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I teach at a public school, that's why I'm sending my daughter to a Catholic high school

This was actually said to me by the mother of one of the tigling's yearmates in the supermarket this afternoon. WTF?

Apart from the distraction that I'm pretty sure she's a teacher's aide rather than a teacher (so why tell me a fib?), this attitude is important. It's one that I'm seeing more and more from the middle-class suburbanites around me, coupled with horror stories about the gangs and criminal parents at the local State high school. Obviously, if all the educated and socially-aspiring families opt out of public education, we'll end up with public schools that are even more underfunded and unable to provide their students with all the facilities that a parent could wish. I wonder how many of these parents realise they're buying into just another example of white flight type hysteria.

I went to an inner city high school open night this week, looking at a high school for the tigling, and was very impressed with the facilities. The tigling's eyes were popping at the art rooms, she was thrilled by the science lab demos, and the band made her sax-playing fingers tap. And they support girls playing rugby (her most recent dream). This public high school has matriculation results equal to the best private and selective schools.

I realise that not all public high schools are as well resourced as this one I visited, but if people were committed to public education instead of making life even more financially difficult for themselves by running away from it to fees-based schools, more and more of our public schools could be like this one. More of our public high schools are safe, supportive, enhanced environments than most critics and rumourmongers would credit - they just can't be bothered going to take a look.

Some great posts this week about public vs private/"independent" schooling at Crazybrave and Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony.


ThirdCat said...

Yes, I know. It is truly bizarre.

Our assistant principal sent her children to a private boarding school, and her son (now a university student) was turning the sausages at our sausage sizzle the other week saying 'best thing she ever did'. I don't understand it.

Vicki said...

We should be a little careful in distinguishing between the individual and the general. In general, I totally agree with tigtog; my children graduated from public schools in the US, in a blue-collar suburb of a small city. They entered very selective universities and carried with them a semester's worth of college credits that they'd earned in this high school. I think a lot of parents sell their local schools short without even examining what's available.

But when it comes to individuals, in the end only the parent and child know what's best for the individual child. Maybe a boarding school was the best choice for these children, for reasons that aren't being disclosed. When my kids were looking at colleges, my elder chose a small, intellectually demanding, nurturing women's college and has blossomed there. My younger chose a large, urban state university with a good academic reputation, and has loved every minute of her first year. Looking back, I can see that the elder might have done better in a smaller high school environment, as well.

In the end, we can only do what's best for our kids, with their individual learning styles and personalities.

tigtog said...

Certainly there are some kids who would do better in smaller schools than the average public high school. The story of the assistant principal reminds me of my senior high school years in a small country town, where one of the boys in my year was the principal's son.

It was bad enough being a blow-in (versus born-and-bred) in that school without being the principal's son too. He wasn't exactly shunned, but it was difficult for him. He would have been much better off sent to a boarding school, really - he could have just been himself rather than his father's son.

So I can see that in some cases the choice makes a lot of sense. But in Australia we've gone from something like only 10% of kids in independent schools (mostly select boarding or Catholic) to about 30% of kids in independent schools (lots of small religiously-affiliated independents) in not much more than a decade. That's not measured individual choices, that's suburbanite flight, and as Vicki suggests, I don't think most of the parents even give their local schools a chance.

ThirdCat said...

Yes, I do see Vicki's point. And my parents were both teachers (and principals) and we lived in a country town (blow-ins not born and bred) and certainly my brother found it difficult. Actually, I desperately wanted to go to a boarding school - I believed all those stories about the midnight feasts. But I still find it strange when public school teachers send their children to private schools.

Perhaps I take it too personally.

It's interesting what you said about white flight. I'm off to have some more of a think about it.

Mentis Fugit said...

Der Altester Sohn is in his second year at St Patrick's College and loving it. However, Catlick schools here are integrated with the state system, not private, and 'Stream is certainly not a place white flighters would find comfortable. Besides, it's far too affordable to be patronised by the right kind of people...

Anonymous said...

Then you get the other version. "I teach in a catholic high school and send my kids to a state school.."

Horses for courses. And I notice my friends sending their kids off to private schools and gritting their teeth when they come home with those strange drawly accents and demands to go skiiiiiing.

And I have friends who hated a particular private school and then sent their kids to the same one.

The best strategy, given everything, is to be able to send your kid to a top ranking government school. You will find parents who want their kids to succeed, who are just like you, and you have lot more money to spend so the whole family can go skiiiiiiing.

I did a bit of work many years ago at a government school that had once been very good but had fallen apart. (Among other things, the principal was on trial for sexually abusing children. There was a big influx of Lebanese and Turkish boys to the school who had a terrifying lack of respect for women teachers - some of whom were Chinese and physically small). The cohort of older kids who were academic were terrific - they were a group who stuck together and did their stuff and were admirably mature.

I think an important part of that story was that it was a single sex school - I think a single sex school that has gone bad may be worse than a co-ed.

A lot of Australian teachers work in London. They will tell you we ain't seen nuttin at all. Nuttin being one of the daily events.

tigtog said...

For clarification, I don't mean to diss the Catholic parochial school system. They've been doing it for a long time and are generally well integrated with the public schools around them, and certainly in Australia are happy to take in students of other faiths, asking only that they are respectful in chapel.

Where I see suburbanite flight is with the proliferation of independent religious schools of a conservative evangelical bent. It's a very effective way to ensure that your kids aren't schooled with the Muslims and Asian Buddhists/Confucianists if you send them to a school with a very literalist take on the Bible which would be an unwelcoming environment to children from non-Protestant backgrounds.

Anonymous, I'm not sure if you have an argument, but those were good anecdotes.

Melly` said...

I send my precious youngest daughter to private boarding school (yes catholic)((oh the ex pays for it.. not me!)). I agree with anonymous on "horses for courses"? My baby is there simply because IT IS EASIER. Who is it easier for? Probably me. Definately the other kids still at home attending state school. For her? I have to let time judge that. But poop to the idiot condescending parents who want to try use crap like that to imply they have done better. In MY experience sending my baby to boarding school was horrid, scarey and stressful.

tigtog said...

When I was in my senior years of high school I totally longed to go to boarding school, but that was probably to do with being in a country high school where I knew I wasn't being challenged enough compared to my earlier urban high school, and also some domestic tensions I would rather have been spared. On vacation once we met a teacher from a boarding school in Melbourne who offered to go to bat for me regarding a scholarship, and I resented that my dad said no to even trying.

But at least I'd given my local public high school a chance before I wanted to leave it (and if Dad hadn't been transferred my previous school would have been more than challenging/supporting enough). What I see, as I said earlier, is that large segments of suburban parents are refusing to even look at their local public high school. That attitude is a real problem in terms of keeping the public education infrastructure funded.