I love it when people who don’t have kids insist they’d never send their child to a private school. I was reading a blog just last week by a woman without kids but who has very strong views about why people who send their kids to private schools are selfish and how “the ‘my kid deserves the best’ attitude perpetuates the growing divide in schooling quality between public and private.”
And today, there’s a new report that suggests “Australia’s middle class and wealthy parents need to send their children to public schools to improve the country’s increasingly polarised and inequitable education system.”
I’m going to say something unpopular here. But you can take your lofty ideals and your fancy reports and you can shove ‘em! I send my son to a private school because as his mother, I have a responsibility to him above all else. And above everyone else. Even myself.
It’s my job to make sure he gets the best possible education and the best possible opportunities for his future. It’s not my job to fix the education system. And while I sympathise with those who can’t afford a private education, I really do, I just don’t see why it’s my responsibility to close that gap if it means sacrificing my own child’s education to do it.
Is that selfish? Like hell. Selfish is the last thing I am. I work 40 hours a week in a job I detest but which is secure enough to let me sleep at night without waking up paralysed by anxiety as I used to when I worked for myself in the industry I love. I had to switch jobs when we decided to switch from the public system to private.
My husband works similar hours as me. We don’t have overseas holidays – or actually any holidays. We share a car. We make a thousand personal sacrifices to pay for our son to attend the best possible school we can afford. It’s hardly the top of the tree but the school’s academic results are miles ahead of the public schools in our area.
We were in the public system up until year 5 and it was fine – until it wasn’t. The school was lovely and did the best it could with its stretched resources but around the start of year 4, we began to see the cracks. Our son was in a composite class for the second year in a row and there was no support for kids at the far ends of the academic scale – neither the bright ones nor those who needed extra support.
I totally understand that the school had to focus its efforts on the majority in the middle but this meant there was an emphasis on mediocrity. Academic achievement had no currency. Kids weren’t encouraged to strive. Which may be perfectly fine for many parents and students but for us – for him – we wanted more.
How is that selfish?
So we down-sized our house, took on a second mortgage and made the decision to sacrifice a lot of material things for the benefit of our son’s education.
We got him into a private school and instantly we watched him blossom and his academic results improve. He got the help he needed in areas when he was struggling and he was exposed to academic programs and opportunities that were never possible before.
Our local public high school is no doubt staffed by well-meaning and quite possibly talented teachers but the classes are over-crowded, the standard of education is poor and there’s a rampant drug problem among the students. I’m really sorry about all of that but why does my son has to sacrifice his future to try and fix that?
That blogger I referred to earlier wrote some cutting remarks about how “fancy pools and excursions to Tuscany don’t make a better school” and she’s right. There is no pool at my son’s inner city private school and even if excursions to Tuscany were an option, we could never afford them. But that is such a ridiculously simplistic and frankly, insulting idea of what private schools – and the families who pay for their kids to go to them – are like.
It’s hardly Beverly Hills 90210. The other parents in my son’s year are mostly like us. Hard-working families who simply want the best opportunities for our kids. Are you seriously suggesting that for some lofty ideal about ‘equality for everyone!’ we should not want that? Clearly, you can only sprout such nonsense hypothetically, not about your actual children who you love so passionately and would do anything for.
Do I care about other people’s kids? Of course. Do I want disadvantaged kids to have every chance to succeed at school and in life? For sure. But to suggest I would put other people’s kids in front of my own is unreaslistic and quite ridiculous.
So while I agree the public system needs to improve and I support any efforts to make this happen, I’m never going to do it at the expense of my son’s future. Let’s instead work together to find another way. Gonski anyone?
Do you send your kids to public or private schools? Do you think more parents should send their kids to public schools, to help improve the education system overall? Are there advantages of sending your child to a private school?