Thursday, March 7, 2013

The State of Education

Over at Motherlode today, K.J. Dell'Antonia doesn't buy what Hope Perlman is selling. And as biased and immersed as I am in the New England academic scene, I totally agree. 

Hope Perlman doesn't believe parents who say they are not stressed out about the college application process:

      "Furthermore, I have dear friends who seem to agree with Levine. I’ve been in conversation with them about their college hopes for their children and they’ve looked me in the eye and told me they really, really don’t care if the college their child attends is prestigious, as long as it’s the right fit. And I’ve looked right back at them, impressed, but ultimately unable to believe they really mean it."

I'm sorry, Hope, but I, like K.J., really mean it. I was raised in a wealthy, academically-oriented town with one of the best public high schools in the state. Today, I teach at an academically accelerated New England middle school, in a town just a stone's throw from Dartmouth College, and I still really mean it. When presented with the range of ivy to state, I chose state for myself, all the way from kindergarten to graduate school. I reveled in my education (Dover-Sherborn High School, B.A., University of Massachusetts at Amherst and J.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Because I was self-directed, ambitious, loved learning, and was allowed to negotiate on my own behalf from an early age, I got so very, very much out of my education.

Consequently, these skills of self-advocacy are some of the most important skills I teach today in my middle school. I want to make sure my students will get what they deserve everywhere from Harvard University to Bunker Hill Community College. I was raised to fight for my right to take any damn class I wanted, opt for every extracurricular activity I could make time to attend, and a giant, intimidating, populated state university gave me just about every opportunity I could have hoped for. 

K.J. Dell'Antonia is absolutely right. Dollar for dollar, public higher education kicks private education's ass. With some solid skills in self-advocacy and the confidence to stand up for what you deserve, most public colleges will give their students what they need to be truly successful. 

Thanks, K.J. for the reminder. As I move toward my oldest child's college application process, I appreciate the perspective, the calming sentiments, and the dose of sanity. 

1 comment:

  1. Jessica,
    It's great to hear your story. As I mention in the piece, I definitely struggle with the question, but ultimately, I am trying to relax and trust my kids' decisions. My final comment to my daughter was to pick what she wanted for next year, and I would be fine with anything she chose. Now I'm trying to abide by my words.

    As for the quality of public higher education versus private, I imagine it varies from state to state. Budget cuts are a serious concern, especially when, at places like SUNY, the programs likely to get chopped are ones that I value highly, such as foreign languages and humanities courses in general.