called for here! I don't see anything that would implicate you or judge you!

    It sounds like it is still really hard decision for you, even in retrospect, precisely because of your social consciousness. I say, let that go for now and don't let it weigh on you. Just see how the year goes. I hope your child does well. Probably it won't be perfect, though in different ways than the ways that your old public school was problematic ;-). The issue will always come down to what is best for your child combined with some level of values-matching and values-compromising all around....no perfect choices, for sure. All we can ask is to do the best we can, right?

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  69. holding my tongueJuly 22, 2008 at 9:58 PM

    8:33's statement about envy made me think of something. I have a twin niece and nephew. The boy is delightful, curious, friendly etc, but he has some issues of focus and impulsiveness and can be a fairly challenging person to spend a lot of time with. He never stops, can really push people's buttons and makes their life crazy. By comparison, the girl is a breeze to her parents.

    I find that my sister-in-law is constantly telling me how "amazing" (how do I use italics here?) the girl is. I mean all the time - in every conversation. This puts me in a weird position as it is not my inclination to tell her or anyone how "amazing" my son (who is the same age as the twins) is.

    I think that she stresses the girls' "amazing-ness" because she feels on some level that the boy's problems are her fault - genetically or in her own mothering (as we all sometimes do with our children's unpleasant behaviors.) So I think she wants to keep telling me how great, bright, charming, sweet, the girl is to validate or prove herself to me. And I understand that her need to do it is likely rooted in insecurity and let it slide.

    The thing is it's so offputting to me. It's not in my nature to be bragging about my kid (as frankly I see an awful lot of super bright kids around me, and to have someone say their child is "so amazing" makes me want to say "what does that mean?" Like really I want to pin her down and ask does she mean the kid is amazing like all "kids are amazing" or like the kid herself is "amazing - gifted, out of the ballpark". And if so, have you noticed how fricking brilliant the kids around here are? BTW, my niece by all measures is a regular bright sweet kid...)

    I sometimes wonder if my silence about my son then suggests that he isn't so great - or something. It pushes my competitive buttons and I wonder then, if I am allowed to start piping up about how "amazing" my son is when he does x y or z. It just seems rude to do that to her or anyone else. I report certain sweet things that my kid does on occasion, but I just can't imagine telling anyone over and over how AMAZING he is! (Even as we think so.)

    My normal response is to say "oh that's great" or "how sweet" or something in support of my sister-in-law's praise of her daughter, but jeez I want to call her on it one way or another.

    Any advice of how I should deal with this increasingly irritating situation?

    thanks!

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  70. The problem is... parenting has become a competitive sport. As a new parent, I found this aspect bizarre yet it was/is unexpectedly difficult to stay out of the fray. Thanks to Holding My Tongue for your story.

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  71. I wouldn't restrict the 'chips on their shoulders' generalization to SF parents. All parents around the country fall victim to insecurity and combat it with defensiveness. I've lived in the midwest for several years, and yes, there are conflicts between the public vs. private school families with similar issues to what SF-ers face.

    I'm the product of an SF private and public education. There are pros and cons to each. What I needed and didn't get in either scenario [and this is all hindsight] is encouragement and support. I was sort of the poor unwashed masses at the private school - and boy, the kids at this place let you know that you're wearing the wrong sneakers or knee socks - and a number at the public high school I attended.

    There are definitely valid reasons for both. I have a daughter who will be attending kindergarten in fall 2009 and am gearing up for the process [kate - wonderful blog btw. it's already been helpful!]. My goal is to find a school where she will be engaged. where she will get excited by the possibilities, where she is collaborating with her classmates and her teachers in the learning process. I may find that in either a public or private school. I don't know. But I feel that my job is to get the right match for her. And, hopefully, her brother, who will be a year behind her. and people who would turn their noses up at me for my choice? not my problem! My kids are the priority, not the opinions of others.

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  72. Holding your tongue:
    That is *really* frustrating. I can relate in that I had a friend who did that--constantly.
    It was a little different in that every time I mentioned something cute or funny, etc my child did, she would "top" me and tell me how amazing her kids (also twins) were. Sometimes she'd even interrupt me to "top" my stories. Because I care a great deal about this friend, I finally had to say something. In the gentlest way possible I told her that it would be nice if she could give me the space to talk about my child without making it into a competition.

    I think you have to make the determination--if you see your SIL often enough and think she would be receptive to hearing it from you, I think you should tell her how you feel or how her comments make you feel. You could also just try to start a discussion about her son and see how she feels about him. Maybe you could say, "You mention your daughter all the time...how come you never talk about her brother" or something like that.

    Anyway, maybe it's worth a shot since it's obviously bothering you. Good luck!

    -KK

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  73. Tp 9:58 I tend to hang out with other parents who do not practice competitive parenting (they DO exist, even in SF). Of course you can't ignore a SIL, but I'd recommend gently reminding her about your nephew's wonderful qualities and keep your own son's accomplishments to yourself.

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  74. Going back to the original question of "Do SF parents have a chip on their shoulders?" ....

    I certainly have observed "competitive" parenting and am guilty of jumping into the fray even if I do it all in my head and never say out loud what I am thinking. Sometimes at the playground it seems that when a kid does something quite kid-like, such as throw sand at another kid, a silence falls over the scene as all parents bend their ears to see if the parent of the offending kid has an appropriate reaction. And if the reaction is not appropriate, we all give ourselves a mental merit badge for believing we would have handled it differently.

    I often have wondered if this is a SF phenomenon. Or perhaps it's the product of the average age of the parents being 35+. Another theory I have is that this may be the result of the last few generations of Americans ousting older relatives from the family home. I wonder if having a wise grandparent or two involved in the daily life of child rearing wouldn't mellow us all out a bit.

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  75. holding my tongueJuly 23, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    Thanks for your support and ideas. I told my husband I had posted in here about my frustration with his sister. (He is quite annoyed by her general posturing as well, but reminds me that it is her insecurity talking when she brags about her niece).

    Anyway, we ended up getting the giggles late last night. I thought of that scene in This Is Spinal Tap when Christopher Guest's character Nigel Tufnel says his amp is better than other amps because it goes to 11. Rob Reiner says "why not have it go to 10, and make 10 louder?" Nigel looks at him for a minute and says "this one goes to 11!" It's a very funny scene.

    Me: "Yes, the girl is very bright and sweet."

