This weekend, in a desperate attempt to find something--anything--to do that didn't involve squishing Playdough into our carpets, we visiting Packer, a local private school, for their annual "Pumpkin Patch."
Our main objective was to give Cheeky a chance to cram toothpicks into apples and squirt paint onto spinning paper, but the excursion had an unexpected effect on me.
As we walked through the wood-paneled halls of what looked like Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and stepped out into that rarest of Brooklyn spaces--a giant, leafy yard--I was caught up in images of Cheeky prancing down the halls, storing her lunch-pail in a little nook and learning from a caring teacher whose best friend isn't a talking monkey.
The snide egalitarian in me turned to Oodgie and sarcastically asked, "Doesn't pre-school cost $25,000 per year here?"
"No, pre-school is only $13,000 per year. Kindergarten is $25,000."
To put things in perspective, the MBA program at Stanford is only $20,000 per year.
There's absolutely nothing I value more than a quality education (not even nachos). It's so blindingly obvious to me that having access to caring teachers in a safe, nurturing environment is the key to long-term success in life that I'm perpetually astounded and enraged that it's not an inalienable right of every child in America. The sheer arrogance of schools espousing the values of personal growth and diversity but restricting admission to investment bankers and trust-fund babies turns me makes my head want to explode.
Metrodad wrote a thoughtful entry on this a few days ago (and curse you, Pierre, for yet again beating me to the punch on a topic I've been planning for a while) but he and I have somewhat different perspectives on this. He went to a private school and is consciously electing to send his daughter to a public school, for a wealth of very good and noble reasons. I'm a product of public schools, and although I came out freakin' great and have no real issue with sending Cheeky to one, I'm furious that in the eyes of the New York education establish I'm apparently an unwashed peasant, and I therefore have no choice.
I'm the first to admit that I'm a Marxist towards the 'elites' in our society, who (with a handful of notable exceptions) seem to be primarily skilled at being well-connected and making me want to punch them in the face. And our neighborhood is full of them! Everybody is sending their kids to one of the local private grade schools, which means all of Cheeky's "friends" will be heading off to places with the words "academy" and "institute" in the title while she's choosing between home ec and auto shop. Meanwhile, we're hearing rumors that there may even be a waiting list for the local public school.
We're looking into good Islamic schools just in case.
This whole thing has got me freaked out. I feel like we have to plan years in advance, bringing cupcakes to kindergarten administrators and wearing a shtreimel to interviews to impress the faculty. It's even raising the specter of moving to the suburbs just so we have a fighting chance of giving our child the education she deserves.
I whole-heartedly agree with MD that this whole mess would be better if public school teachers were paid something remotely resembling their worth. With all the money going into blowing other people up, I don't see that changing much in my lifetime, and certainly not before Cheeky's giving her valedictory speech at graduation. I'll do whatever it takes within my admittedly limited power to give Cheeky the best possible educational opportunities, and to compensate for what she lacks at school with the some first class tutoring at home.
It just infuriates me that it has to be this way.
Anyone have any words of encouragement or, better yet, vouchers?