I’m A Private School Kid Who Happily Sent My Children To Public School

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public school or private schoolI grew up in Brooklyn, NY, as the daughter of a Manhattan lawyer. My parents sent me to private school from kindergarten on, including an elite college-prep high school. For college, I went to a small liberal arts school in the midwest. I got a great education and I was lucky to have had parents who could afford it. That said, when it came time to send my kids to school, there was never a doubt in my mind that they were going to go to public school.

When we had to enroll our kids in kindergarten, public school was such a given that I don’t think my husband and I ever discussed an alternative. I think it’s because we don’t believe that private school gives you all that much of an advantage. Look at the two of us — with my education, I have worked part-time since graduation in a variety of different fields (including as a barista, and as a strip club waitress) and now work from home as a writer. My husband went to public school the whole way through, then state school for college, and is now employed as a project manager for a company that rhymes with Acebook. We came from two very different educational backgrounds, went in the opposite direction income-wise from what one might assume based on those backgrounds, and are both extremely happy in our careers. Also, it just took me five tries to spell “careers.”

What all of that says to me is that where my kids go in life will depend a whole lot on them, and not necessarily their school. And luck (or not). And hard work (or not). And white privilege (no nots). It’s also important to note that we are fortunate enough to live in Seattle, a city that has some fantastic public schools. I just didn’t see any edge my kids would have by going to one of our enormously expensive private schools instead.

Some of my friends have kids in private school, and I admit that they sound super dreamy. Only 14 kids in a class? Tons of extracurriculars? Art every day? I bet those schools are super clean, too. They sound amazing, and I’m glad their kids are in schools that they love. But when I go to my kids’ public school, I love the chaos of classrooms overloaded with stuff. I love being part of a community where parents and teachers have to work together to get it all done. I love the different kinds of kids they get to meet and the scrapes they get from their concrete playground. Most of all, I love their teachers, who take on a class of 28 kids and still come back to work the next day.

There is nothing too lofty that I expect from my children’s education. I consider school a bullshit, inadequate institution that needs fixing but one that I still need to send my kids to because that is what is needed to get any footing in this world (shhh…don’t tell my kids I said that.) I expect them to work hard, I expect them to do as well as they can, and I expect them to graduate. Beyond that, I don’t really care. They don’t have to go to Harvard, they don’t have to get a doctorate, and they don’t have to earn a six-figure salary. As long as they are safe, happy, and paying their own bills, they can do whatever they want. And I much prefer having them in public school where they can look up, instead of in private school, worrying about the fall.

(Photo: Dirk Ercken / Shutterstock)