Why Private School for Your Child? There are notable differences in what private schools offer from the public school environment. So when you begin that evaluation process, it's important that you know what you are looking for in a school before you make the investment in putting your youngster into a private institution. Very often private schools draw new students based on local reputation or because you may know a lot of kids of your friends who go there. Or perhaps your child wants to go to a particular private school to be with specific peers. And while putting your son or daughter in a school where he or she will have a strong support group is a valid consideration, it is not the only consideration. One of the reasons private schools are popular is that there can be a school that is focused on a particular niche of students. Religious schools are a good example. Many parents want their children in a private setting where they can study their scriptures and engage in daily religious ritual without interference from the state. Other private schools might focus on exceptional students, students with a particular talent such as the arts or theater or schools for students who are challenged either physically, mentally or emotionally. If you child fits in one of those classifications these schools can be an excellent alternative to public school which as a rule is poorly equipped to deal with niche needs of students. But you will have to look closely at each school you interview to be sure not only the charter for why the school exists but the faculty and resources of the school are adequate to live up to that vision. That means that not all private schools are the right choice for your child but one of them might be a great choice. But probably the majority of private schools exist under the charge to provide a higher quality education, to offer a lower class size with better teachers and a focus on preparing your child for college. The academics are allegedly of a higher quality and more demanding on the student and the teacher as a result. So what that school would like to say to you is, "Put your child in our school because the extra cost will be worth it for the higher level of education your child will receive." The first point of evaluation is to look at the quality of education and the percentage of students that go to college after graduating from the public school where your child might be going. Many times if the public school is well run and retains high quality teachers as well, you can get a good education from them for your child at no more additional cost than the taxes you pay. Remember that just because a private school holds your child to higher standard of performance which results in a better education, that doesn't make them a better school. You may be able to achieve the same grades and quality of education by working with your child to be highly motivated to perform at that high level of achievement in the school where he or she is going. There is no prestige to your child being on the honor roll of a private school over the honor roll of a public school. They both will accelerate your youngster along his or her academic carrier. Cost has to be one of the big factors in deciding whether private school is the right choice for your child and for your family. Even if money is no object for family, there is no value to putting your child in a school that cannot do any better job of providing an education than the public alternatives. Further, large municipal public schools often offer high quality programs in sports, theater and special programs that small schools cannot offer. So weigh the values carefully. If in the end you know your child will do much better in the private setting or if the private school option is good compromise between taking your child public school and home schooling, then you may be very well served by a private school that is geared to the needs and talents of your son or daughter. Hype Versus Reality in Private Schools Private schools function from an entirely different economic base than public schools. Because private schools succeed or fail based on the number of families who are paying tuition, many of the laws of marketing and merchandising apply. That is why you might even see commercials on television for a private school which you would never see for their counterparts in the public school arena. So the private school approach to education and the value they hope you will see in them consists not only in how they are superior to the public school system but how they are superior to every other private school in the community. So if you are looking closely at particular private schools, you might suspect that some of the big promises and grand "vision" that they present to make their school look great to you might be as much hype as it is reality. "Hype" is that kind of salesmanship that appeals to the grand and the noble in us all. So if a private school presentation builds on your love for your children, on how children are the future of our society and on the poetic beauty and glory of all that is youth, somewhere in there is some amount of hype. How often have you watched a commercial for a private school that shows a picture presented is one that is virtually heaven on earth for young people? I know when I see that I wonder if those are real children they are picturing or something worked up by the Spielberg people like the creatures from the cantina scene of Star Wars. We have to add a measure of common sense and down to earth thinking to all the hype before we decide to actually put our own children into a private school as an alternative to having them in public school. A question has to be asked and answered before we sign papers to enroll in the school and that question is, "Can the school live up to all those grand promises and to all that hype?' To get to the bottom of how to evaluate a private school, you must use the same approach you did when evaluating public schools in your area. You have to evaluate the school based on it's performance. And performance is measured in longevity, quality of existing students and quality of graduated students, e.g. alumni. If you decide yes or no about whether a particular school is all that they say they are just based on their commercials, their well prepared presentation when you go for an interview and the tour of the grounds, you are not getting to the heart of what makes a school great. To do that, you have to become a detective. Start with the parents of students already in the school. You may know some from your church or some other social circle you are in. Buy one of these parents lunch and find out what really goes on at that school. Parents who are paying the tuition to have their kids in the school are often quite candid about whether the school lives up to its hype. Don't just settle for one interview but talk to as many parents of current and former students as you can so you can get a good balance to the picture you get from their witness. A great question to include in the interview is "How long did your child go to the school?" Schools that take children from Kindergarten to High School graduation are obviously doing something right. Schools who see a lot of departures after a year or two have some kind of problem that is driving people away, whether they admit it or not. Give yourself time to dig deep into the existing population of the school and to talk to alumni families as well. By being thorough, you can find out if the school is able to perform in keeping with the promises they make and whether the school is a valid alternative to public school. And that is the kind of real life information you need before putting your child in that school to further her academic career. Public School and Society In our social system, we often just take for granted that the way our educational system set up is the way it should be without question. But if you look at society across the ages, turning your children over to strangers without question to educate them in ways that are not your own is far from the normal way most societies bring their young up to adult level of knowledge and skill. If anything, the two models that most resemble the way families educate their children historically is home school or private school. It's only the advent of large cities and a move away from the agricultural lifestyle that brought on the phenomenon of huge public schools as we know them. As recently as the generation before The Baby Boomers, public education was handled at the local level where the local community hired a teacher and brought the children together for basic instructions under the watchful eye of the local school board. Parents were far more the authority under that system and the idea that the teacher or the school administration had more to say about what your child would be taught than you do was as ridiculous as the idea that the grocery clerk could tell you what food you could or could not buy. This early model of private school is more in step with the way most of our social support systems work. We by and large maintain a capitalist society where people are allowed to do work for us as long as they conform to our expectations. The employee doesn't tell the employer what they can expect and the employer is not denied access to the process as it often the case in public schools. Now to say that public schools "kidnap" our children and "indoctrinates" them into some strange alien way of thinking is overly dramatic. To be practical, most local schools systems are looking after the best interest of the children. The basic education of the kids in the core disciplines (reading, writing and arithmetic) still are the reason for existing for most public schools. But there are abuses that crop up in virtually every public school system that often aggravate parents. The very fact that the private school movement has been such a success is a testimony to the fact that public schools are not serving the needs of all of the children and their families who pay taxes for such service so those parents must seek other alternatives for their children. It really is unfair if you think about it because of the almost "socialist" way that public schools are run. Funding for public schools is usually enabled by taxation. But many who pay into the system do not benefit from it because they do not have children and they don't have a say in whether they approve of the system or want to see it changed. Furthermore, if a family decides to take their child out of the public schools and pay for private school, they have to continue to support the public schools with their taxes and in effect pay for two school systems, one of which failed to serve their needs. Looking at the differences between public and private schools in this way doesn't solve anything. For the time being, the situation is not likely to change. The most important thing is that your child gets the best education possible and the decision you must make between public and private schools for your kid's sake must look away from the unfairness of the system as it works today. But it is helpful to look at the system this way so we can work as a society to make things better over time. That is our job as parents and as citizens as well. Greatness and Public School Depending on the size of your community the number of kids who might be in public school can vary from hundreds to thousands. There has been a lot of discussion about whether the government should even be involved in