    My SIL: "She's an 11!"

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  76. Hey, MY KID is a 12!

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  77. In case anyone doubts about the scorn heaped on public schools, just Google the phrase "failing public schools". Right away, it brings up 36,500 references to that phrase...."

    36,500 references is tiny. Just google "great public schools" and you get 25 million hits.

    Then when you're all done, check the facts:

    "failing public schools" with quotes: 36,600

    "great public schools" with quotes: 136,000

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  78. choosing to ... live in a gated community

    what's actually wrong with that?

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  79. Caroline, I would be interested in your undertaking an exercise, with research, to enumerate (not stopping to refute) the positive impact of private schools and choice on public schools and society. I think this exercise, should you undertake it with an open mind, will help temper your writing such that it will be more effective. Should you choose to accept his mission, please post the results of your research here.

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  80. I agree this isn't just a San Francisco issue. For an interesting read on how we parent today, check out Parenting in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner. It's been a while since I read it, but what I remember taking away from it was that we all need to relax a little about our kids. Of course we all want the best for them and want to be the best parents possible. Sometimes that means just letting them be and not getting so obsessive about everything relating to our kids.

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  81. ..or check out the talk section of Urban Baby (mostly NYC based). Egads!

    http://www.urbanbaby.com/talk/posts

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  82. You mean you're suggesting that I should embark on a research project, unpaid, to support a conclusion you have predetermined that I should reach?

    Hmm. I'm a little stumped.

    I don't know anything about the political opinions of the poster who made that suggestion. Let's speculate that you accept that global warming exists. Your suggestion is somewhat akin to my suggesting that you do research, unpaid, aimed at supporting the conclusion that global warming is a fabrication.

    But actually, I HAVE been doing research on education for years. And I started without an opinion on the social impact of private schools. It didn't occur to me until I had learned quite a bit that this was an issue on which to have an opinion.

    I originally went into the school search, back in the mid-'90s, with private schools on my radar, but then realized that the lifestyle we'd have to lead to afford it wasn't the one we wanted. The issue was entirely economic at the time; I had no notion whatsoever of any other issues involved.

    And, for the record, same with charter schools. It was when I got involved in the controversy over Edison Schools that I started to learn about who was behind them and what it was all about.

    (click here for the latest on Edison Schools)
    http://tinyurl.com/5dzwgm

    So really, I already HAVE been doing exactly what you suggest, for many years now -- the only difference is that I didn't start my research aimed at supporting a predetermined conclusion.

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  83. Oops, sorry, thought I lost some of that post, rewrote it, and discovered I'd duplicated instead.

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  84. "choosing to ... live in a gated community"

    what's actually wrong with that?


    Well, it's a free country with private property and all that, blah, blah, so folks have the right to choose this in our country, but for many people the choice displays a distressing lack of engagement with one's neighbors and is a visible sign of the growing gap between haves and have-nots. Understand too that the have-nots increasingly include the lower-middle/working class, with the decline of family-wage jobs and health care coverage. The income gaps have widened considerably since the 70's between professional jobs and everything else (with the notable exception of teachers and clergy, which remain stuck at median or below median).

    Have you ever visited a so-called Third World country? The gaps in any one of them between rich and the masses of poor are huge, and gated communities the norm for the rich there. There often isn't much of a middle class. Note, too, that democracy is a difficult thing to sustain in a place with severe inequalities.

    It's a question of what kind of society we want to live in, and how equitable, and how democratic. #'s of gated communities is a measure of civic and neighborly engagement, and lack of equitability (gating rich folks off from the poor folks almost always means that income gaps are growing). Support for public schools is another measure. It is hard to sustain a democracy without good public education. Public school is also where kids have one of their best chances to actually hang out with kids who are not of their social class or race or religion or family structure (e.g. LGBT)--esp in a diverse city like San Francisco. This really does teach neighborliness and is good, in a broad sense, for our democracy. Kids are not gated off from each other based largely on their parents' social and educational background and/or ability to pay.

    Not saying there are not sometimes good reasons for an individual to go private, just that there are downsides in terms of the wider social community. Robert Putnam is a good read on what this means in broader terms.

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  85. 11:21, that's an obnoxious request. You sound a lot like an ex of mine, who used to belittle people under the guise of making a reasonable-sounding and somewhat rhetorical request. It is bullying to demand that someone reach a conclusion she strongly believes is false. You can try to persuade her, but that would mean engaging the issue, right, not wielding your words from on high.

    The funny thing is, I have reading this blog since last fall, and I have yet to read a post that actually describes what you are asking for, "the positive impact of private schools on public schools and society." Lots of individuals have explained very clearly why they are sending their kids to private schools--religion; language/culture at Lycee Francais; got a spot in private but not in public; want a same-gender school; concerns about academic quality; teacher ratio; want a small school; or just--this one was just the best school for my child. We have also heard from some folks who had great educations and whose private school classmates are doing wonderful things. That's all fine. I get it. This is not a question of "evil" private schools, especially as experienced on a personal level. Many provide a great education and turn out great kids who do good things.

    But none of that explains what you are asking for, which is a wider positive impact on the public schools and on society. What makes these private schools so great that they are a better model than if the same amounts of time, energy, advocacy, and parental resources were poured into the public sector? What is so great about them being private, specifically?

    Caroline and many others have made the argument that the privatization of education that has happened in the last generation (on a very different scale from the small number of elite privates and the parish-based parochial schools that existed previously) is having a detrimental effect on the public schools and on our society. I have seen, in response: defensiveness, ad hominem attacks, and acknowlegement of the truth of it, and regret at feeling the need to go private nevertheless; but never an effective argument that said, "this is not so; in fact, private schools by their very existence benefit public schools and the wider society."

    As someone said recently, no less a rich guy than Warren Buffett has said that the way to fix the public schools once and for all is to ban the private ones.

    Please, this is not an attack on those who choose to go private. As parents, we all face imperfect options, okay? There are reasons for some parents to go private. Really, I get that. I do not exclude the idea that I may do that for high school, myself (I have kids in middle and elementary right now). I have good friends, big public school boosters, who are sending their kid to private high school. It was a difficult decision. I just think that it's hard to make the argument about the wider benefits. The choice is difficult in part because of that knowledge.

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  86. "Caroline, I would be interested in your undertaking an exercise, with research, to enumerate (not stopping to refute) the positive impact of private schools and choice on public schools and society."

