So my friend (I certainly think of her as my friend, but I haven’t actually met her) wrote a post about public school. It’s here: http://www.dlmayfield.com/dl-mayfield/2017/5/13/the-most-common-good-some-thoughts-on-school-choice
My oldest kid is a year older than hers, so I’ve had a few more years than her in public school (not just one, because we did preK and kindergarten). It’s hard to believe but we are finishing up our fourth year in public school. [I am old.]
When I say that public school has been a blessing to us, I mean I am kinda freaking out about having to make lunch every day for five of us this summer. I mean that our school has Black teachers (2/3 of my kids have them) and Black administration and my children get to see Black women and men at work, and especially for my girls, see Black women they can think about growing up to be. I can’t model the kind of adults my children will grow up to be (thank you broken sinful world), but I can send them to the failing public school down the street with all the other black and brown kids and there they’ll find men and women besides their dad who look like them and can lead them and teach them. I mean that I’ve been able to send my oldest three to all-day preK, and it has been so good for them.
Our school has a handful of families that probably don’t speak English at home. We aren’t just bursting with languages like D. L.’s school is. We are a struggling school. The most recent test scores I’ve seen, we were last in reading and close to last in math in our district. But my 2nd grader is reading at an 8th grade level and my kindergartner, who couldn’t read when school started in the fall, is reading at a second grade level. And my preK kid, who while verbal enough to get his needs met, didn’t care about talking that much when he started, will now tell you all sorts of stuff AND recognizes color words. He’s not reading per se, but he knows those sight words. Obviously, these are my kids so they are the smartest kids in the world, but I’m not working extra with them (or reading to them all the time don’t tell anybody). All we did was put their little ready brains in school, and their teachers have done an amazing job of reaching and teaching them as well as the students who might not be as …fortunate as my kids.
And the compassion our teachers have…I don’t even feel equal to describing it, so I will just say that I wish you could come talk to our teachers (*cough* who went to school and studied education *cough*). As one of them said, “I just pray a lot.” Like D. L., I grew up home schooled and hearing all the “they took God out of schools” rhetoric, but four years in public schools have convinced me that for many of the educators who continue on in these really difficult situations and schools, their chief source of strength is the power of the Holy Spirit. And He is there not just because of their faith, but also because of all those verses D. L. mentions that show God’s heart for the poor. I’m not trying to say that every public school teacher loves Jesus because we know that’s not true. What I am trying to say is that Jesus loves every single kid in public school, and perhaps especially the ones in “failing” or “low rated” schools, the ones that your Realtor will steer you away from [I will note that selling a house in a not-so-great school district is no fun].
And if Jesus loves the kids in our public schools, maybe we should act like we love them too. If you live in the United States, you are connected to an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you are connected. Some of your tax money goes to them, though depending on where you live, probably not enough of it. I won’t add to the links D. L. listed, which you should totally check out, but I would just ask that no matter what you choose to do with your kids’ education or even if you don’t have any kids, please start thinking about that elementary school a few blocks away as “your school.” Start to pray for it. There’s a discrete group of families right there that need your prayers. When allergy and cold season hit, drop off some large packs of tissues.
And I’m just gonna poke the elephant in the room really gently: please please please make sure your educational choices aren’t accidentally made from submerged racism. And not just your educational choices, but where you buy your house. I know that all goes together. I read a twitter conversation that I’m sorry I can’t link to but it talked about how houses as wealth make it important for some schools to be better than others — if all the schools are equal, everyone’s house values will stabilize, and there won’t be hot neighborhoods or a lot of appreciation. Guess who loses in that situation! That’s right! It’s the black and brown kids whose parents don’t have the generational wealth that makes it easy to buy houses in the “nice” neighborhoods. I know I’m a pastor’s wife and you may wonder why we aren’t sacrificing everything to get our kids in Christian school…well, as stated before, God is at work wherever his people are, and there’s lots in public schools. But also, I’ve heard about non-white people’s experience in Christian schools. I’m sure I’ve BEEN part of the problem the four years I was in private high school. If my kids have to be made to feel like they are different from their classmates, I’d rather it be because they are Christians at a public school, not because they are brown kids at a Christian school.
D. L. talks about being ruined, and that’s how I feel too. Once you know, you can’t look away. And it’s a lot easier to care if it’s your kids at those schools, too, but I’m asking you to care even if it’s not. I want you to look with me.