On the hypocrisy of private schooling

By Jessica Rafalko

Contributing Writer

Throughout my public school education, I encountered several teachers who sent their own children to private school. This practice has never sat well with me; it seems tantamount to a humble cobbler buying his kids’ shoes from Payless. It goes beyond a conflict of interest—it is in itself a criticism of the public school system. The implication is, “I will teach here, but I will not have my children learning here.” If these teachers cannot show enough faith in their own system to send their kids to public school, how do they expect other parents to make that leap?

Most kids in the United States attend public school—in 2007, roughly 72% of kids were taught at a public school in their district (an additional 15% of students were given the option of choosing a particular public school in their area). Public schools are expected to educate the majority of young Americans—ideally to prepare them for college, a vocation or military service upon graduation.

While public schools are sometimes referred to as great equalizers, that equation varies from district to district. As a general rule, students in more affluent areas have greater funding to draw on, and therefore more effective public schooling. Because schools are funded primarily by property taxes, areas with less expensive costs of living may also have less desirable conditions in their public schools.

I spent a lot of time as an adolescent watching teenage comedies or MTV reality shows, and what always struck me about the high schools I saw portrayed in the media was how nice they seemed compared to my own school. They were multilevel structures with sprawling cafeterias and wide halls, theater programs and varsity athletics. My own school, a small building constructed about 40 years ago, had a tiny cafeteria and crowded halls, a measly annual school play and a laughably bad football team. These differences, though mostly cosmetic or superficial, made me realize the only thing I enjoyed about my own school were the teachers. They challenged me, aided me, entertained me.

Though a sturdy building and myriad afterschool activities are important, the true equalizers in our public schools are our teachers. A dedicated teacher can overcome the deficiencies of the district they teach in; teachers provide students with the opportunities they need to be successful.

This is why those teachers who sent their kids to private schools always struck me as Benedict Arnolds: they surrendered to the common belief that public schools are limping, bleeding vestiges of a past time when teachers truly wanted to teach, when they believed in their own profession. If we can restore our teachers’ faith in public education, we will be able to restore it in taxpayers, voters, parents and most importantly, students.

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