    Okay, I'll bite, What exactly do you think are the positive effects that private schools have on public schools? I can't think of a one.

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  87. I'm with BigandTinygirl. While we didn't try a year of public school first, we thought long and hard about our decision to go private.
    We toured public and private schools and went through the first round of the lottery.

    Ultimately we had a choice to make, which made us feel incredibly lucky. We chose private, which was our leaning after completing our tours, and are excited about the year ahead, though VERY mindful of what this choice means for our family and our daughter.

    I would venture that many people who send their kids to private school in SF have approached the process the way we did. I know for a fact that many of the parents of children in my daughter's incoming kindergarten class are the products of public schools. And I bet they thought about their decision to go private for more than a fleeting moment and that they understand the personal and societal impact of making this decision. And I have to add, there are some super star do-gooders among the parents in this class, giving back in big and small ways to the local community. (And yes, I'm sure there are AT LEAST a handful who only considered private, have only experienced private, and who can only look on the public school system with horror. Eyes wide open here.)

    In our close circle of friends we have families with kids in private school and families with kids in public school. All got where they are via a thoughtful decision-making process unique to them. I would guess that most of you reading this have a similar sample of friends from whom you get anecdotes and evidence about various places to get an education in SF.

    The folks that Caroline rails against--the ones for whom public school was never an option or consideration or something they ever think about--are most likely not interested enough in this discussion to be reading this blog, or if they were originally they are long gone now.

    So count me among the insulted with the caveat that I'm happy Caroline is here to make us think about the issues in ways that we might not have before and to stimulate debate, outrage, and discussion. I just skip right over the redundant or inflammatory posts. (I tried to quit this blog but didn't succeed.)


    As for smug SF parents, yeah, plenty of them around, me included some of the time. When I was the parent of just one child I'm sure I raised my eyebrows more than once while watching a parent intervene, or not, at the playground. Now as a parent of two struggling to get through the day intact, I am likely more often the one inspiring the raised eyebrows and have a much more generous attitude toward other moms and dads who are doing whatever it takes to get through the day in a way that suits them. Multicolor goldfish no longer scare me and I have totally embraced the value of a well-timed bribe.

    This is a competitive town. I agree with the earlier poster who noted that many of us have come to parenting much later than our parents did, so we approach it more as professional problem solvers than just people entering the next phase of life and winging it. And we are much harder on ourselves, and each other, as a result.

    Said more than I started out to....

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  88. Caroline said:
    The most effective push would be for parents to band together and agree to send their children to public school AND to focus their advocacy on public school funding. Every empowered, resourced parent who chooses private school weakens the effort just a little. That's just the way it is; you can't get around it. Sorry to be so uncomfortably blunt, but...

    I think you meant that we weaken your choices, and your empowerment, and your advocacy. Your suggestion makes the implication that we should all band together to think like you. Not only that, but we should all make the same choices for our children as you did for your own. While I respect your opinions and your efforts, they do not reflect mine.

    As far as the greater good, you are speaking of your own greater good. It reminds me of religious zealots who think the only way to true salvation is through their own belief system.

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  89. @1:35, are you saying you don't think of strong public education as a greater good? I think of that as a fairly mainstream view, Bush and co. notwithstanding, certainly not an extreme notion akin to religious zealotry. I'd be curious to hear your arguments as to why it is not a greater good.

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  90. mamaorange just hit on something really important in this discussion of "chip on our shoulders". The number of us who have only one child, or at most two. The reality of parenting one child is that we CAN micromanage and do Mommy and Me class and make our babyfood etc. etc. But when you add one or two or more, you can only do so much so many things slip. Okay they don't have clean fingernails, they sometimes throw sand, they get more Happy Meals than other kids. And you also find out that kids are going to be ALRIGHT!

    Are there any Moms of multiple children in here (3 or more?) Perhaps you can speak to this very thing.

    I remember well a friend of mine telling me that she was panicking when her 4 year old was walking along a wall that was a few feet from the ground and her sister with 3 kids said "don't worry, it's only a broken arm fall". I think of that sometimes as it struck me as very wise.

    But here's another story: I was visiting my extended family in Chicago a few years ago and was absolutley aghast on two separate evenings at how the kids ran around while my cousins and aunts and uncles hung at the table talking and drinking beer. It was so different than our collective overparenting here (not saying better or worse as I think in some ways it was way better than the way we hover and judge those who aren't hovering, here.) But it was so hard for me to find a personal balance.

    There were about 8 kids there the first night, mostly between 1-6 years old with one 9 year old. My son was one of the younger ones - 3 at the time. I would wander away from the table to check on the kids and find things that were shocking to me by our standards here - like little ones crawling on the treadmill in the basement, or a couple kids playing foosball while littler ones stood beside the table with their little faces at the level of the ends of the foosball beams - you know the opposite sides from where the handles are where it's basically a bare pole? One unwitting thrust by the kid playing the game and little Johnny loses an eye. Then into another room where a 6 or 7 year old was rolling pool balls across the pool table at full speed where they would bounce off the opposite sides, again with the littler ones watching all at eye level with their little fingers wrapped around the top of the cushions of the table. One bad bounce and Katie's beaned in the noggin.

    I would declare something wasn't safe, or move the little ones away from the bare foosball beams or the pool table, or pull my son away and then go back upstairs , and then back again. I would look to see what the normal parental response was and then weigh what I thought. Tried to do a "when in Rome" sort of thing. There was no natural turn-taking like we do here, where parents sort of rotate in and out. And remember I was the outsider, so sensitive to not be judgmental and come across like I think I am better than they are.

    At one point the littlest one (maybe 1-1/2 years old) started to cry from below. The adult conversation stopped and the father of the child listened and then said "he's alright". His wife, my cousin was beside him. Crack another beer.

    The next night we visited other cousins with about 6 little boys between them under age 8. They had one of those mini jeep things that is battery operated - big enough for 2-3 kids to ride on it. This is the kind of thing you don't see in SF much as we don't have enough space. So one of the 5 year olds is driving it, my son - age 3 - is in the passenger seat. The kid drives through the garage, onto the driveway, back along the sideyard, over some flower beds, into the backyard (where my sister and I are having another beer - it's Chicago - with my 3 male cousins and my Uncle. The one wife is indoors making dinner, and the poor dear went on to have a fifth son in 6 years so god help her) and then zips into the garage again for another spin. Around and around. Along the way, a four year old jumps onto the jeep, and then off again, and then on again. I AM NOT RELAXED! (But my son is having a ball.) I look at my cousins. I guess this is normal, don't make a scene...I test the waters "slow down boys" "okay, let's be careful of the flower beds..." My cousins are not alarmed at all.