funding public schools. That is a political discussion. But the real question is whether your child will achieve his or her maximum potential in a public setting with thousands of other kids.' Sadly, when we look back over history, many of our greatest thinkers and individuals who achieved greatness in their lives were not the product of public school. Obviously the men who founded our country were not products of government run education because at that time, such things did not exist. But many eccentric but exceptional talents such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were not the least bit suited to public school. In fact, Edison was thrown out of public school because the administration determined he was "feeble minded". Some of the harshest critics of public school use the term "dumbing down" to describe how education is diluted so it can be presented to a large body of students. The charge, and one that we can find some basis for in fact, is that because public schools must accept all students and they are required to hold that vast sea of young people and process them though their grade levels, then such schools are incapable of producing greatness because as much focus is on keeping order and moving large groups from place to place than in releasing the inner genius in a few children. Greatness, after all, does not occur in every person in society. There are the exceptional individuals in society and then there are the rest of us. That doesn't make it bad that many or us are normal healthy human beings who will lead routine lives being good citizens, parents and family members. Society depends on a population of good, educated moral citizens to keep functioning. But because greatness is the exception rather than the norm, the public school system really cannot be geared toward discovering and then enabling greatness in those individual young people who are destined for big things. And the sad truth is that because public school by necessity must move large groups of students through the system from year to year, the result from the student's point of view can make school more like a prison and a mind numbing experience that can kill greatness with far greater regularity that greatness is released in those halls. So in the debate about whether private school is superior over public school, the verdict may hinge on whether the particular private school under consideration is equipped to identify and then nurture greatness in certain individual students. If the public school functions like a public school only smaller and at a fee, there is no value putting your child who may have been born to greatness in yet another mind numbing "grade factory" that will just push students through from grade to grade. It really is a question of the quality of the individual private school. And wither the school you are considering is capable of producing genuine greatness in its students, and of tolerating the eccentricities that often come with greatness, is a question that can only be found out via interview, reference and perhaps even viewing the classes in session at the school you are considering. But if you persevere and insist that your child's education be one that will find and bring out the inner greatness in him or her, it will be worth the extra effort and the investment in finding an educational option that is just right for your genius in the making. Interviewing Schools You are an adult. And when adults make big decisions in life, they have good reasons. And deciding whether to send your child to a private school and which private school to pick is a big decision. So the logical and organized way to go about finding out whether the move is a good one and what private school to pick, the adult thing to do is make a list of things you require of a private school and turn that list into your "interview questions" that you will use when you go from school to school looking for the perfect place for your child. One way to get your list of questions developed is to list what is making you turn away from public school. After all, public school is, at least in theory, free so to turn from a free educational resource to one you have to pay for, you need good reasons. Some of the most common reasons people consider private over public schools include... * Quality of education. * College preparation. * Accommodation for children with special needs. * Accommodation for children with exceptional talents. * School violence or drugs. * Public school overemphasis on moral and ethical teaching. * Public school sex education programs. * School security to prevent ass shootings like happened at Columbine. There are other reasons to consider private school in addition to our short list. The problem is that public school does not have the leverage nor are they interested in making any changes if you do have issues with the school. Parents and students are expected to pretty much just put up with the way it is. And that drives lots of parents to look elsewhere for educational options. The next level of focus after the areas of improvement you want from public school pertain to any specific needs you need for your child or your family that would narrow down your search for a good private school. If one of the big goals is to find a private school where your child can continue to grow in your faith, then you will only look at schools that focus on that niche. You may have a child who is developmentally or physically challenged. There are some outstanding schools that can help with that need far better than public school. Or you may have a child who is exceptional in some particular area such as the performing arts, academics or science. Magnet schools or schools designed to give your child the additional help to move ahead more quickly in their field of specialization are an outstanding choice for you. In all cases, you will want to interview the school as to how the school day takes place, what makes the lifestyle your child will experience at their school superior to public school and how they handle basics like nutrition, medical needs and security. These interview questions go beyond just asking the administration questions and will call for you to take a tour and interview different support departments in the school. Finally, don't overlook letting your child add some questions to the check list. After all, this school will be your child's home away from home. She may want to know how often the school has dances or field trips to break up the classroom setting. She may need to understand lunch hour or how the library works. Include in your interview a complete tour of the school which might include sitting in on some classes that your child would become a part of to watch the teachers in action. You can tell a lot about the level of affection between teachers and students watching them teach and then observing them in the halls as they interact with the kids. And if the teachers like the kids, you know they are happy teaching there and they are doing a good job. Moreover, a warm relationship between the staff and the student body reflects that the administration of the school has designed everything from the school layout to the curriculum to how discipline is handled to work with the students and to work for their ultimate good rather than treating them like enemies as happens too often in public school. So use all of your senses when evaluating a new school so you come home with a good idea if this is the perfect next step in your child's academic career. God and School It has not always been a problem to have a religious faith and still attend public school. But in some ways, that task has gotten more difficult in the last few years. Now people of faith are used to living in a world where there are a lot of different religious points of view. That leads to conflict, discussion and interaction between peoples of various belief systems and that is healthy. But in the last few years, it seems that there have been a lot of different interpretations of The First Amendment. It seems that as many people see that part of our founding documents as being a rule that dictates freedom FROM religion as much as it does freedom OF religion. So the question that must be confronted is not whether your child can live in a secular school where there are people who don't like religion or have other faiths. But that is part of training your child for life to be able to be who they are which might be different from who other people are. The real issue is whether at the administrative level schools are becoming more oppressive so much so that people of faith are being forced to go "into the closet" and hide their values and their religious beliefs. From the perspective of a parent of a family of faith, the decision about whether to try to work it out with the public school system so your kids can enjoy all the benefits of public school and still maintain their faith with some integrity versus going down the private school route is a tough one. Large public schools do have much more diverse programs and better facilities than small faith based private schools can afford. A big public school often has very well developed physical education, sports programs and gym facilities. The academic diversity is stronger because there are so many more students to offer courses for. These are all big pluses for your kids. And kids don't always like the idea of being separated from the rest of the population just because they have a religious faith like they were lepers or somehow not acceptable because of their religion. But that is the message that is often passed to youth who not only are devout in their beliefs but live those beliefs out without shame. To even have a religious study or prayer time at school is often attacked as somehow violating the separation of church and state. Of course anyone who understands that part of our legal system knows that The First Amendment simply restricts congress from passing laws that violate that separation. There is nothing in The First Amendment that says that individual citizens cannot be people of faith and that they cannot openly exercise their faith. In fact, that is what The First Amendment was written to protect. There are some values to moving your kids to religious based private schools to consider as well. These kinds of schools often offer a good variety of faith based classes where your child can get credit for studying religious documents or learning elements of the faith such as worship or religious music studies. And because the school is private, prayer and open exercise of the religion is not only encouraged, it is included in the curriculum in the classroom, at assembles and in every aspect of school life. Your kids may be able to enjoy a school experience with other kids from their temple or church and not face all of that conflict that becomes so tiresome in the public school setting. So it's a decision that will take some thought, prayer and discussion. But you do have options about the lifestyle you want your kids to experience in their school lives. And it's always good to have options. Big Schools Big Programs Comparing the good things that can be offered between school programs can get difficult. Picking a school for your kids isn't as cut and dried as it was when we were young. Only a few decades ago, the public school system was the only alternative to get an education for children and since having our kids in school is mandated by law, that was that. But in the last decade or so, many legal