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Mothering › Child Articles › "It's not going to happen."

"It's not going to happen."

More on exploring kindergarten in San Francisco: There's a mantra I keep hearing from the parents I know and meet on school tours: "It's not going to happen."

This is always understood as referring to the possibility that their child might end up at a substandard school. I say it as well. It's our way of saying that we are not going to just accept whatever the SF public school lottery gives us.

The vast majority of parents I know, irrespective of their personal politics, are applying to both public and private schools, with the private ones as backups. If they don't get anything they want, or the financial aid they need, they simply quit San Francisco for a Bay Area city with a better system.

Few people want to send their kids to private schools. They value public education and they want their children to be part of it. Plus, what non-rich person wants to spend 20K or more on their child's elementary school education?

But these are also people who value education, period, not to mention safety.

For this reason, I find the guilt-tripping public vs. private debate to be tiresome. The ideological presumption is that pursuing what's best for child involves kicking someone else's to the curb.

And to be sure, that's exactly how our society works right now: Some children have more chances than others. America has been kicking groups of kids to the curb since the days of the Declaration of Independence.

We do indeed have a responsibility to each other, for each other. We should all be working for an education system that serves all kids; that's one of 4 million reasons why I voted for President-Elect Obama.

But families are making decisions with in the matrix of a system that is rigged against them; indeed, a system that is at war with itself.

The American education neurosis manifests itself on every level of our society, from the way some of our political leaders attack "educated elites" as well as teachers, to the way education is funded to the way it's managed to the panicky ways parents make their decisions.

San Francisco's system is particularly dysfunctional and inhumane. It's gratuitously, even cruelly, stressful for parents, students, teachers, and administrators. If some people opt out, and my family might be among them, will any amount of guilt tripping bring them back?

I don't have any grandiose answers; I just getting used to all this and I'm just starting to learn. I can see that the teachers are doing their best. The parents are volunteering and fundraising. Many administrators are doing their very best; some of their efforts might even be called heroic. We'll keep going and see how it unfolds; this will become a perennial topic on this blog.

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Mothering › Child Articles › "It's not going to happen."