I can’t claim to have an explicit link to LDS life with this post, but I think it’s topical nonetheless. There have been several discussions on this site about education– the various pros and cons of homeschooling, pre-schooling, small private colleges, etc.
So here’s my little contribution: Why does it matter? I may be in a minority of one on this, but I haven’t ever been able to figure out the difference, in the end, between a super-duper high-grade education and a low-end ride through a mediocre public school. Before you write me off, I wish to say that I am a huge fan of education. I loved learning from K through 20 (or some number like that, if you’re still counting grades through law school), and will forever be grateful to have been so enlightened by science, history, literature, etc.
But I’m not convinced there is that significant a difference of outcomes between the various forms and levels of education. I’ll give myself as an example. I went to Farmington Junior High School, in Utah, followed by Davis High. In case you’re unfamiliar with the state of public education in Utah, it’s supposedly abysmal. From what I hear, I got a very poor education. And yet, I seem to speak the same language as my friends who went to elite private schools in Potomac, Maryland. They got to BYU and found the curriculum far from challenging. That was roughly my experience as well. They went on to graduate programs that set them up for cushy jobs doing professional type things, and I did basically the same thing. So what’s the difference? Why were their many thousands of dollars so well-spent, and where did my bare-bones public education leave me in the lurch?
Right now, my wife and I are discussing the various pre-school options available to us in our new Salt Lake neighborhood. To some extent, there’s a bit of a social status game going on on Salt Lake’s East Bench, with one’s pre-school selection playing a bit part in the competition. I want no part in this. Further, I am still very ambivalent about spending loads of cash to buy my son access to a room full of toddlers learning fun things, where that basically describes my own childhood running around the neighborhood for free. Supposing I win out (I won’t), and Rex misses out on the fabulous pre-school experience– have I consigned him to a destiny of blue-collar futility? Why was that not my fate? And don’t tell me I’m a rare prodigy that somehow escaped the inevitable consequences of my troubled background– I’m not, and I know many others like me. Of course, we haven’t even begun the discussions about private vs. public– one which a huge number of our neighbors have decided on the expensive side. (By the way, one major complaint with this is the lack of community it breeds. Pick any five houses in the neighborhood and chances are the kids there go to five separate schools. That setup would have tragically altered my own childhood, where I was friends with neighborhood kids because I lived by them and saw them at school. But that’s a tangent, I suppose).
I understand why it’s important to go to the right grad school, and the right college. These decisions are easy to link up to tangible benefits, in the form of job opportunities and professional advancement, no question. But if one can rise to above average in her high school, whether it be Exeter or East, it seems she can get into a decent college and avail herself of basically the same opportunities as anyone else. I know that by asking these questions I am outing myself as forever disqualified from joining the elite establishment of our happy country, but I sincerely would like to understand why people think some of these schooling choices are worth it.
Home school, pre-school, public school, private school, in the end, I don’t see the difference. If I imbue my kid with the right attitude about learning, and give him the right tools starting in the home, I expect the results would be largely the same. Prove me wrong. Please.