alternatives to public school have become available to parents including private schools and home schooling options. It seems each year the diversity of programs that you can take advantage of to get a good education for your children or teenagers grows. So you have to have some priorities to compare schools by so you know what is the best option for your child and for your family. Private schools are an entirely different world from public school and that is the idea. Because the school is a for profit institution run outside of the oversight of government, as long as they meet the educational requirements to be considered a valid school, private schools can operate with much more liberty to have a religious, political or cultural focus that is specific to a particular niche in society. One of the great things the private school movement has made available to parents are schools that can focus with greater effectiveness on a particular learning disability or on an area of excellence of a particular group of students. So you can have a private school devoted to the performing arts on one side of town, another devoted to helping learning disabled kids on the other and another school focused on religious education for Jewish kids and all of them are valid private schools who are legal and legitimate schools in the eyes of the state. Also because private schools are funded by parents, if their base of financial security is strong, the teachers salaries can be higher as can the quality of programs and equipment is often much higher than their counterparts in public school. Many times private schools have highly desirable campuses with beautiful classrooms, cafeterias, libraries and gyms because of the support of the parents and alumni of the school. Now to balance our comparison, public schools do have some real strengths as well. Because many public schools, particularly those in large communities, educate literally thousands of students, the funding from the state for educational resources is large to meet the need. So because these schools must "think big" to provide programs for such a diverse population, the number and complexity of programs is also very often large and well developed. Large public schools have both the blessing and the curse of big populations so they can boast the "big schools, big programs" benefit. Very often sports programs in large public schools are second to none and if your child is looking to excel at sports, perhaps even seek a career in sports, coming up through large public school sports programs is a feeder system to the collegiate levels and then on to the professional ranks where big success can be had. The same can be said of other professional areas of development including theater, band and academic competitive clubs. Because big schools complete interscholastically on a very large scale, they can afford the finest coaches and facilities and they are underwritten by the state because the success of these schools brings growth and financial benefits to the area. This is an area of strength big public schools can boast that very few private schools can match. To complete your analysis of what kind of educational setting is right for your family, you may want to also review home school options as that movement is developing rapidly and fitting the needs of many families as well. How you finally make your choice will depend to a very large extent on your financial resources and the needs of your family and your children. Many children do very well in the small intimate cultures that private schools can provide while others require the big settings of public schools to find programs that fit their needs. But by doing your homework to determine exactly what is best for your educational situation, you can make the right choice to give your child the finest these school systems have to offer to fit your son or daughters educational requirements. Becoming a Snob When you talk to a lot of parents, its amazing how many consider the public school system to be the only option for getting a quality education for their children. It seems that this limited view of education would have fallen by the wayside by now with so many options for getting your kids through school. But that is how effective the government sponsored public schools have been at maintaining the myth that they are the only way to go and that public school is the end all and be all of education for kids like yours and mine. When it comes to private school, there is another myth or misconception that we would do well with dumping. And that is the image of private school being only for the super rich and that they are full of snooty prep school girls and boys who are dropped off by chauffeurs and spend their summers in the south of France. This concept that to move your child to a private school somehow makes you a "snob" is worth discarding so that all of us can have options to consider rather than being trapped into the tyranny of enduring whatever the public school system tell us we must endure. All you have to do to overcome this conception you might have that you have to be a snob to take advantage of private schools is take a day and visit a handful of schools in your area. You will find that the variety and diversity of schools is truly amazing. But more importantly, you will see that the kids in private schools are just like your kids, that the cars their moms and dads drive are the same kind you drive and that ordinary people just like you and I take advantage of the higher quality education and the better educational experience that is available for kids in private school. Whether or not you keep your kids in public school or send them to private school should not be a matter of economic status or whether you fit in any particular social circle. While there are many good things about public school, the fact is that public school is not for every child and not a good fit to the educational goals of every family. And if you did take some time to visit several popular private schools in your area, you may find that there are kids of families you know using those facilities and kids who would provide a good peer group for your child if you did move her to a private facility for the next phase of her education. We tend to view private schools as being the enemy of public school but that is also to some extent a myth. In a lot of way private schools are an excellent supplement to provide high quality educational options for certain niche students that the public schools cannot serve as well. Public school is, after all, an institution set up to serve the entire community of school age children. This is a big challenge so the school administration has to put the majority of their resources and energies into managing the education of for that large group of "average" students. But many students benefit from the smaller environment and from specialized skills and focus areas that private schools can afford to take care of. This includes children with special needs such as educational or physical challenges. But it also includes children who are high achievers in certain areas such as the sciences, mathematics or the performing arts. Private schools can also provide an isolated environment for families who want an education built around faith based curriculum which is just not possible in a public school setting. So there is no reason to shy away from considering private school along with all of your other educational options for your child. If you do consider private school and then decide to take advantage of the services they offer, you are joining thousands of other families who are benefiting from the diversity of educational options we have at our disposal today. And in doing so, you are in no way becoming a "snob". You are just being a good parent by giving your child the best education possible. And nobody would fault you for that noble desire. A Place Where You Cannot Protect Your Child There are a lot of reasons that parents consider pulling their kids out of public schools and putting them in private institutions. The quality of education and lower teacher to student ratios often are sited. Private schools can do better with special needs or working with students with special talents as well. But by far the biggest reason for the exodus from public schools is the issue of drugs and violence in public school settings. There have been plenty of movies that focus on gang life in high schools and the influence of adverse peer pressure that your child might undergo if exposed to negative elements at school. But oddly enough, the Hollywood representation of the influence of drugs and violence in public schools understates the case rather than overemphasizes it. To be blunt, the influence of drug cultures and of violent individuals can easily cause profound changes in your child and changes that are far from what you want for your offspring. As parents, we want our children to mix with other kids with the same values and children who have ambition and good goals in life so the good teaching you have given to your kids in childhood can come to a good fruit in their teen years. Unfortunately, in many public schools, kids who are not there for education but have other agendas including illicit sex, drugs, criminal activity or violence are often seen as heroes and emulated by other kids. It is very easy for your child to fall in with the wrong kids in such a place and go down the wrong path before you have a chance to stop it. The tragic stories of such things happening are far too common and they break the heart of any parent who wants only the best for his or her child. Some of the fault comes from the fact that the law requires that the state and city support public education for every child in the community. That naturally means that your child will be in classes with people who could have a negative influence on him or her. It is literally a place where you cannot protect your child and a place where even if your child has strong values and resists the influence of the drug culture and the temptations offered there, they still could become a victim of random violence that occurs frequently in such schools. Despite the large public education budgets we read about in the papers, public schools are always chronically under funded. That means that classes are too large and teachers are often unable to control antisocial behavior in class. The worst outcome of such an explosive situation are violent outbursts where people get hurt or worse. At the very least this kind of setting makes a quality education virtually impossible and your child will come home traumatized and just glad to have survived the day rather than coming home happy and challenged academically. In the last few years, large scale school shootings have made our concern for the safety of children at public school an even bigger concern. Yes, schools have responded with tighter security and more efforts to keep students intent on killing others from reaching your kids. But it is a public situation and the continued incidence of school shootings shows that even high security measures can only go so far. These dangers make private school an attractive alternative. While even at the private school level, security is not guaranteed, the smaller community can do more to know the students well, counsel those who are troubled and build the kind of community that discourages the influence of drugs and violence. And that is the kind of educational setting we all want for our kids. A Place