Sunday, December 21, 2008
Condition Has Its Cost
Meeting today was comprised of the usual First Hour worship, but immediately afterward we were implored by the Angel Gabriel (an eight-year-old boy in a costume, speaking his lines without much conviction) to walk across the campus to the Bethesda Friends Meeting's annual Christmas Pageant. The site of the Pageant happened to be the stage/lunchroom of the Sidwell Friends Lower School, which will soon have a new student, the youngest Obama daughter. As I filed into the large room where a small orchestra, conductor, and two dozen or so kids dressed up like a fidgeting nativity scene were ready to begin the proceedings, I couldn't help but think about the numerous things which wealth can provide.
Miss Obama will certainly have every amenity imaginable available to her: a curriculum focusing on multiculturalism and diversity, violin lessons if she so chooses, a well-maintained campus, a low student/teacher ratio, eco-friendly, water-saving toilets in the bathroom, and on and on and on. I wonder if she'll take for granted the abundance of her surroundings as the product of two high-achieving, extremely well-off parents. Certainly I hope she doesn't and hope she uses her priviledge to help others. I didn't have that luxury when I was growing up, though I was fortunate enough to be a student in good quality public schools.
When my two sisters and I were children and adolescents, my mother was a popular elementary school teacher who the process of rapidly rising up the ladder towards upper level administration. Though both of my parents made enough money to send us to private school, Mom didn't wish to seem like a hypocrite or to invite bad press, which is why all three of us were placed in the same public school system of which she was an employee and major decision-maker. Though I do not hold her responsible for my misery in a public school, I have since realized I would have been much happier in a private school setting. Yet, I wonder if I would have become complacent if everything I'd ever wanted was placed squarely at my feet. Part of the reason why I was so interested in learning about the outside world, absorbing everything I could from outside sources, and otherwise overachieving was because those things simply weren't available to me during the school day.
What do you think? I know some of you out there choose to send your children to private school, and some of you prefer public school. I'd like to know your reasons.