    Now the sun is setting a bit and I am genuinely worried. Finally I announce that Miles has to get off the jeep. I joke with my cousins "I am only having the one child, so I can't afford to lost him!" They laugh, crack another beer.

    Validate me oh overly protective, hovering San Franciscan Moms! Forget private versus public! Let us bond on this with a collective shoulder chip! It was fucking crazy making!

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  91. You mean you're suggesting that I should embark on a research project, unpaid, to support a conclusion you have predetermined that I should reach?

    No. I am not suggesting you that you reach any conclusion. You asked how you could better communicate your cause without alienating people. If you can rationally and objectively lay out other opinions in front of yourself, without reacting (like you just did), you might see a better path for communicating with your resistors.

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  92. Okay, I'll bite, What exactly do you think are the positive effects that private schools have on public schools? I can't think of a one.

    No one asked you to think; research.

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  93. "As far as the greater good, you are speaking of your own greater good. It reminds me of religious zealots who think the only way to true salvation is through their own belief system."

    EXACTLY. And I, for one, am entirely sick of the preaching.

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  94. ^ So am I. It's hard enough just getting through the day cleaning, feeding and wiping kids' butts, let alone having strangers tell you how to think and how to behave in a way that serves the "common good"

    Sheesh...

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a few cats that I need to go kick. ;)

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  95. "mamaorange just hit on something really important in this discussion of "chip on our shoulders". The number of us who have only one child, or at most two. The reality of parenting one child is that we CAN micromanage and do Mommy and Me class and make our babyfood etc. etc. But when you add one or two or more, you can only do so much so many things slip. Okay they don't have clean fingernails, they sometimes throw sand, they get more Happy Meals than other kids. And you also find out that kids are going to be ALRIGHT!

    Are there any Moms of multiple children in here (3 or more?) Perhaps you can speak to this very thing."

    Having three makes you a lot more understanding of other peoples' children. Because chances are, one of mine has done whatever awful thing the other kid is currently doing. Late potty training? Hour-long temper tantrums? Playground biting? Head lice? Pinworms? Yup. Done them all.

    They probably all suffer from a dose of underparenting. I'm not a yeller and I can tolerate more chaos than a lot of people, so I could probably rein them in a little more than I do. And, someone always needs something. But at the end of the day, I don't think any of them is neglected. Well, not too much anyway. I just tell them that taking a few knocks helps them grow up.

    Anne

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  96. "Caroline, I would be interested in your undertaking an exercise, with research, to enumerate (not stopping to refute) the positive impact of private schools and choice on public schools and society. I think this exercise, should you undertake it with an open mind, will help temper your writing such that it will be more effective. Should you choose to accept his mission, please post the results of your research here."

    Even better! Why not do the research yourself?

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  97. I agree that people need to validate their choices, but not necessarily to put people down. We chose public a while back, and now privates look silly, pompous, and precious to both me and my kids. Publics seem real and down to earth without all the nonsense. But I know if we'd chosen private, this wouldn't be our perception. I had done private as a child, and I thought of it as nice, supportive and caring, while I thought the publics were harsh. So I think people just identify with what they have or what they do, and some people get self-righteous about it. I think a lot of people think their perceptions are all there is.

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  98. Mamaorange, I know a number of people like this, and my friends who are (like you) conscious and thoughtful private-school parents tell me that this describes most of their fellow private-school parents:

    "... AT LEAST a handful who only considered private, have only experienced private, and who can only look on the public school system with horror. Eyes wide open here ..."

    By definition, my comments are not aimed at those who don't fit this description. So there's no need for you to take offense; your remarks make it clear that you understand that I'm not saying all private- school parents are like that.

    My commentary on the blog was aimed specifically at parents of preschoolers who may not yet have had occasion to think about those issues.

    By the way, I have already done research on the viewpoint that private schools benefit society. There is a movement that calls for a fully privatized educational system (and a non-mandatory one, so that only parents who had the ability and will to pay would get their kids an education). Here's a link where you can learn about it:

    http://www.schoolandstate.org/home.htm

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  99. Great post, Anne. :)

    I love your take on parenting. I always wonder how anyone manages more than 2, but of course I said the same about more than 1 pretty recently. Sounds like you have a great attitude.

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  100. By the way, I have already done research on the viewpoint that private schools benefit society... http://www.schoolandstate.org/home.htm

    That's your research?? That explains a lot about you.

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  101. Even better! Why not do the research yourself

    Because that won't help Caroline gain the ability to develop persuasive commentary.

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  102. What's the problem, 3:14? The Alliance for the Separation of School and State is a strong voice for fully privatized education.

    These are the people their website lists as the biggest-name supporters:

    Ed Crane
    President, Cato Institute

    John Taylor Gatto
    1991 New York State Teacher of the Year

    Fr. John A Hardon
    SJ RIP
    The Catholic Catechism

    Don Hodel
    Former Secretary of Interior

    D. James Kennedy
    Coral Ridge Ministries

    Rev. Tim LaHaye
    Left Behind

    Rabbi Daniel Lapin
    President, Toward Tradition

    Tom Monaghan
    Founder, Domino�s Pizza

    Ron Paul
    US Congressman, Texas

    John K Rosemond
    Parenting Author, Columnist, Speaker

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  103. Nah, it would never fly.

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  104. I KNEW there was something about Dominos pizza. Fascinating stuff.

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  105. Tom Monaghan of Domino's is a huge funder of the anti-abortion movement. He hails from the right-wing side of the Roman Catholic church (as a layperson). It makes sense that he would also support privatization of education--with an eye toward promoting religious education (no, I do not believe that all religiously connected educators are in this camp).

    An evangelical Protestant right-winger like Tim LaHaye would also be trying to strengthen religiously based education, plus home-schooling.

    Interesting bedfellows here with the libertarians from Cato and Ron Paul, since they would not be in agreement on government "interference" in the right to choose, anti-gay sodomy laws and such, and also the war in Iraq, but can come together to work on undermining publicly funded schools.

