With all the grief the public schools get, some of them actually do pretty well. I am the product of a public school education, and I feel there’s no shame in that. Even though the Lansing public schools aren’t all good, the one I went to was pretty excellent. I suppose that my experience wasn’t typical. After all, if you get a public education in a major college town, you are apt to have better results. There will be a more qualified pool of candidates on average to instruct, and this will result in superior public school teachers. Even so, our Lansing school district had some incredible instructors and programs while working on a shoestring budget.
Everyone knows, however, that not all public schools are the same. The theory of public education is noble: each child has the same right to a basic education no matter how much money their family has, what social class they come from, or what neighborhood they live in. In practice, however, this theory doesn’t really hold. Essentially, you choose your public school by choosing the neighborhood. People with a lot of money buy houses in good school districts. Although this might seem like an arbitrary way to select your home, in the long run it makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it further cements inequality in public schools.
One of my friends growing up, in fact, went to an awful public school, and I had the opportunity to witness firsthand what effect it had on his future. Even though he seems to have turned out all right in the end, it was an uphill battle for him. The school district he was in did not have enough resources. The kids were rowdy, and some of the classes did not even have desks for everyone. Because of the big classroom sizes, there was not enough individual attention. As a result, many children slipped through the cracks. My friend was nearly one of them.
You see, it was not so much the lack of academic stimulation at his public school that messed with him, but the environment. Because the children did not get a lot of attention, they spend a lot of time picking on those weaker than them. He happened to be one of the weaker ones. He was a small kid, and emotionally pretty vulnerable. Kids can always spot a target, and they saw him right off the bat. They messed with his self esteem for years to come.