for Your Gifted Child When you recognize that your child is gifted in some particular area of talent or intellect, getting the school system to recognize that special ability can be a challenge. For the most part public schools are designed to accommodate the "normal" range of children. Because it' a legal requirement not only that you send your child to school but that the state provides public schools to meet that need, most of the children in public school are neither gifted nor special needs. As such the majority of the resources and the skills of the teachers are built around the need to teach large classes of average students. There is nothing wrong with this approach as our society depends on good education for everybody. But what this does mean is that public schools simply are not oriented toward providing specialized classes for gifted students. Now there are gifted programs in most schools which offer classes that are "accelerated". This means the curriculum is more challenging and difficult so the student conquers a harder work load then other kids in their grade level. But if you look at this approach closely, this is not really a program for gifted children. These are classes for highly intelligent students or kids who are exceptionally good at learning so they will be the ones to earn scholarships to college. But very often truly gifted students do very poorly in these kinds of classes. That is because often when a child has a particular area of excellence, that does not mean the child is gifted in all areas of academics. So your child might be a brilliant musician, mathematician, chess player or dancer but in every other way average in his or her ability to handle the routine workload of school. The outcome of putting such students into gifted programs is (a) they don't get specialized training in their particular gifts and (b) they do poorly in accelerated programs which results in poor self esteem and bad report cards which disguise the true genius of this child. These problems with how public schools handle gifted kids point to the need for you to look into finding private instruction that can design a program to take your child to the next level in his or her area of specialization while teaching the other academic subjects in ways that the child can excel in every endeavor at school. Private schools can provide the focus on your child's particular area of excellence simply because they are private and they don't have the burden of providing education for everybody. Specialized training needs the services of specialized teachers who themselves are outstanding in that field of study or in your child's gifted area. So if your son or daughter is a phenomenal talent in playing the violin, you need violin teachers who can bring that talent along and knows how to take that talent to the next level and the next and the next. Private schools can afford to keep such gifted teachers on staff. They can also afford to have any specialized tools or equipment that are needed to help your child develop his or her gift. Further, the field of excellence your child will develop has a path to success that is unlike the paths most kids take to state college and beyond. Your child may need to seek specialized education beyond high school that takes recommendations and a resume that a private school can help your youngster develop. The private school setting can tailor your child's curriculum so all of the routine academics can be taken care of but there is plenty of time for your boy or girl to focus on their gift under the tender loving care of a skilled professional. These gifted teachers can become mentors to your child to show him or her the path toward success and greatness in the particular area of genius where your child is gifted. These are compelling reasons to find the perfect setting that will polish and bring out the talent or gift in your gifted child. It might be more expensive but if investing in top notch education for your youngster means that he or she genuinely realizes that tremendous potential, its worth whatever it takes to make that happen. Taking Control of Moral Education People remove their children from public school and move to private schools for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the contract you have with a private school is in every way different than your relationship with public school. Because you pick your private school, the schools in your area are in competition for your "business". That means they work for you and they are responsible to live up to their promises to you when you pay them to give your child an education. This phase of the process, when you are interviewing various private schools is when you have the chance to stipulate exactly what part of the education of your child you are prepared to hand over to the school and what parts you do not want them fooling around with. For most parents, we are looking to send the child to school go learn about history, english, science, math, foreign language art, composition and other academic subjects that they need to conquer to be a success in college and eventually in life. Unfortunately public schools also take it upon themselves to educate children in what might be considered moral, ethical or even religious areas of life. And for many parents, this is meddling and imposing values on their children that the school has no right to impose and that is outside their authorization to do so. No other subject better illustrates this principle than sex education. Sex education in schools is a topic of considerable controversy. And it will continue to be controversial because it is something most parents do not want to see the schools getting involved with and something most schools very much want to have as part of their curriculum. The grey area comes in the realm of physical education. Lessons on hygiene, anatomy and how the human body works are a natural part of the science or physical education curriculum. So you might be able to understand if part of that education is to go over how the human sex organs work from a scientific point of view. Even at this basic level, though, parents often feel they should be consulted on what they want their children to know. The age old image of dad sitting on the porch and explaining the birds and the bees to his son is time honored and revered in families and we are as a society not comfortable with handing that job over to some stranger whose values we know nothing about. But sex education in schools doesn't usually end with a basic discussion of the medical of physical properties of the body. Many schools have more advanced curriculum that cover the sex act, how pregnancy works, venereal disease and "recreational" sex activities as well in some cases. And some of the more aggressive programs actually provide condoms to the children "just in case." You may become alarmed at any or all of this level of instruction if it is to be considered part of a public school's educational program. The problem is because our contract with public schools gives no control to parents, you only have the choice of be quiet and let them teach what they will or remove your child to move to a private school who is more prepared to regard the parent's wishes in regards to sex education or any other areas of moral, ethical or religious education that they wish to carry out at home. If these kinds of programs at the public school level are what have alarmed you and began your transition to become a private school family, you are not alone. And maybe if enough families go this route, the public schools will get the message that parents have rights in these matters and those rights must be respected. Special Schools for Special Kids If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know something that the public schools either don't know or they refuse to recognize. And that is any special need can be accommodated and worked around and your child is just as capable of excellence on an even playing field with any other child if his or her limitation is taken out of the picture. It really is amazing when you think about it because so many people with special situations have gone on to such genius and excellent. From Stevie Wonder to Steven Hawkings, the schools should buy a clue that a physical disability or learning disability problem does not mean that child cannot be an outstanding student and go great things in school and in life. But public schools traditionally do a terrible job accommodating kids with special needs and when your child has a learning disability, their record is even worse. Perhaps we can see that public schools are really built to churn a massive amount of students in and out of the system every year. And because they do have to accept everybody, you can understand why it's difficult to provide accommodations for physically challenged children or kids with learning disabilities. For most parents seeking the best for their children, trying to get the accommodations made so your child can excel in public school is a study in frustration. Even if on paper the school acknowledges that each teacher will provide those accommodations, when the rubber hits the road, they don't. Particularly when your child's limitation is a learning disability, perhaps because the disability is not visible as is the case with a child in a wheelchair or who cannot see, the teacher commonly "forget" that your child needs accommodation and lumps them in with the rest of the class and then punishes them for having difficulty. Not only is this situation a horror show for parents to get through, it erodes your child's self esteem and ability to stay ambitious and positive about going to school to try to do his or her best. So while we all have the urge to try to make the larger system work for us, it is often the best course of action to seek out a private school that has the specialized training and equipment to accommodate your child and still provide him or her with an outstanding education from elementary school all the way through to college preparation in high school. Any teacher who is going to work with children with disabilities or limitations has to undergo specialized training. Part of that training is to recognize the individual nature of your child's situation and tailor the educational goals accordingly without "dumbing down" the curriculum. This is the value of moving to a private school setting to get your child away from the public school prejudice that sees all children with physical limitations or learning disabilities as "slow" or unable to learn. The truth that you know and your child knows is that your child may be of superior intellect and able to outperform other children with no such challenges if the disability is neutralized. Private schools often foster the specialized training, the skills and the passion to teach physically challenged or learning disability children and seeing them reach the excellence they are capable of. And when the school knows that a disability is something that can be worked around and they see the true greatness in your child, then your child will begin to excel and that self esteem and excitement about learning will return. And won't it be great when your child is eager to go to school each day rather than fearing it like a prison sentence. That alone makes going the private school route for your child a good option.