    I'm surprised to see that Richard Ahmanson and the Mellon Scaife folks are not listed here. They fund many of the right-wing initiatives and are particularly adamant about public funding issues. (Ahmanson is also famous for his incendiary remarks about killing all gay people.) They could be funding behind the scenes though.

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  106. Oh, I can so relate to the cousins (age 3 and 1 at the time) driving around in the jeep, or Barbie Jeep in our case, moment. This followed the cousins only eating iceberg lettuce, canned olives, and processed food for dinner moment. Which followed the hour-long Veggie Tales on tv moment. Perhaps the smuggest, and most flabbergasted, I have ever been in my life (all happened while I still had just one child and brother-in-law's family had two). Did the when-in-Rome thing, drank a lot (relatively speaking), and escaped for a shopping trip to Whole Foods for a hour--not in that order--to survive.

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  107. What's the problem, 3:14? The Alliance for the Separation of School and State is a strong voice for fully privatized education.

    Reread your thesis topic: The positive impact of private schools and choice on public schools and society

    You researched a different topic: Fully privatized education. Please redo.

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  108. Oh fercripessake, @6:31 (are you the same as @3:14 and/or @11:21 this morning?), please cut out these condescending "assignments for research" from Caroline or anyone else. You are using a rhetorical trick that is couched in a framework of "helping Caroline make her point more effectively," but don't think the rest of don't recognize this attempt to 1) make a personal attack while sounding all superior and reasonable and unimpeachable and 2) get someone else to state your case. This is really unpleasant.

    If you actually believe that private schools have a positive impact on public schools and society, then be brave and stand up for your position (you can do it anonymously, after all, or use a pseudonym) and also tell us why you believe it.

    Seriously, enlighten us. I certainly understand many of the reasons why individual families choose private schools around here, but I have never seen anyone on this blog lay out the case for how it is that they actually benefit the public schools and society at large. As private schools that is. Of course many of them produce good works and grateful graduates, but the same enormous resources poured into the public system could presumably do that too, and a lot more equitably and inclusively.

    Disclaimer: My post is not meant as an attack on the individual choices made by the families private school attendees, who presumably made their decisions knowing these issues. We are all dealing with an education world that is far from ideal. This is a wide-view question, not a criticism of individual decisions.

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  109. "Having three makes you a lot more understanding of other peoples' children. Because chances are, one of mine has done whatever awful thing the other kid is currently doing."

    I only have 2, but I have to say that many of our close friends have only 1 and I would agree that just adding that one extra little person makes a whole lot of difference in how you parent.

    My first daughter has always been super easy going, pretty mellow. I remember being HORRIFIED when she was bitten in preschool, and also badly scratched by an older boy. I think in part it was a function of being new to having a kid in preschool but I couldn't BELIEVE someone could raise a child who would bite my tiny lovely girl. Fast forward 2 years later to my 2nd daughter in preschool. VERY different personality than the first, and guess what? She walked up to a new kid and bit him on the ear, RIGHT in front of his mother! Me, horrified? Yes. But worried that my 2nd one has some pathology - not at all. My 2nd one is way more aggressive, assertive, confident, etc. than my first. It's interesting dealing with such different personalities - but it's also been a good lesson at times, and probably (hopefully) makes me a better parent.

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  110. I believe Caroline has made some very valid points about the need to assess the wider societal implications of public/private school choice. That said, it is a choice. All of the thin-skinned posters who reject her community-minded spirit likely don't need to worry. I think Warren Buffet's idea to ban private schools to boost public schools is not going to happen anytime soon. However, everyone should go into this decision-making process with their eyes wide open. Realize that there is a concerted neo-liberal/neo-conservative agenda to purposefully underfinance public institutions and to encourage middle-class flight from public institutions so that they eventually become so weak and broken down that they can be 'drowned in the bathtub' (an author's phrase, not mine). While our public school systems do indeed currently fail many children, there is no way that they will turn around until those with resources (financial and otherwise) and political acumen take an active stake in reclaiming excellent public education as a basic right for all. Unfortunately, in our increasingly hostile tax-a-phobic society, we tend to see more of the Prop 13 nonsense as well as more fiscalization of land use (hence strip malls, big boxes, etc.), lotteries, and other diminishing tactics to pay for public services. I also want to say that I greatly respect the poster who put their child in public for a year to see if it would work for their family. I believe strongly that economic integration in our schools (and the attendant increased resources) is a way to foster better schools, more involved parents, greater tolerance towards others, and more empathy in our communities. That's my $.02 for the evening.

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  111. I think what it comes down to is the original question. "Do SF parents have chips on their shoulders?"

    My answer is yes. Even in this thread, while Caroline and others say they respect choices, they still have to have to make a comment as to how their choice makes a negative social impact. Sure everyone is entitled to their comments, but it comes off as a put down. No way around that. It just seems to me that when people choose private in this community there has to be some kind of commentary. Yes, that comes off as a chip.

    I also agree that the competitive parenting game is becoming really petty and old in this town. Ironically, (and I know I'll get flamed for this), it's my experience that the more granola/and crunchy you are, the more angry you are. I've observed this being a parent in San Francisco for 5 years. For the longest time, I felt like I didn't fit in. I just wasn't as worked up about every little detail of how everyone else chose to live their life. I try to be socially conscience, I respect people's feelings, and I know that not everyone thinks like me. For some reason, that's just not good enough for the more "progressive" parents.

    I'm just finding it funnier and funnier that the parents who seem to want to push more openness and tolerance seem to be the most judgemental, smug, and intolerant. The attitude or shall I say war between the choice for public and private is a perfect example.

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  112. "I'm just finding it funnier and funnier that the parents who seem to want to push more openness and tolerance seem to be the most judgemental, smug, and intolerant. The attitude or shall I say war between the choice for public and private is a perfect example."

    I am in total agreement with you and I've always considered myself to be pretty liberal in my thinking! Kind of reminds me of the attitude I was subjected to when I gave my baby a bottle in public. (we used to supplement with formula)
    If you didn't breast feed and LOVE doing it, you got some serious attitude and an occasional rude comment from other moms (and some dads). So annoying.

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  113. "Okay, I'll bite, What exactly do you think are the positive effects that private schools have on public schools? I can't think of a one."

