Recently a friend asked me what I thought of the difference between public and private school is. Definitely there's the price tag issue. IF you can't afford private school it may seem like a moot point. However, there such things as scholarships and work study programs, and there are magnet schools and charter schools which while not exactly private might give your child a better education. Gone are the days when a college education instantly led to a higher paying position. The recession has taught us that many people with college degrees are both unemployed and underemployed. If you are going to go to college be sure and major in something like teaching or nursing that will lead directly to a job.
In addition, make sure your college debt doesn't make such a job a bad investment. For the same four years if you could learn how to be a paralegal you or a real estate broker, you should do that. A degree like my mother had, in American literature, is no longer a good idea unless you have the funds to complete a Masters degree. For her, she spent a good twenty years unemployed and underemployed while she was raising kids. Few women have that option today. They need to leave college with something they can use right away. Eventually my mother had quite a well paying job as a social worker. Her undergraduate education had taught her how to do research, how to listen to a lecture and how to take a test. It didn't give her much else. She really couldn't even teach with a teaching degree.
Private schools tend to have a school subculture where it's ok to be smart. Prep schools actively encourage kids to read and apply to colleges. Public schools have a guidance counselor who is supposed to help the kids get into community college, but the subculture is different. It is definitely hip to be dumb at public school. At the school where I subbed at, the kids were more interested in having sex than reading their homework. They would arrive at school dressed in overtly sexual clothes. I wasn't close to Hollywood per se, at least 70 miles north, but I was close enough that some of the kids had parents in the "biz" camera men, musicians, stunt men â and all of the that taught them it was more important to sleep with the right person, to be in the right place at the right time, to have connections â all rated more than having an education.
And who is to say they are wrong? Most of the jobs that are being created in this country are low paying jobs. Too much education can price you out of them. Nobody wants to deal with the college educated roofer, and let's face it, construction pays well. You can still support a family on what a licensed contractor makes. Few office jobs hold that potential. It used to pay well to have the skill of being able to translate. With the huge influx of foreign born residents in my area, it's now a low paying job to be bilingual. It is expected you grew up in an immigrant family if you can speak two languages. Receptionists, bank clerks, office workers everywhere from Bakersfield to Santa Clarita are minimum wage to be bi-lingual,
And there is the crime factor. In some places public school is just more dangerous than private school. It's not just gangs, bullies are bad too. It was my experience that too many kids are crowded into too small classrooms in public school and that puts everyone teachers and students alike in a bad mood. There is also a sense of depravation being normal, like people have just given up. No one is charitable, no one is nice, and that's "just how kids are." I hate that. It's like America has torn up its parent card in pursuit of designer jeans.
I look at teen age girls dressed in skanky clothes with thong underwear, visible above their jean's waist and I have to wonder, who is buying them these clothes? Then I meet a bevy of defensive, Botoxed mothers who insist their kid wouldn't "fit" in if they didn't let her dress like a sex worker. And gee whiz, if you try to get these kids to read a book or make a deduction their parents get so bent out of shape demanding to know why you are picking on their kid! So kids grow up thinking teachers are stupid and assignments are stupid, and the way people get ahead in life is the way it happens in Hollywood movies: some kind of MTV segue with music in the background and no real explanation how the kids in The Big Green went from being the worst in the league to winning against the mean spirited "best" team. Come to think of it that was the plot in the Mighty Ducks too, no wait, that was the plot in The Bad News Bears. At any rate, you get the picture. Hollywood makes a movie once every ten years with Meryl Streep as a violin teacher who stresses, practice, and it doesn't make much money so they quickly revert to the formula feel good feature films.
One of the perks of a private school is the connections your child may be able to make. If they meet up with children of the rich and famous, friendships may be cast which will help them their whole lives. That is even more true of getting into the right college. A small liberal arts college is pricey without much return these days. An Ivy League school on the other hand is pricy with quite remarkable return. The movers and shakers of tomorrow are attending those schools. Do you know even with an absolutely perfect SAT score, Harvard has more candidates to chose from than they have places! So having a relative as an alum is very beneficial.