The Legalized Abduction of Children It's almost inconceivable but it happens to every single family in the country every day. You often reflect that one of your biggest jobs as a mom and dad is to protect your sweet child so she grows strong and never loses her love of life and learning. So the very idea that your child could be abducted and taken to some far away building is horrifying. And not only that but it is an abduction that you must sit by and witness because you are required by law to hand over your children or fear stiff penalties. In fact, you are required by law to pay extra taxes to support the livelihoods of the abductors who steal your child away. While your child is away, she will be locked up and forced to sit for hours with other abducted children and listen to value discussions of morals, ethics and religious ideas that are not their own and to be driven to intense levels of boredom and tedium by droning lecturers who refuse to let them get out of their chairs except for five minutes an hour to move to another room to be tortured further. Of course by now you recognize that we are talking about the public school system. It's absolutely phenomenal that we subject our youth to this kind of torment day after day for the majority of their childhood and teenage years. And then we wonder when they become bitter, angry and rebellious children when we as parents refuse to protect them from this kind of abuse. It is all done under the guise of "education". And we would be able to accept that definition if the children all emerged from this system highly educated, equipped with both life and vocational skills and ready to take on the world. But the truth is that the majority of the curriculum of the schools is meaningless and of no life value. It will still be up to you to teach your kids how to balance a checkbook, get and keep a job, write a respectable term paper and manage a household. To say the public school system is flawed and seriously out of touch with what society needs or what children need from the ages of five through eighteen is a gross understatement. But because having your kids go to public school is "the way it has always be done", we turn over the most precious thing in our lives, our own children, to an inept system that drives the love of learning from them, makes them dread every day they go there and produces a child that has to be totally reprogrammed to go on to excellence in college or in a career. It really is up to us as parents to change the situation. Now to get the public education system abolished or even to see any serious reform is probably beyond our ability as individual parents. But the law does allow us to find a better alternative for our kids. And that alternative often is a quality private school. The reason private schools have been so successful is because so many parents have, like you, become fed up with seeing their kids abducted each day for a system of education that the parents neither support or believe in. By moving your kids to a private school setting, you have a tremendous amount of control simply in what kind of school you pick for your child. Private schools are privately funded so if they do not live up to their promises to create a nurturing and productive learning environment and to teach the kids subjects that really matter, you can simply "fire them" and take your child to a different school or, worst case, teach them yourself via home schooling. Now we have no excuse. The private school movement is thriving and growing so the odds are that you have a diverse assortment of schools to choose from in your town. You can interview the alternatives and find a school that will protect and develop your child's natural love of learning. And when your child loves to go to school because you saved from the "abduction" of public school, you will be glad you made the effort to find a good place for them to get their education and a place they can find success and enjoyment in learning all at the same time. The Government Wants Private Schools to go Away When you are trying to make an objective decision about whether to make the change of putting your child in private school versus keeping them in public school, you need objective advice. So naturally you want to turn to objective leaders in the area of child and adolescent education to give you that balanced viewpoint that will help you make a wise choice for your child. Private school is expensive so you want to make sure that if you go that route, you are doing the right thing for your child and the better education and school experience will be worth the money. Traditionally we do look to the counselors and the leadership at the local public school to guide our educational decisions. But you might want to think twice about following the advice of people how are on the payroll of the government supported public school about whether you should pull your child out and enroll him or her in private school for the next semester. That is because these public school employees are far from objective and for the most part wish that private schools and home schooling would go away entirely. The reasons for the dislike of private schools by the administration of public schools is pretty easy to understand. The state pays each public school $7500 for each student who completes a grade level at a public school. That means that every breathing human they can pack into their schools means more money for their budgets. The explosion of popularity in home schooling and private schools has hurt the attendance levels at public schools significantly. So they will do all they can to discourage your decision simply because you are taking money out of their budget if your child doesn't warm a chair in their school. But the animosity toward private schools goes even deeper than just numbers and money. The truth is that even the best of public schools do a pretty mediocre job of educating the students in their care. This is a typical situation when a public service is handled by a government agency that functions as though it was a monopoly. You get that feeling from public schools that they think they are the only option you have so you have to jump through their hoops because there are no other schools and the law stipulates you have your children in school. But there are other options that public schools pretty much pretend are not there and those opinions are the dozens of quality private schools in your community. Almost without exception the quality of education that students get at private schools is noticeably higher than at public schools. Students do better, are happier and far more productive at private schools where the emphasis is on excellence and on the joy of learning as it should be. This distinction is an embarrassment to the public school system. And the more people that know that public schools are so inferior to private schools, the faster the private school phenomenon will spread which will only continue to drive the public school system out of existence. Furthermore because parents of students who are exceptional either academically or in terms of special talents and gifts commonly take such students to private schools where those talents can be nurtured and developed. This takes the best and the brightest out of the public school system and leaves "the rest". By learning these facts from objective sources, you can make a wise decision about whether to put your child in private school. And the chances are if you do make that change, you will be happier with the results and your child's years in the educational system will be so much better as well. The Dilemma of Finding a Good Christian School Christian people often feel a bit isolated in society. And for a Christian family, the decision about how to raise your children to be strong in the faith but still able to function in a world full of people of many religious views is a constant challenge. Probably one of the biggest decisions you may have to make that will have far ranging implications on the way your kids interact with the world and how they view their faith is whether to let them go to public school or take the step of putting them in a quality Christian private school where they can exercise their faith openly and without fear of ridicule or limitations. Christian parents are no different than any other mom and dad who are seeking nothing but the best for their kids. And when evaluating schools, the quality of education has to be the top consideration. Many times public schools do offer top notch programs simply because large public schools can afford to offer diverse programs and a strong curriculum of support activities including sports, theater and the arts. And if your son is gifted in basketball, football or swimming, many times public school is the only option if he has aspirations to work professionally in this field of athletics that God has gifted him. Socially your kids may also prefer to go to public school for the simple reason that many of their friends go there and to sequester them into a Christian private school may separate them from friends they have known for many years. Having a strong support group and peer network is one of the big factors that makes many young people happy and productive in their school environment. It is not unlikely that even other church kids with whom your child has grown close may be opting for public school because of the strength of the programs, not to mention the reduced costs to their parents. From a faith perspective, there is something to be said for allowing your kids to mix with students of many faiths or with students that have no religious affiliation at all. It is part of the Christian calling to be of a positive influence in the world and if your kids are strong in their faith and the joy of being raised with a strong faith comes out in their personalities, that can be a draw to Christianity for other kids who would benefit from the loving culture and the strong religious teaching your church offers. So the "evangelistic" considerations of keeping your kids "in the world" might also influence your decision on where they should go to school. The extent to which your child can exercise his or her faith at the school without fear of intimidation or harassment is also a factor in this decision. The culture of many public schools allows freedom of religion so the Christian kids can meet for bible study and prayer just as much as the children of other religions are welcome to gather and celebrate their faiths freely and in public as well. If this is the setting in your town's public schools, your kids may be able to abide peacefully in that community without difficulty. However, some communities and the public school cultures in those communities have become hostile to religious expression of any sort. You see how that plays out in a lot of schools where it gets so out of hand that students are actually prosecuted for simply gathering in a public space to discuss their faith or pray. This is not in truth a violation of the separation of church and state guidelines in the First Amendment but these communities use that concept to harass Christian kids. And if that is the culture at the public school level, that may begin of exodus of many Christian kids, including yours to quality Christian private schools in your area. Of course when considering that shift, the Christian private schools must also measure up academically and foster a culture where children of many denominations can gather and celebrate their shared faith equally and joyfully. But in such a school, prayer can be part of the daily life of class, bible study part of the curriculum and worship included