    I'll give this one a try. While I can't think of how private schools have a positive effect on public schools (or conversely public on private) I can see how private schools benefit society as a whole. All schools, including public schools have a particular curriculum, set in part by the schoolboard (selecting texts etc.) and set in part by the state. This curriculum is not a good fit for every child. In our case, the math curriculum SFUSD uses is a disaster for our daughter. She had great teachers, but ultimately she could not succeed using the curriculum they used. After homeschooling her for a year to catch her up, she moved to a private school with a different math curriculum and is doing great. Even with a learning disability in math, she is at grade level, and will be starting algebra in 8th grade.

    How is this a benefit to society and not just my kid? Well, if she'd stayed in SFUSD she would have fallen further and further behind. Would she have gotten through high school math? I really don't know. I know she would be working well below grade level, and certainly would not be starting algebra in the fall.

    It is to the advantage of society as a whole to have well-educated productive citizens.

    As a caveat, I have two other kids in public school who are thriving. I really think public schools are totally fine for 95% of kids. But there are kids who need different curriculum or instructional methods, and I am glad that there are other options out there.

    Anne

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  114. the answer is...yes.

    case in point: i'm angry, smug and the chip on my shoulder is 100% organic locally stoneground blue corn with little flecks of omega-3-fortified flax in it. just your typical opinionated yet insecure and hypercompetitive san francisco mom who probably needs therapy but whose shit health insurance -- due to standard SF-style marginal employment -- doesn't provide (as if i have time to resolve my anger issues anyway).

    oh, wait -- i don't have a bugaboo, hated slings and was not sad when breastfeeding came to its dribbly end. perhaps a mutant strain?

    in SF parents' (our) defense, i have to say that i love our friends. and i love how, even as exhausted working parents of two, we continue to have a social life and make new (equally smug/angry) friends. that doesn't happen everywhere. (you try moving to portland or austin or detroit in the middle of winter and making a friend. reliable sources tell me it is HARD.) SF's social climate definitely contributes to that. i like that the adults here still aspire to have, well, lives and thoughts of their own. i think that is actually better for the kids than, you know, complete abnegation of self. a lot of the unpleasantness people have been talking about is clearly an urban phenomenon, caused in large part by the fact that certain cities attract productive, aspirational, competitive people who tend to have children later, when they are set in their ways and already used to approaching life's little jobs -- like, er, raising kids -- like another corporate challenge. that has definitely informed the school search process for SF parents, and spurred a lot of the venom.

    so, i think, yes, we do have chips on our shoulders, but with all that yoga, our shoulders can certainly take it. (we can all do half moon inversions here, right? RIGHT?!)

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  115. "...there are kids who need different curriculum or instructional methods, and I am glad that there are other options out there."

    I agree with this, just to be clear.

    But I also think that the forces creating a system that requires public schools to be so rigid (those behind NCLB, funding cuts and other rules that reduce flexibility) are largely the forces that are hostile to public education. So it gets complicated.
    In a society that was more supportive of public education, the school would have had the flexibility to offer a different curriculum, the money to purchase one, the staff to teach it, etc.

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  116. I'm not sure that this is a money issue. The curriculum the district uses is not particularly cheap. And many private schools use the same curriculum, so it's not that private schools use "better" curriculum for math.

    Asking teachers to use lots of different math textbooks in the same classroom seems a little impractical. Most teachers already supplement district materials with other materials they find helpful. The problem for my daughter is that none of the "spiraling" math programs, and most math curriculum these days is spiraling, work for my daughter. So not only would she need to be using different materials than the other kids, but she would be studying the course material in a different order entirely. I just can't see asking any teacher to do that.

    I'm not even sure that spiraling curriculum have been shown to improve test scores, but maybe I'm wrong there. It is just the current approach to math. Maybe in a few years, textbook publishers will change to a different approach. Who knows?

    But as much as I know schools are underfunded, I don't think this is fundamentally a money issue.

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  117. Anne and Caroline, both good points there about private schools' ability to be flexible--and the reality that public schools' are (by design) defunded and (by law, e.g., NCLB) not allowed to be more flexible. I also agree with the last poster that it is not ONLY about money. Still, more money would help!

    Now we are beginning to touch on the complexities and contradictions.

    7:57am, I take your point about negative comments about private schools coming off as personal attacks (hard to get around that) and the observation that there *always* has to be a commentary. I really try not to flame my friends who are in private....probably the largely anonymous nature of this blog encourages more of that. I'm sorry for it.

    On the other hand, if we recognize (as someone posted last night) that agenda to purposefully underfinance public institutions and to encourage middle-class flight from public institutions so that they eventually become so weak and broken down that they can be 'drowned in the bathtub', then how do we go about fighting back on this agenda? Seems to me it has to include slowing the middle class flight and building support for strong public schools. I see our country going down the toilet without them. (Without other stuff too, like a sane energy policy--but the schools are right in front of my face since I have school-age kids.)

    I really don't want to insult anyone, and I understand and defend many of my friends' choices to go private, but it also seems urgent to me to encourage folks to stay in public schools if possible. It's not only about individual choice--there are bigger issues at stake that affect us all. We don't live in individual bubbles, or on personal islands, despite all the ideology of the last generation that suggests we can, even should, do it all as rugged individuals--educate our kids, pay for health care, save for retirement. I'm all for individual responsibility, but I don't think a system like that will work without some collective hanging together. We'll see, though, won't we, as the Baby Boomers hit retirement age, and the ecological crisis takes off.

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  118. In a PERFECT, perfect world, there could be a specialized pullout for a child for whom the general curriculum wasn't working, though, with an alternate curriculum better tailored to her needs. You wouldn't have to go seek out a specialty private school for the curriculum. So in that sense, I think it's a money issue -- that's what I meant.

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  119. the fact that we're even having a conversation about whether choosing private education affects the commons would probably be shocking to much of the world...even in countries with large and acknowledged class differences there seems to be a tacit acknowledgment that OF COURSE structures that exist to serve only a few affect the resources and vibrancy of common institutions. i mean, french aristocrats, for instance, will send their kids to elite institutions their families have been attending for years, but they would never mount a public defense of the practice on the grounds that it doesn't affect everybody else or is not unjust. they probably wouldn't talk about it much, i'm guessing. (my husband was raised in france, so i try to learn their mysterious ways whilst stuffing myself with cheese and wine.)

    this habit is uniquely american. from what i've seen, we're not as far along in the class consciousness discourse as other societies, don't have as much class allegiance or pride (at least in the middle-, working- and poorer classes) and are generally much more uncomfortable with the idea that accruing status benefits somehow results in other people's loss.

