This seems to be the de facto mantra of modern parenting. Of course you are. Of course you love your children and want the best possible life for them. You are worried about more tests, more homework and more students in your child's classroom. You are concerned about less recess, less qualified teachers and less individual attention for your child. You see a public school system that is struggling. You see moral decline and curriculum you disagree with. You read about dismal test results and worry about whether or not your child will be able to find a job.
In fact, as public school teachers, we see it every day and work countless hours, not for the pay or prestige, but for the welfare of other people's children. We work for the welfare of our nation.
So when it comes time to pick the best school for your child, you may feel confused, frustrated and overwhelmed. You'll ask yourself questions like: "Should we try that new charter school we've been hearing about?" "Maybe my child would be better off taking classes online?" "What about homeschooling? Is that the only option to guarantee that my child will receive the best possible education?"
Before you withdraw your kids from local public schools, here are three other questions that as a dedicated public high school educator, I want you to consider.
1. What scares you the most?
Is it the government that you don't trust? Is it the changing moral, cultural or intellectual values that you associate with the public school system?
I worry about the world that my one-year-old daughter will grow up in too. It's unfashionable and difficult to be different; to stand up for something that you believe in that's unpopular and politically incorrect.
I understand your desire for your children to learn in an environment that nurtures them. You want schools to support the values that are so important in your home and not the other way around.
Asking your child to take a stand in a public setting is asking a lot of our youngest citizens, but we live in a noisy world. It is nearly impossible to protect your child from the influencers in society and the political and moral opinions that you strongly disagree with. Since your children are going to be living in this world, and it's not likely to change anytime soon, isn't it better to teach them how to respectfully disagree?
The basic premise of free, public education is that all children, regardless of their circumstances, can learn and should be given a fair chance at success.
Do you want your children to learn with kids from all over the world? Do you want your kids to see resilience despite the challenges of poverty, broken families and poor health? Or do you want your kids to leave when things get uncomfortable?
Do you want them to find a place where they will be challenged academically, but distanced from the real problems that neighbors in our communities are facing?
Public education has the potential to be both academically rigorous and compassionate towards all students.
Is it the best choice to leave public education, or is it the best choice for your family?
I whole-heartedly agree that parents have the right to choose what is best for their family. There are circumstances where alternative education programs, charter schools, trade schools, online schools and home schools have produced amazing results in the lives of young people.
Public schools, despite our idealism, do not meet the needs of all kids. But for parents who are adamant that their child is exceptional, for whatever reason, I would ask you to think about standing by public education.
I ask for your help. We need parents that are involved and that care deeply about their children and their community. If you don't like what is happening in the public schools, then speak up. Volunteer. If you are already involved in the public schools, then thank you. Keep spreading the word about the great things that are happening there.
Opting out of public school and jumping ship to a charter school is not a long-term solution for our society. Sure I've had some objection to what the government has done with public schools, but I also have a hard time trusting brand new, homogenous schools that make big promises, have arbitrary acceptance policies and little public oversight.
I want my kid's school to reflect my community's rich diversity and cultural assets. I want my children to ask themselves how they can learn and help their school while meeting their own goals.