in all assemblies. And this can be a tremendous blessing to your kids when they can enjoy their faith fully even while at school. Teaching Subjects or Teaching Students Teaching school is as much a calling as it is a job. And in fact when you review the teachers at the school where your child will be going, you will notice that the good ones are as much missionaries with a zeal for guiding young minds as they are people who come to work to perform a function. But there can be no question that what makes any school great whether it's the most expensive private school in town or a public school with overcrowded classes is the quality of the teachers who will be with your child for hours each and every day. For a teacher, deciding whether to go the public or private school route can be a tough decision. While the environment of every school is different, the calling of each teacher might be somewhat different. For teachers with a specific focus such as in music or art, to teach in a private school devoted to that niche of education is ideal. But many teachers seek to educate young people in a general area of knowledge such as math or english feel called to teach but the subject matter isn't as crucial. And for this type of teacher who thrives on larger classes and on taking disinterested students and transforming them into devout scholars, the public school setting is a good choice. For parents evaluating schools, if you sit in on classes and are able to watch teachers work with their students, you can learn a lot just seeing that interaction and observing the body language of the teacher and how they present themselves to the class. Much of the confidence and sense of creative presentation that comes from the best teachers reflects the relationship between the school itself and the teacher. Many times in a public school situation teachers can become so burdened with rules and stipulations that come down from the state and pertain to student behavior, safety guidelines and other non academic items that, while important, can dilute the pure relationship between teacher and subject and student. So if you see a teacher who is having success establishing rapport with the students and engaging them with personality and humor in the subject at hand, you may be witnessing a public school administration that made it a point to make the purpose of each classroom to be about education and that is reflected in teacher attitudes as well. This is rare in the public school arena, but it happens. This is not to say that every private school is staffed 100% with creative and inspiring teachers. So it's a good idea to evaluate several teachers in any school because, as in any profession, there are good ones and bad ones. One question you can ask while observing any teacher in action might be, "Is this teacher teaching the subject or teaching students." The difference is the attitude that teacher has toward students. Teachers who love their subject and are just looking for loyal students to absorb their wisdom do not interact with the young people as much. But teachers who are true educators are fascinated with the learning process in students and love the interaction between student and teacher. You can tell if the instructor likes students and the affection is two ways by watching the body language of teacher and students. If there is a lot of eye contact, frequent smiling and laughter and there is a genuine joy in the room, that is a teacher who was put on this earth to be doing this one task. And that is the kind of teacher you want your child to learn from. While you are more likely to encounter this kind of teacher in the private school setting, these are the real gems that make any school they work in great. But if you find one particular school where this is the kind of teacher you meet the most as you review classes, that reflects that in addition to teachers who are all about education and all about making great students, you have also found a school that from the administration on down is devoted to taking young people and making them wonderful scholars and lovers of knowledge. And when you find that school, make it your child's home because that is the place to be. Who Holds the Schools Accountable? Perhaps the biggest difference between public and private school is the system of accountability. Children know all about being held accountable. Not long after they leave behind infancy, children learn that virtually everybody is going to hold them accountable for something or another in almost every situation they will be in. And they become little experts at meeting the expectations of adults, even if it's just surface fulfillment of the requirements and not a genuine accountability. But the truth is that all of us are held accountable to fulfill our responsibilities. Jobs hold employees accountable. In marriage, the husband and wives hold each other accountable to live up to the marriage vows. Even businesses are held accountable by customers. If the business fails to live up to the expectation of the customers, they will go out of business and not make any money any more. Responsibility and accountability are the core of what makes us tick as people and by extension what makes institutions work the way they are supposed to work to serve the needs of the public. Accountability means that someone somewhere is going to judge you on your performance. If you are performing well, you are rewarded. If you are not performing well, you are punished, corrected or dismissed. It's not a hard system to understand and your children understand it in depth. In school, children are held accountable every day. Not only do they have to live up to behavior expectations in class, they must participate in lessons, be part of lesson related activities and do homework and take tests and get good grades to be rewarded with a high grade average to take on to the next grade and eventually to college. But who holds the schools accountable to do the jobs they are required to do? This is the fundamental difference between public and private schools. Private schools are quite simply held accountable by the parents of the children who attend that school. Now in every private school, there is an internal system and structure to execute accountability on a daily basis in the form of the school administration and the principle. But ultimately if the school is not living up to the promises it makes to the parents who pay what are often high fees for that education for their children, those parents can pull their kids out and go elsewhere. So a private school lives under the laws of the marketplace which keeps other businesses working correctly. They can be fired by parents so it pays for them to listen to parents, to keep parents informed and to make sure that at the end of the semester, the quality of education and the educational experience the kids had was top notch. Public schools on the other hand are not held accountable by parents. They are held accountable by the government. And as we all know from watching how well our politicians behave, the government is pretty awful at holding anybody accountable for anything. So the public school systems and the schools in your town learn quickly how to "just get by" on satisfying government requirements and those requirements have precious little to do with the educational experience of your child or of your expectations as parents. Now the public schools will put on a pretty good show that they want the input of parents and that they want to be accountable to parents. That is because you as a parent have two very potent weapons at your disposal that can hurt the school if they don't convince you that they are living up to expectations. You can vote and use politics to make the government live up to its job. Or you can take your child out of the public schools and take them to a school that will be responsive to your needs and expectations. One system is bureaucratic and based on government oversight which almost never works. The other is based on the laws of the marketplace and driven by satisfying consumer need. That system is the private school system and the consumer is you and your child. And while the private school route is more expensive, by patronizing the system that works and that will be ultimately accountable to you, you are voting that the public system doesn't work so maybe someday the government will fix it. But we aren't holding our breath for that. When Schools Turn into Spys What do you pay the school to do for your child? You pay the school to educate your child. You pay them to teach them the fundamental skills in life such as mathematics, history, language, logical thinking, public speaking, government and civic responsibility and perhaps in the arts as well. Of course, when it comes to public schools, we don't pay them directly. But you pay taxes that eventually goes toward keeping the schools operational and paying the administrators and teachers. So, even though with the government is standing in the middle of the relationship, the schools fundamentally work for you. But somehow over time, things have gotten turned around and schools have taken it upon themselves to be the bosses and judges of society and even of the parents of the children who attend the schools. It all starts with resentment. Schools very commonly not only develop a dislike for parents, they devise elaborate systems to keep things from you and to keep you out of the business of running the school. You know the feeling you get when you come to parent teacher conferences or, God forbid, you start poking your nose into what is going on at your child's school. The message is delivered to you quite strongly to go away and leave the running of the school to the administrators and teachers and quit asking so many questions. If this all doesn't seem just a little insidious to you, it should. When you hear horror stories about bad people who seduce children or young people, one of the first lies they tell the children is that what is going on is "our little secret so don't tell your parents." Well, that is the same message your children are getting from the schools who take care of them and if you start poking your nose into what is happening at school, you are blocked from getting very far. But if that wasn't bad enough, public schools also take it upon themselves to pry into the private lives and the moral, ethical and religious values of your kids. Of the many reasons why the private school movement in this country has taken off so strongly, this is one of the biggest causes of people pulling kids out of public schools. Somehow, the public schools have started a practice of turning children against their parents and even using children to spy on the parents under the context of trying to flush out child abuse. They turn children into little reporters so if you discipline your child in any way, that can get back to the school who can find a way to call it child abuse and take over the situation. The situation is nothing short of criminal. Part of the blame is a governmental system that is functioning outside of it's authority attempting to control the lives and behavior of private citizens. And part of the blame is that dislike and disrespect schools have of parents. At some point along the way, the public schools decided, even if they never say so, that the kids belong to them and that parents are the enemy. We have at our disposal ways to shut down government spying being done through the schools and through our own children. And that way is to take out kids out of public schools and put them in private schools who have respect for parents and live under parental authority, not the other way around. And if we will take advantage of this resource, public schools may get the message that they work for us and they better learn to live under that authority or they can be shut down too. