Saturday, December 3, 2011


I want to tell you something
I wouldn't tell you no lie
Wild women are the only kind that ever get by
Wild women don't worry
Wild women don't have no blues.

-- Ida Cox, "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues"

I ran into a neighbor at one of our public school's events.  She was surprised to see me there.  The conversation went like this:

Neighbor:  Oh, are you in the public school now?

Me:  Yes.  Our older daughter had such a terrible time in the public school that we moved her to a private school, and then our younger daughter had such a terrible time in the private school that we moved her to public school!

Neighbor (with big vacant smile):  Aren't we lucky to  have so many choices!

Well, yes, we are lucky to have so many choices.  And, yes, I understand that most people aren't interested in long rants, and I'm careful not to rant at people that I happen to come across while I'm out and about.  (That's what this blog is for!)

But I'm worried about the suburban good-mom culture which won't allow criticism of our schools.  Our schools have real problems, and they will never be addressed without criticism, discussion, and dissent.

Another neighbor of mine is concerned about the math curriculum.  She told me that she has been unable to get other mothers interested in the problem.  They don't want to criticize the schools; they think their role is to support the school, no matter what.  There's a widespread feeling that our schools are already "great" (i.e., they're attended by the children of professionals, who rack up impressive test scores) and nobody wants to rock the boat.

Of course the schools are very happy to have parents who don't ask questions or voice concerns or make complaints.  They're not interested in hearing from parents in any case.

But how can the schools ever improve if they just do whatever they want, with no feedback from those most affected by their policies?


  1. Jest shut up and keep paying those taxes. Then you can keep those house values up so when you sell, the next person can shut up and keep paying the taxes...

    Bah. Go ahead and dissent. People who are just nicey-nice aren't really nice anyway as soon as you turn around. Or maybe she is just making conversation and you haven't shown your, um, character yet? :)

  2. I hear that. I'm sure a lot of people just don't agree with my concerns about the schools, but there is definitely a reluctance to speak up about any concerns at all, or to suggest that we have anything less than "very good schools."

    I think it's a kind of prisoners' dilemma. If everyone spoke up, the resulting debate would have to be beneficial for the schools. But if you think you're going to be the only one who speaks up, the potential downside seems much more prominent than the upside. People are rationally reluctant to do anything that might offend the people who take care of their kids all day long.

    There are parents who do speak up. Not everyone has to do it in the same way. But I don't want my kids to think that they have to tiptoe around whenever they want to raise a complaint about a public institution. The school is already working overtime to make them fear and be passive in the face of any authority figure. If nothing else, I hope my blogging is an antidote to that.