Obamas School Choice: Public or Private

Despite all the complications that come with sending First Daughters to a public school, I not-so-secretly hope that Barack and Michelle will pick public over private.

In Her Words

School House Rock the Vote

Why I vote for the Obamas (and maybe you) to pick public over private

-Megan Southwick

Sasha and Malia with Barack ObamaEducation is more than learning to read and write and do ‘rithmatic. If education came strictly from the books, countless teenage nerds would have had their first kisses long before they gave up their Nintendo 64s.

But the truth is, education is far more than the sum of learning your letters, grammar, algebra and the nitty gritty of cell biology.

Education is learning how to interact with the world around you, how to make friends, how to be compassionate, how to be aware and how to be self-aware – and public schools can teach our children all of these things in ways that private schools sometimes can’t.

My new adopted family, the Obamas, is currently in the process of deciding where to send sisters Sasha and Malia to school once they make the move to the White House. Despite all the complications that come with sending First Daughters to a public school (security being one), I not-so-secretly hope that Barack and Michelle will pick public over private for their girls.

I’m a public school kid who grew up with a privately schooled sibling; the differences in our education are vast. Our intelligence levels are no different – but what is different is the way in which we view poverty.  Our grades? Both top notch. Our prejudices? Mine are slim to none; his, very pronounced. These are just a few of the differences that I believe stem directly from the differences in our education. We both had the same parents, just very different schooling environments.

Kids who go to public schools are by and large exposed to a much wider slice of the population than private school kids - they might see rich kids, middle class kids, and the kids whose only meal of the day is the free lunch they get served in the caf. They see kids in the high-end clothes and those who got their coat from the giveaway bin at church. They see kids who have lived here their whole lives as well as immigrants, illegal and legal aliens, Latinos, Europeans, Asians … you get the picture.

Because of new (and oft-maligned) testing regulations, the emphasis in public school is on everyone being successful — so the students themselves have this feeling of having to work together towards a common goal of success. In order to raise test scores in their classroom, everybody has to be working together, they have to help each other — so whether they like each other or not becomes less important than the mutual collaboration to move the classroom forward. Even in little kids, who can’t articulate it yet, this atmosphere provides an experience that influences and helps form their view of the world and how they interact with it.

This experience, even when you have parents such as Michelle and Barack Obama, who have such a vast array of experiences of their own, is invaluable, and cannot be taught at home. It can only be learned through, well, exposure.

Tell us: how do you feel about public vs. private school?


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