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic There seem to be a lot of reasons for sending your child to public school depending on who you talk to. From the kid's perspective, school is a chance to get out of the house and maybe have some fun with friends. And one of the values of sending a child to a social setting for school rather than going the home school route is it gives your child the chance to develop social skills which are almost as valuable as the academics. But when it comes right down to it, for most parents, the central reason to send a child to school is for them to learn the basics of the subjects being taught which includes history, art, government, social studies, foreign language and yes reading, writing and arithmetic. If the school is successful at this one task, then anything else is secondary or lower on the priority list. Not only do you want your child to come out of each class with a good grade which builds up a good GPA in preparation for college, you want your kiddo to come out with a mastery of the subject. And if they can come out with a love or passion for each subject area, that is a tremendous bonus. This is why it is maddening how little public school seems to focus on teaching. You can go to a parent's assembly or parent conference and go for much if not all of the meeting and hear nothing about the basics of the academics of what is going on at that school. In fact, if you dare to interrupt such a meeting to talk about the actual mission of school which is to give the children education in subjects, you often feel like you just introduced some form of obscenity to the discussion. The emphasis in public school is far too often on behavior, conformity to the structure of school or on moral or ethical "lessons" the school likes to teach. The notifications you get from the school about your child are almost always about behavior and conformity and if you talk to the "teachers" at public schools, this is where their passion lies. It's as though the challenge of keeping 20-30 wild students tame and working within the structure of the school system has become the passion of the school far more than teaching students the subjects at hand is. The sad thing is a lot of the time, the schools can distract parents and even students to where each and every day the entire focus of being in school is about obeying the system. Children are the first to notice that they seem enslaved to a system designed to only teach them how to be enslaved to the system. To break this cycle of wasting your child's time on discipline and conformity training, private school is often the best route. The very reason may private schools spring into existence comes from the frustration parents have felt about getting the public schools to provide real education for their kids. So by establishing a private school, the founders made it a priority that the classes would be about teaching and about enabling students to learn and excel at academics. What a relief it would be if when your child came home from school and you asked "what went on at school today?" you got a laundry list of academic areas of focus that your child is being taken into by the teachers of her school. This would be a breath of fresh air after hearing daily moaning about the discipline and lectures public schools give your kids with no interest in academics at all. And if we can find a school that goes back to that core value of reading, writing and arithmetic, that would be a school sending your child to go to every day, even if it is a greater cost. It's worth it if your child is really learning and if the school is actually doing its job of teaching. On Not Letting School Administrators Push You Around If you have found yourself outraged, frustrated and feeling a little paranoid about guiding how your child is educated in public school, don't be surprised because you are not alone. In fact, the only parents that don't have this sensation are the ones who send their kids blindly off to public school with little concern about what is being taught there and accept the curriculum without question because it's "what they are teaching at school." Perhaps at one time such blind acceptance of authority was considered noble. But this generation are not the kinds to simply accept that just because the school administration is a public institution, then they will always make the right decisions about how to educate our children. In fact, the very fact that public schools are government functions makes you suspicious that more likely than not they are making the wrong decisions and some amount of parental oversight is called for. The problem comes with the amount of leverage that parents actually have over public schools. And that amount of leverage is somewhere very close to zero. School administrators have parents in a spot and they know it. The public school system is set up in such a way that other than for the purposes of public opinion, schools don't have to answer to parents at all. Now just think about what that means. You take your precious children every day and turn them over to other adults for six to eight hours of day during which those adults are given the job of putting knowledge in your child's head. But there is no accountability for what they teach and if you determine that the school is abusing the privilege of caring for your child, except if it's a criminal situation, you have no power to stop or change it. There is no other situation in society quite like this one. And especially in this era of child abuse and our concern about the influence of others over our children, we continue to think nothing of the carte blanche power public schools have over the minds of our kids. So what can we do? Well the ultimate vote is our presence in the system. We don't have to submit to arrogance or tyranny if that is what we see happening in our public schools. The public schools are funded by the number of students in the school. So if you simply reduce that number by one or the number of children you have and take them to private school, not only do you capture a lot of control back, you send a clear message to public schools that they are not completely outside the parental control and judgment. Now we can only vote one family at a time. But if your public school system is abusing their privileges and not regarding your desires as parents, public outcry can raise the alarm and send a message to other parents that maybe its time for a mass exodus to private school. The threat of this kind of parent revolt is exactly what public school administrators don't want to see happen. They would love it if we would all be good public school parents and just send cookies and never meddle in what they are doing with our children's minds. But they are accountable to you and the leverage of your participation is powerful and will cause them to pay attention. It might take some media coverage, some citizens meetings in your living room and some organization but the system will respond if you care enough to make them listen. And even if they don't private schools are paid to listen so that might be a perfectly acceptable alternative as well. Money and Education We like to think of public education of our children as a pure science that is populated by people who are above the humdrum worries of life and live only for the joy of filling young minds with truth. But like anything else, schools do well or poorly largely driven by money. Now one of the justifications for government funding of schools is you take out of the educational process any graft or influence peddling by private interests. In theory if corporate interests or even wealthy individuals can influence the schools because of wealth, they could also dictate the curriculum and the "slant" the lessons might take and as such put a spin on the truth because the schools become dependent on the funding source. So, again in theory, our public schools should be above funding issues because tax dollars should pay for everything so no one political or cultural influence can set the agenda of what is to be taught in school. But that concept only holds up in theory, of course. If you spend any time in association with pubic or private schools, you know that money and education are intimately intermingled and there is plenty of influence going on all the time. At the public level, sports is one of the big factors that drives public education, particularly at the high school level. In big cities, the high school sport teams are often feeder schools to colleges who have a vital financial interest in recruiting the best high school players. So money flows from professional sports to the colleges and even to high schools to influence schools to pour a lot of time and money into their sports programs. The intense rivalry and interest in high school sports in your town reflects that emphasis. So what's the problem with loving sports? Nothing except that very often large high schools will divert huge percentages of their budgets to the sports program that only serves a fraction of the students of the school and those funds are taken away from academic and arts programs which suffer as a result. So while a hundred boys might benefit from a well run football program, thousands of students suffer with smaller classes, inferior classroom equipment and underpaid teachers because the sports teams get all the attention and the money. At the private level, money buys influence even more blatantly. While your tuition and fees do pay the basic bills of the school, private schools are entrepreneurial and ambitious so the more wealthy parents and parents who can put a lot of money into the school naturally find their way to the school board to make decisions about curriculum and the direction the school will take as an educational institution in the future. This means that well meaning parents who are not wealthy are not able to help the school stay focused on their primary calling which is to bring the highest level of education to the student body. The situation can also be aggravated at both the public and private school level when corporate interests get involved and you see corporate sponsorships of school programs resulting in subtle advertising occurring all around the campus. It sends a message to the students that the school can and has been bought and those corporate interests can have an influence over curriculum as well. As parents, it's your job to monitor the extent to which funding changes the quality of education of a school. At the public school level, you can voice your concern at school board meetings or in other public venues. But the ultimate proactive way to get an education for your child that is not tainted by financial influence is to leave the public school setting and seek a private school that has not succumb to those temptations yet. If you fund such a school, get involved heavily and do all you can via fundraising to try to minimize the influence of wealthy individuals and corporations so the school that is there to serve your child can do so without the burden of influence from the ones that pay the bills. When Fear is a Part of Life at School You can probably