When I first opened this 3 part series, I made a rather brazen statement that ruffled a few feathers:
"Private school education is not only for the rich and privileged, but also for those who are willing to go into debt, those willing to fundraise, those willing borrow from parents, those willing to volunteer time, and especially ONLY for those willing make massive sacrifices to their lifestyles, all for the sake of their kids!"
In the second installment, I discussed the commonly accepted practice of bell curving grades, and the quiet anti-failure agenda promoted at the school level for the sake of the school's performance metrics. Once again, I have to stress that I'm in no way suggesting that ALL public schools are inferior, nor am I suggesting that all private schools are superior. I'm simply sharing the findings and observations that I made as I evaluated the different educational options for my daughters.
Bullies. We all remember the bullies at school. Whether or not you were a victim, you saw the bullying happen. In the washroom, in the lunch room, in the school yard during recess, and in the back field after school. You saw kids being pushed around, being stuffed into lockers, and being picked on, just because they were smaller, weaker or different. You also remember the kids that get away with it. In most cases, what was the school to do? Issue warning letters? Detention? Suspension? What was the advice given to the traumatized student? "Just ignore them," or "Just stay out of their way."
The bully eventually got back into the school and nothing changed. That was 30 years ago and I'm sad to say that despite all the recent anti-bullying campaigns, it's worse than ever, especially with the explosion of cyber-bullying and online harassment. Teachers are still powerless to do anything to protect your children. Back in the day, bullies threatened with their fists and black eyes. Nowadays, they threaten with knives, guns, Facebook and Twitter. I certainly don't want to be in that powerless position with my daughters.
In a smaller private school, (despite the obvious benefits of smaller class sizes, lower student-to-teacher ratios, and an advanced curriculum), there is also the "fringe" benefit of higher teacher control. In a school environment where the teachers are working in close partnership with the parents, any personality conflicts between the students are immediately addressed and swiftly mitigated. In fact, at the school that my daughters attend, any conflicting students are also involved in the resolution process and in many cases end up closer friends because of experience. I'd sure like to see that come out of the local public school!
Being a victim of bullying during my elementary years, I not only remember the fear and trauma that I went through, I also remember the distress my father went through in trying to prevent me from being bullied by working through the proper school channels. Quite frankly, I don't have the same tolerance, patience or stamina that my father had to try to work with a powerless school administration to prevent my daughters from going through the same trauma that I did. I'm willing to pay for a school that, if nothing else, would foster a bully-free learning environment.
Am I failing to prepare my daughters from the harsh reality of the "real world"? I don't think so. I recognize that they will eventually deal with bullies in their university and professional lives. However, I'm fairly confident that with the right schooling environment, they will develop the proper diplomatic skills to deal with difficult personalities. I'm also confident that with proper moral support and character formation, they will develop enough confidence in their abilities to navigate and mitigate the harsh reality of the "real world."
Yes, that is definitely something that I'd be willing to pay for, even if it means sacrificing a new car, yearly vacations or fancy restaurants.
As I tie this series to a close, I should mention some of the pros that made it on the list for sending my girls to the local public Catholic school. For example: free supplies, paper and text books, free bus transportation to and from the house, free after-school programs, free education, a nicer car, new furniture in the house, nicer vacations, more upscale restaurants, a bigger house, newer clothes, no more fundraising, no more borrowing money from parents, and perhaps a new motorcycle.
Yet despite of all the nice extras and free stuff afforded by sending my daughters to the local public school, I realize in light of everything that I just can't afford it. The risk at my children's expense is just too high.
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