11 September 2009

Back to School, Whether It's Good for the Family or Not

I always get a little happy and sad at this time of the year, seeing all the children in the neighborhood going back to school. Happy for them, because they're excited and (usually) ready for a new year. But sad for the loss of so many things too.

Learning new things is about the most important thing any child can do. And public schools are a great way to do that. I wish they didn't control so much of a family's time though. Sometimes it's just little things, like when you go on vacation, or setting a daily routine. But school often dictates big things, like where a family lives or even the jobs the parents can have.

One of our neighbors recently moved because their child was assigned (our public school system apparently has some sort of lottery and is happy to send kids to a school an hour from home) to a school on the south side of the city. Since they, logically, value living near their kindergarten's school, they moved. There are countless other families who have moved to get into a better school, or to be closer to school, or who have bought a house that was too expensive so their children could be in a good school. It can force people to make really hard decisions.

I get especially worked up about this when I talk to or read about international/nomad type families. One in particular was in the most recent issue of Steppe magazine. In 2003, Alex and Eleanor Duncan and their young children (4 by 2008) moved to the Wakhan in Afghanistan. The Wakhan is one of the most isolated areas of an already very isolated country. Alex Duncan is a doctor and practiced medicine there. They rented a Wakhi house and settled in into their one room place. But in 2008, they returned to the UK because their oldest child was ready for school. Now, maybe there were other reasons why they returned to the UK, but if the motivating factor really was school for their children, I wish that some other education system could have been used. There are no Wakhi doctors. Alex Duncan was it, and the family was happy there. Infant mortality was cut in half while they were there. This is an incredible family that (in my opinion) should be in Afghanistan, not in the UK.

I wish there were more options, or more widely-accepted and affordable options for children to get a good education.

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