7.19.2004

samsara

After reviewing...oh, I dunno...thirty? forty?...private school websites today (for work, I swear) I have come up against one unassailable question again and again: do that many people really have that much money? How can there be that many people in the world who can afford to shell out $10,000 to $20,000 per year to send their kid to elementary school? I know there are scholarships but even so, you have to figure that some large proportion of the parents of those students are paying nearly full price. I also wonder if the education they are receiving is worth that much money. Or is it less a question of the education per se and more of a social determinate, a class system: I went to Taft vs. I went to Mifflin? Not to get reverse-hoity-toity (whatever that means), but I can proudly say that I attended Columbus Public schools back when bussing was in effect and kids fashioned bong equipment in Industrial Arts, cannibis brownies in Home Ec., blunts in the bathrooms, joints in gym, reefers during recess, jammed fake quarters in the one snack machine, drove their 1985 Reliant K-cars over the concrete barriers to beat the school busses to the traffic light, rode Schwin 10-speeds to Speedway to get candybars before practice, and lugged our beat-up band instruments home on foot rather than stuffing them in the trunk of daddy's 5-series. Sure, there were wealthy kids at public school, but that was because they sold several grams of heroin during and after school and were 22 years old. Our textbooks were crap, our teachers were overworked and many didn't care anymore. (My 12th-grade English teacher, for instance, had as many days on vacation as she did in class.) We only had two AP classes offered: Calculus and Runnin' from the Cops. We didn't have an equestrian team or a lacrosse team or a water polo team. We barely had a football team. Despite all those obstacles, you can't hardly say my ejukashun weren't purty dang good. Plus not every kid was rich + white. And if there's one thing I learned at the $20,000 per year private liberal arts college I graduated from, it's that rich + white = bad.

6 Comments:

Blogger Joshua said...

zena has talked about this too-- she went to inner city public schools, came out not too screwed up. but she was also terrified to go to school, knows almost no math, and had terrible psychosomatic stomachaches on sunday nights, so there you go. plus, we're finding that the rules change completely when you've got a disability.

rich + white = privileged, which doesn't necessarily mean bad, although it sure seems to end up that way a lot. dallas willard points out that if we embrace poverty for its own sake, we don't actually reduce the amount of money out there that will come under somebody's control, we just abdicate the right to choose whether that person will be a good person or a bad person. if it's under our control, we can direct it to the purposes of furthering the kingdom of god; if it's not under our control, we can't.

7/20/2004 8:47 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

i just realized that the above post looks like i'm advocating private school. we're actually looking at public school for mazz and abe. z is going to a conference tomorrow to learn what michigan law says about children with disabilities, so that we can be informed advocates for mazzy's public schooling. it looks like a jungle, but taking your kids out of public school has serious repercussions on the disadvantaged, who will then have to deal with school districts crippled by lack of funds due to declines in enrollment, support, etc.

7/20/2004 8:51 PM  
Blogger e said...

jnf, you've hinted at what Neil Postman used to say about the value of public school: namely that public schools are there not simply for the individual student or their families but for the 'public,' the 'nation.' Meaning, specifically, that having a student like Maz in school helps the rest of us learn in some small way. I know that when the ESL program for Columbus Public was moved to my high school, that I saw more Russians, Croatians, Koreans, Iranians, and Argentineans than I had ever seen before (or since). They were all speaking their own languages and at the same time trying to fit in with the 'Americans.' It was the 'melting pot' ideal at it's best, or worst, depending on how you feel about cultural assimilation.

At the same time, it seems like some of the people who need cultural exposure the most--i.e., the children of the wealthy who will themselves probably be the CEOs and lawyers and politicians and 'leaders; of the future--have the ability to enclave themselves away from diversity in the socio-economic sense. Which, of course has the added affect of making all of the other schools, public and parochial, an enclave of one socio-economic type too.

7/21/2004 7:58 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

yeah, money allows you to have an "everyone should have to use it, except me" attitude toward the public schools, which cripples the public schools' utility and creates the education ghetto. socioeconomically separate but equal. or really, let's just say it, unequal.

7/21/2004 11:03 AM  
Blogger brad said...

This is an interesting post. I read it and feel divided by a temptation to feel bitter and a reality-gut check which says that bitterness is the fruit born from absolutely missing the point.

So what is the point that we as a few of the Christians God is raising up for His Kingdom should bear in our lives in this scenario?

I have to reinforce Josh's comment that rich+white = privileged, not bad is the formula. By any standards outside of our own intellectual enclaves, we are the rich, white folks in that formula and feeling "bad" or bitter about that misses the point.

We also said that this privilege, our privilege, is used generally for the purpose of inequality. I have to again assess why I feel divided by that statement. So since I'm talking off my ass here, what does "equality" look like; where are we seeking unity? What is rich and poor (ie, privilege); is it essentially economic? What is the ideal use of privilege, generally; is it asceticism, power-mongering, or some third-way?

7/22/2004 12:41 PM  
Blogger brad said...

E, I always love your titles, man? What does "samsara" mean?

7/22/2004 12:42 PM  

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