think back on some of your favorite classes when you was growing up and going to school. And when you think back fondly on that class, how would you describe the atmosphere of the class and the motivation system that was used by the school and by the administration to get you to achieve and excel? The odds are if that class is one you remember as inspirational and one of the favorite times you had in school, the relationship with the teacher was relaxed, creative and affectionate. And the one emotion that you no doubt never felt in that classroom was fear. We brought this topic up with that illustration because it is really amazing how often fear is the center of the culture at many schools where the objective is to inspire students to learn. This is particularly true in public schools. The culture of public schools very often becomes overwhelmed with the need for order and the strict stipulations for student attendance and tracking put on the school by state regulations. The outcome is the administration of the school often lives in fear of failing in one of these many state level requirements for fear of losing funding or some other form of punishment. And that fear is passed along to the students. Fear is also a culture of a school that is overcrowded. The simple fact is that even if the teacher of a particular course is creative and loves being with students and filling their minds with the joy of learning, if you overwhelm that teacher with more students than he or she should reasonably have in class, the emphasis of the classroom shifts from learning to keeping order. And when that change of priority takes place, fear is the primary tool used to maintain order so the information can be presented to the students. Sadly, if students are in that room after being intimidated and threatened, even the best of student will close his or her mind to learning. If you are a parent and you sit in on a class to see how well the craft of teaching is carried out, you come away with the misperception that the class was well run if the students sit quietly staring forward while the teacher lays out bland information for them to adsorb and write down. If young people sit quietly and do not interact with the teacher, they are doing so out of fear. And fear is one of the worst teaching tools there is. Private schools have the opportunity to create a better learning environment for their students because traditionally private schools have a lower teacher to student ratio so interaction is encouraged and fear is not needed to maintain order in the classroom. But even then to foster an atmosphere of discussion and learning, you must have teachers who are talented at leading group discussions, who write their curriculums to include interaction as a teaching tool and who are not afraid of the students. Fear goes two ways in a school situation. If the student body is frightening to ach other, very often they are also frightening to the teachers. This is the setting where gangs develop in school cultures or where the culture of student life deteriorates to where troubled students can impose fear on others. In this day and age of school shootings and other violence related campus outbreaks, if the school allows that kind of culture to grow up, it is very difficult to get it under control. And just as fear from the top down destroys the love of learning, fear from the student body up destroys a teachers ability to communicate his or her love of the subject matter openly and leads to dull and uninteresting classrooms which only makes matters worse. As with controlling fear due to overcrowding, private schools also have the edge in controlling fear coming from the student body. Private schools are not required to keep any students that they don't feel fit the culture of the school. Each and every parent and student sign contracts agreeing not to become disruptive in action, dress or attitude and what is disruptive is left to the school to determine. So private schools can remove students who are a threat and with their removal, the fear of harm goes as well. They Want to Drug Your Child! Anyone who has an interest in what is going on in the world of children's health has noticed the explosion of medications and diagnosis of children with ADD, ADHD, Asperger syndrome or Autism. Does is strike you as strange that all of a sudden a huge percentage of otherwise normal and healthy children are being diagnosed with these dire diseases and schools and their associated medical counterparts are prescribing all manner of strange sounding drugs to "fix" these problems? When we were growing up, just because a kid didn't sit still in class, the teacher didn't scream that the child had some disease and demand that he be drugged. But that is exactly what is happening to thousands of children in public schools all over this country. And at some point, it's up to parents to stand up and say, "STOP. You are not going to keep pumping drugs into our kids just because you can't control your classrooms." If you were to make that kind of statement to a school on behalf of your own child, you would face tremendous amount of pressure to have your child tested medically for one of these "behavioral diseases" so the medical community can cooperate with the schools and prescribe Ritalin, Concerta, Paxel or one of the other common behavior control drugs. Schools have a fair amount of leverage over us when it comes to forcing us to drug up our kids. Because these diagnoses are supposedly backed up by medical experts, the schools can maintain that you must comply and get your child on medication or be guilty of child neglect or abuse. Because you are required by law to have your child in school, the school knows that the threat of holding a child back, expelling them or putting them in special needs classes each holds a terror that works very well at getting parents to play along with their plan. Now this is not to say that there are no children who are not good candidates for such medication. But the use of these drugs is be pushed for such a big percentage of children that its easy to see that what is going on here is nothing short of criminal. There are plenty of reasons to believe that neither the schools nor the medical "experts" who peddle these drugs are being objective about what your child really needs. One big clue that your child is not a chronic problem is if he or she is perfectly happy and social at home and the problems only occur at the school. That tells you that the problem is with the school, not with your child. We teach our kids to say no to drugs. So it's about time we also taught our schools to say no to the idea of drugging up our kids just so they are more pliant in the classroom. The first thing to do is to take the teeth out of their threats to hold your child back or otherwise punish you or your child. And that can be done by researching your private school options. It might sound harsh but unless your child's pediatrician that you know and trust have independently diagnosed your child with one of these behavioral problems, the minute the school tries to put that label on your child, it might be time to go. The last thing you want is to give the public school the leverage to threaten you and try to get away with it. And if they begin to loose students because of these threats, maybe they will get the message that parents don't want their kids pumped full of drugs and that we want our children to learn with all of their mental and emotional faculties fully alive each and every day of their lives. The Rights of Parents Sometimes it seems that once you drop your children off at the door of the school that your rights as parents seem to disappear. This is one of the most disturbing things about sending your child off to school and to public school in particular. In many subtle ways, the school seems to send the message to you that you should go home and bake cookies and not meddle in what is going on in that school. And many parents just blindly accept that implied relationship as long as the children come home relatively happy and seem to be passing so they can move on to the next grade. But we, as parents, must remember that at no time does anyone have the ability to take away your right to know what is going on with your child and what he or she is being taught. You gave birth to those children and pour all of your love and caring into them so they will be able to reflect your values and grow into good, responsible people with the values of their parents. Just because it's time for the kids to go to public school, all of that caring and parenting you put in doesn't go out the door. We do not live in a dictatorial state where we turn over our kids to the state to be raised to be good little soldiers and echo whatever state driven dogma they are being taught at school. And while this depiction of what goes on at school is a bit harsh and overly dramatic, you do have the right to question what is being taught at your children's schools and object to any "indoctrination" that may be going on. The first line of defense that you as a good parent may have equipped your child with is the right to question authority in a respectful way. Now some of what is being taught is cut and dried facts that there is no reason to question. We know algebra works, basic physics have been proven and history, for the most part, is history. But there are other subjects that are more speculative. Much has been made in the last few years of subjects or approaches to subjects that have been promoted at public schools that amount to opinion or a political or religious orientation that is not the school's right or responsibility to promote. So if you have taught your child they have the right to disagree with opinion or speculative teaching and they get in trouble for disagreeing with the school authorities, you are well within your rights to come to their defense. Schools do attempt to keep parents out of the daily operation of the school simply because to have hundreds of parents getting involved in the classrooms would be chaos. And when we turn out kids over to the school to conduct classes, the implied contract is that we will give them the leverage to conduct those classes without us getting underfoot. But that does not pass all of your rights as a parent to control both the environment of where your child will spend the day and the slant that the school may be putting on the teaching that is taking place. You have the right to be an active parent and look over the books and the syllabus of what your child is being taught. You have a right to know if what is being taught is grounded in fact or is theory and speculation so you can monitor if there is any "indoctrination", however subtle, that is taking place. The public schools will resist your efforts to stay informed and to exercise your right to know what is going on down there. They do that based on the faulty assumption that you have no alternatives. But you do have choices. You can always take your child out of public schools who are overstepping their rights and put them in private schools who will respect your wishes, your viewpoints and the rights of your children to a good education based on facts, not opinions and conjecture. So let's keep in mind that we do have resources to turn to if the school our children are in will not take parents rights into consideration. By using good old market pressure on the schools, we can keep them honest and doing a good job for our kids.
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