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  120. Thanks to the folks who posted the funny stories about hanging with extended family, drinking beer, and letting the kids run wild. I would also submit that these experiences are GREAT for your kids.

    I grew up in small, working class, industrial city in the Northeast. My parents came out of the Civil Rights movement, and my mom worked as a teacher and my dad as a community organizer. We lived in a fairly poor neighborhood that was Irish and Puerto Rican and a little bit Black working class.

    We were always "different" in that context. My folks were college-educated, loved classical music, baked their own bread, and kept our one (small, b&w) TV in the back of the closet, to be pulled out only for special occasions like watching election returns (I also remember, as a very small child, watching the first moon walk). However, the families around us loved their TVs and McDonald's and listened to top 40 music. Being raised by my folks in that neighborhood, I had a foot in both cultures.

    I have clear memories of sitting on the orange shag carpet at our friends' house, slurping Fantas, eating what my sister still calls "pup-tarts" and Sugar Corn Pops, while watching re-run episodes of the Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, I Dream of Jeannie, and the Flinstones. I know my mother knew about this. It's not what we (and our friends) did at OUR house, but I think she figured that neighborliness and the giving/receiving of hospitality trumped all. When in Rome....

    I have tried to replicate this mixing experience for my kids. My kids are older than most of yours, and have been in the public schools here for over a decade. I/they have no private school experience at all, so can't comment as to whether the class and ethnic mixing works the same way in them--I'm guessing maybe somewhat in the so-called progressive ones, but not much in the Hamlins/Burkes et al?. I do see it as a definite asset that that public has offer in any case. The ethnic mix at our public schools has varied from elem-middle-high (more Latino, more Asian, depending) but the income mix has always included 40-60% free lunch kids.

    And there have definitely been cultural and class differences! We've been through the birthday years, the bar/bat mitzvah years, and now the quinceanera years. Sometimes the wealth of the parties has been eye-opening. Mostly it has been the other way, though. At some of these events my kids have ridden around on battery-powered vehicles, played with Barbies, eaten Safeway cake with huge amounts of frosting, and (horrors) consumed coca-cola or that awful Central America soda that tastes like bubble gum. Not what we do at MY house, but so what. This stuff seems to be a par for the course for working class/immigrant culture, and I do not want to wall my kids off from being in their friends' homes.

    Certainly none of these folks shop at Whole Foods as far as I can tell. Actually, I don't either, but I do sometimes shop at Rainbow, which is less expensive but still pretty spendy. It's a middle class luxury to eat organic. Some of our friends shop a lot at the big discount stores (the ones with lots of canned good and "seconds.") One of our good friends is on food stamps and has four kids--this does not extend to Whole Foods and barely covers Safeway.

    Another difference is that that in many of the working class families it is expected that the older kids will look after the younger ones, and that the kids will run around in a big kid-pack while the adults keep adult society. The hovering parent syndrome is very much absent. I have learned a lot from this! The kids turn out okay--no big injuries, so far. They have a better time, too.

    I just think hospitality (giving and receiving) trumps all, and we have been lucky to have a chance to do that in a cross-cultural, cross-class kind of way through the friends we have made at the three different schools. Someone mentioned empathy and tolerance in our communities as a benefit of economic integration. Yes, that has been our experience. Mixing it up, within a common purpose of educating our kids, has promoted that for us. I hope it has shrunk the shoulder chip, too. You learn that there are other ways to do things.

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  121. I am not sure why this idea only now popped into my head - something about 12:24's post just now.

    There is a book here. Or several. The conversations here on so many pertinent topics written with such intelligence, wit and passion are fantastic. Think of our discussions on public versus private, urban versus suburban, immersion versus non-immersion. Consider all the stories we've shared about our own education experiences (some of my favorites to read) and also how those experiences informed the ones we're making now for our kids. And also all the millions of little tidbits (and jabs) we've shared with each other along the way.

    Has anyone else thought of this? It would take a good editor, but it's all here. Anyone already culling? And Kim can write the Forward. ;-)

    I suppose Kate should get first right of refusal.

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  122. Hello All,
    This is the point I was trying to make earlier. Have a look.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=3&entry_id=3918

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  123. public
    public charter
    public magnet
    private independent
    private religious
    home school

    Choosing any one of these "harms" the others, so choose it or lose it.

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  124. Hey 4:36,

    Thanks for the laugh ...

    so frigging true --->
    "San francisco -- the smuggiest city in the country,"

    this blog is such a perfect example of that!

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  125. smuggiest, LOL

    "Wear crocs, but realize that by wearing them you are harming other people!"

    (Other people's aesthetics, that is.)

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  126. In response to Kim,

    so, i think, yes, we do have chips on our shoulders, but with all that yoga, our shoulders can certainly take it. (we can all do half moon inversions here, right? RIGHT?!)


    I guess the point I am trying to make is that my shoulders really can't take it anymore. I'm tired of feeling like I have to defend every decision I make as a parent to every hipster on the playground. From what I feed my kids, to my choice to vaccinate, to my methods of discipline, to the course of education I choose. It's exhausting. I've found that a polite but vague response in an effort to avoid a debate is met with aggression, rudeness, and anger.

    It really is reflective to me of religious zealots who feel an overwhelming need to push their beliefs on the rest of us.

    I'm just tired of it, and I really appreciate Kate opening up this discussion. I had no idea how much I needed to vent my frustrations. I've made a deliberate effort not to engage in controversial parental discussions, but some people just won't quit.

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  127. ^ YES! YES! YES!

    I am exhausted, too.

    One can only do so much in this lifetime.

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  128. "I'm tired of feeling like I have to defend every decision I make as a parent to every hipster on the playground."

    You don't have to! Don't play that game, don't even let them bug you.
    There's always going to be insecure people out there who are so unsure of the choices and decisions THEY make, they try to make others feel bad if what they are doing somehow differs.

    It all comes down to manners ... it's the height of bad manners to tell other people what they should be doing, preaching to them how their choices affect others, etc. Especially telling STRANGERS such things. If other parents start to get "into it" with you, tell them you are happy with the things you do and the choices you make, and aren't really interested in their opinions, especially when they are rude and critical and you do not even know them.

    >^..^<

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  129. I saw the original South Park episode and laughed out loud. It is very funny (and I am not usually a South Park fan). We really are a smuggy city if not *the* smuggiest. Maybe Paris takes the top honor there, I'm not sure. They do have a longer history with it. (Any thoughts on that one, Kim?)

