A million years ago, when my children were in school, I used to worry about a lot of things concerning their education. We lived in Manhattan and although we were not poor, we had to dip into savings to afford their tuition. When it came time for our daughter to enter Pre-K, we were forced to analyze our options.
We knew that the public school we were zoned for had metal detectors and not a very good reputation for the quality of the education. We also knew that just a few blocks away (but not our district) was a highly rated public school that had some very affluent families who participated in fundraisers, giving the school many resources other public schools lacked. That public school remains a highly coveted place to enroll children.
I knew of families whose children went to the school even though they lived in our district. It seemed odd to me and my curiosity was aroused once when one of the mothers bragged about how she used her grandparent’s address to enroll her child. I thought about that a lot then and often since. My propensity towards following the “rules” judged this behavior as wrong but I didn’t want to lose a friendship so I always kept quiet. As the years went by, I saw many many more examples of bending rules to improve offspring chances. I don’t blame anyone but still, I think it is not fair to people who don’t have the resources or the ethical ambiguity required to carry this out.
My children were homeschooled. It was a decision we made not because we were extremely religious folk or against traditional methods but simply because, after we made a 3,000 mile move to another country and we tried two different schools, it became apparent that our children could not do worse with their intelligent and willing parents diligently taking over (with a proper curriculum) the educational process. I am happy to say that our children were able to take their SATs far away from the States but in a legal way and apply to schools.
Were their scores outstanding? Hardly. But they were able to get into colleges in the U.S. which was always our goal. It became apparent after they were actually in their respective colleges that their fellow students did not always meet even average standards despite having spent their entire school life in some rather prestigious institutions.
When our child was attending college, we noticed a very high ratio of international students who couldn’t possible be there except that their families must have contributed vast amounts of money. At first, I didn’t want to believe it because I was in love with the college, but after several incidents came to light, it was impossible to ignore. My advice to my child was always the same: “Don’t judge what they are doing or what you are seeing, you go about your business and conduct yourself with the moral upbringing we expect of our family.”
It is mind-boggling to me that the recent college scandal involving so many, many people and institutions was not something the offspring (and beneficiaries) were aware of. I hope I speak the truth when I think and believe that my own children would not have accepted our interference with their admission process in this manner. Right now, the college application process and the fact that money is a huge part of whether there is success…makes me so happy that I have always kept my own counsel when making observations in writing or in conversation about education.
I am sad that youth today can trust no one to really have a decent moral compass.
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