My oldest son is in first grade. He’s goes to the school about a mile up the street. This school pulls from a fairly diverse socioeconomic area, but it’s predominately poor (well more than half the students are on the free lunch program). We bought this house when my wife stayed home so our income was about 60% of it’s current level, and that played a factor. As did our desire not to max out our income to buy a big house like most people. Given our incomes now I’d hazard a guess that we’re in the upper range of incomes for this school. I mention this because I found out tonight that a friend’s child, who is in 1st grade in a predominantly well off neighborhood, is getting a better education.
He comes home from school with homework every night (I don’t agree with this in 1st grade) but just this fact means that he is being presented with more possibilities. I also know that because they don’t have to spend so much time in the fall re-educating that they are at least 3 weeks ahead of my son’s school. Over 6 years of elementary school that adds up to another 18 weeks (4.5 months) of extra education.
I guess I’m not surprised by finding this out, really, but it’s still a concern. The theory behind public education is that everyone is to be educated the same. I knew it didn’t happen that way, but I didn’ think I’d have to experience it with my own children. It’s kind of a “well that happens to other people” problem.
We’re lucky in the regard that both of sons are exceptionally smart (in fact, troublingly so for their parents) and they are hungry for knowledge. So we spend a great deal of our time educating them about a lot of things that aren’t taught in schools and are things that most would consider above their age group.**
But I’m concerned about what they might miss out on that we aren’t teaching them and the teachers aren’t either. My son’s teacher is very open to assigning him extra tasks (and in fact he is like a little 1st grade teacher helping the other kids with their schoolwork as part of his extra work) but what if next year’s teacher isn’t? Or the one after that? What about all the kids who don’t have parents who push them? Already I’ve noticed a huge difference between his friends and him. How will that build over the years?
Should I even be that concerned about this? 10 years from now he’ll be 16. How many kids will still be in school at that point? Will a traditional education matter at that point? Will schools even exist then? Who knows. I don’t know, I guess sometimes when you are confronted with the ugly reality of that fact that even in something as simple and basic as education, all kids are not created equal, it just sticks in your craw a little. That’s what’s going on with me.
**My oldest son got in trouble in preschool for telling his classmates about Peak Oil and discussing what happens when they can’t afford to buy oil any longer. The teacher told him something like that wasn’t true. I assured him that it was a mathematical fact that it will happen sometime, we just don’t know when.