    Still, it is easy to think that all San Franciscans are like that. Without excusing myself from the smuggy group, I would say that many San Franciscans are not like that. This blog may reflect a slice of The City that is under indictment of being smuggy, but there are other "neighborhoods."

    Many of the parents you will meet in school will not be this way. A great many of them will be hard-working immigrants who have no time for smugness. Some of them will be going through life traumas that are fairly humbling, like divorce, or elder parent care. Some of them will just be....normal folks.

    The whole hipster scene around organic food, vaccines, cloth diapers, attachment parenting (or whatever the other side of that debate is), SAHM vs. WOHM, and what-all-else will just be one part of a much larger cultural swirl. Really. Figure 500 kids in your kid's new school, half of whom at least do not come from this hothouse playground/preschool milieu. Seek out those other parents, and you'll be amazed at the relaxed conversations you can have! I think life may look different by October for those of you about to start.

    --Been There

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  130. Caroline, why don't you just post anonymously so people can read your comments instead of snapping at you.

    You drive me crazy. But I think it sucks that we all jump on you, rather than quietly consider what you're saying.

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  131. I love my orange crocs, and you will have to pull them off my cold dead feet.

    Black crocs drive me crazy. What...like you think you can have "dress crocs"??? Get real.

    You should COMMIT if you are gonna wear crocs. Either a bright crazy color, or don't wear crocs!

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  132. Because having the guts to stand up publicly for what I believe in is important to me.

    "Caroline, why don't you just post anonymously so people can read your comments instead of snapping at you."

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  133. I think people should be able to wear black crocs if they want to, without being subjected to this ridicule :)

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  134. 11:25

    it is all about attention seeking; not the message. Get it?

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  135. I think exposing impressionable children to something as vulgar as ORANGE crocs is morally reprehensible and utterly irresponsible.

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  136. Buying orange crocs takes $ away from other shoe companies.

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  137. I don't think it is fair to describe orange crocs as VULGAR. So much depends upon what one is wearing them with, and where one wears them. You can't just make these sweeping generalizations that have more to do with biases than with actual reality.
    Vulgarity is so SUBJECTIVE. Let's live and let live, shall we?

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  138. I am pretty sure 12:39 was being sarcastic.

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  139. 1:44 here

    yes, I know, I am just playing along with the parody

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  140. There is a book to be written here. I just don't think anyone but y'all would buy it!

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  141. Psst:

    Don't feed the troll. Ignore him.

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  142. Buying orange crocs takes $ away from black crocs

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  143. I think it's okay that there are different colors of crocs, but the intelligent person will consider the social impact of buying one other than orange. Do what you must, but orange really is best for society as a whole.

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  144. The orange crocs are not as well made as the black ones. You'd be crazy to wear the orange ones.

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  145. Doesn't the fact that my avatar shows me wearing sandals with socks afford me any leeway around here?

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  146. : ) can't claim TFT isn't funny.

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  147. "Doesn't the fact that my avatar shows me wearing sandals with socks afford me any leeway around here"

    Nah, I think you're in a totally different camp--The Birkenstock variety. Totally different.

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  148. "Totally"? I have never owned a pair of Birkenstocks. I have been to a couple Dead shows though.

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  149. I think it might well be worth $20k a year to make sure my daughter doesn't come home talking like Ali G.

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  150. Can anyone tell me about their experiences with their child being one of the only -- or THE only -- white child in their class? Thank you.

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  151. Anon 6:40...snob much?

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  152. Snob? No. I suppose an aversion to black lipliner, semi-literacy, and visible underwear seems snobbish to the diversity police, however.

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  153. Oh yes, you're right. I forgot that private schools will ensure that you get a perfect little pre-law pod teen upon graduation. It has nothing to do with parenting or temperament. Ha! Good luck with that.

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  154. Right....my teen daughter and her friends are all wearing black lipliner, are semi-literate, and have their underwear showing....NOT. Um, the public school kids I know are athletic or music/drama/academic geeks (in a good way) and dress the part, from obliviously casual to funkily fashionable; read fabulous books that I sneakily read too at night when my daughter is in bed :-); and would be deeply mortified if their underwear ever met the light of day. These are really good kids and I am proud to know them. Many of them are not middle class either, but come from hard-working, working-class families.

    The previous poster is right that parenting and temperament are the drivers when it comes to this stuff.

    I would love to see some of our private school parents jumping in to defend our public school kids from this slander.

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  155. "I would love to see some of our private school parents jumping in to defend our public school kids from this slander."

    Or why not just ignore it? It is just some idiot saying ridiculous stuff, it is hardly worth bothering to even respond to them at all.

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  156. Caroline, congrats, you've just created an anti-public school advocate. Me.

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  157. A couple of years ago I saw a teenage girl in a Catholic school uniform talking on her cell phone and using a really impressive string of profanity. Guess what--people are people. Some of them do things you would approve of, and some of them don't, not matter what they look like. Stereotypes aren't just wrong, they also aren't very useful.

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  158. It's really sad to me that a conversation that just posed a question turned into a battle. I think the purpose was to examine our own behavior. Instead this whole thread turned into a petty, name-calling, childish contest. It has nothing to do with public or private. It's pretty clear to me there's a piss-poor example being set for our kids in both camps. So, make your decision and then act like a grown up in your own house.

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  159. "Guess what--people are people. Some of them do things you would approve of, and some of them don't, not matter what they look like. Stereotypes aren't just wrong, they also aren't very useful."

    I agree and I've had first hand experience being a kid in both public and private schools. Bad behavior cuts across all races and all classes of people--even grownups.

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  160. My kids go to private school and the sum total of the reason for it is that I think they're getting what I perceive to be a better education there. I consider us very lucky to be able to afford private school and would not feel that I was doing right by my kids to send them to public school simply to make a debatable point about social responsibility when in the end they would be better served by going to private school.

    That being said, I don't think anyone is making a bad choice or deliberately doing their kids a disservice by sending their kids to public school. I don't have a chip on my shoulder about public schools, nor do I look at people with a combination of aghast horror and sheer disdain when I hear that they send their kids to public school. I don't know a whole lot of private school parents with chips on their shoulders about schools (they're too busy dealing with all the other chips on their shoulders).

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  161. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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