Sunday, June 2, 2013

Educating the Masses


Did you attend public school?  Private school?  Did you receive scholarship money for your education?  Did you take out loans for your education?  Combo platter?  Have you gone to great lengths to get a great education for yourself or for your children?

Friends and family have been talking to me about how difficult it is to get a great education for their children.  It is all very strange to me, since I am kid-free and I don't have to deal with such things.  But it is kind of interesting (and, honestly, HORRIFYING) to hear about.

I went to public schools as a kid.  I grew up in a suburban area in Northern California in the 70's and 80's.  My parents didn't have a whole lot of money.  I don't really think my parents had to think twice about where to send their kids to school -- public school was just where you sent your kids unless you had tons of money to spend on private school.  At one point in junior high, my parents asked me if I wanted to go to a private Christian school (where I could attend for free since my Dad was a preacher).  My answer was quick and definitive NO.

When it came time for college, my parents told me straight up that if I went to a Christian college they would help me pay for it, but if I went to a SECULAR college I would be on my own.  Needless to say, I went to a junior college for a couple of years, then found a state school far from home that wasn't too too expensive to attend, and I paid for it all on my own dime.  Money was tight, and I ended up  applying for (and getting) two loans (and paying them off years later).  Give or take, I probably had about $5,000 in loans.

My sister has two little kids.  Apparently lots of public schools (in California, especially) don't have such a great reputation.  Wanting the best possible education for her kids, but not being able to afford private school, my sister researched the best public schools in Southern California, and ended up moving her family to the best neighborhood they could afford that had a well-ranked public school.  This might seem extreme, but I guess a lot of parents do the same thing just to try and give their kids the best education possible.  

My boyfriend went to all private schools when he was a kid.  His mom wanted the best for him, and she could afford to send him to private schools, so she did. 

Many years later, my boyfriend is trying to find a way for his kids to get the best education possible.  His two sons go to the second best public school in Los Angeles County.  They only reason they are lucky enough to attend this school is because their mother's work address is within the border area required for attendees.  This is lucky in some ways, but a pain in the ass since it means schlepping the kids 34 miles round-trip to school each day.

My boyfriend's oldest child -- his daughter -- attends a pretty good public school, and she is smart.  Very smart.  She could easily attend a mediocre high school blocks away from home, but they are attempting to get her a full-ride (or at least partial) scholarship to attend a very, very good private high school.  This is not easy. Not easy at all.  I guess it shouldn't be.  The school costs $27,000 to attend per year, so it shouldn't be easy to get a free ride to attend. If one has any hope of attending this school, they must have stellar grades, impressive extracurricular activities, excellent verbal skills, and MONEY -- unless they are one of the lucky few that get to attend for free. 

I mentioned some of these thoughts to my co-workers.  Both co-workers attended public schools as kids.  Both co-workers went to very good universities and had to take out student loans in order to attend.  One paid (welllllll, her parents paid) in excess of $100,000 for her college education (!!!!!!!!!); the other declined to say what his college education cost, but mentioned he is in his forties, and said he will NEVER be able to pay off his student loans (!!!!!!!!!!!).  ACK!

All of this stuff just keeps circling in my brain.  Parents have to go through so much to try and get their kids the best education possible.  I would imagine most try their hardest.  But some probably accept the status quo, because that is what they can do.  We can't all go to the best schools.  We can't all be the smartest.  We can't all get straight A's.  We can't all attend the best universities.  It kind of sucks.  One wishes all schools (and all teachers, and all students) were GREAT, but it just doesn't shake out like that. Great schools and a great education are presumed to be keys to success in life.  They certainly can't hurt!  I just wish the baseline education seemed to be at a higher level so that ALL could get a great education.

Needless to say, it isn't necessarily easy (or CHEAP!) to get a great education.  [Note: I heard education professionals in a debate the other night on PBS, and they said California schools are ranked 47th in the nation.  HORRIBLE!!!]  I like to think that vigilant parents and smart kids will prevail, but sometimes outside help really comes in handy.  Hello scholarships!  :) 

My boyfriend's daughter has been informed of the Milken Scholar Program.  Here is info on the program in case it might be of interest for anyone that you know....

Milken Scholars was founded in 1989 by Lori and Michael Milken to honor exceptional young men and women based on their academic performance, community service, leadership activities and triumphs over obstacles. By identifying these extraordinarily talented youth and then providing resources and networks to them, so they can help themselves and those around them, the program aims to support  during their academic and professional careers. As of 2012, over Milken Scholars have been selected from more than 100 high schools in Los Angeles County, New York City and Washington, D.C. Representing a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds, academic and professional interests, they are attending and graduating from the top colleges and universities in the country.

Milken Scholars receive financial assistance during their undergraduate careers. Yet, what makes the program truly unique is the vast array of resources provided to scholarship recipients. Being a Milken Scholar means joining an extended family and building relationships with Foundation staff and other  Scholars who provide a strong support system that lasts over time. For example, Milken Scholars receive ongoing career-related counseling, assistance in securing internships, opportunities for volunteer community service, and a fund to assist with the transition from college to graduate school or the world of work.

Throughout their college careers, Milken Scholars are in regular communication with the Foundation and each other through telephone calls and email. They meet with Foundation staff and mentors during campus visits and special events, including an annual Summit that provides guidance and insights through speakers, panels and activities to prepare Milken Scholars for choices in their personal, academic and professional lives. These resources create a setting that propels these exceptional youth into the position where they can achieve their academic and professional goals and, in the process, make a profound difference in the world around them.

Milken Family Foundation is the parent organization that funds Milken Scholars.  The Founders of  Milken Family Foundation include Michael Milken and Lowell Milken.

P.S. All of this thought on education has made me wonder if I went to better schools and spent more time, effort and MONEY on my education, would I have been better off in life?  Considerably better off?  I guess there is no way to know.  Your thoughts on all of this?


Stephanie said...

Being better off in life has little to do with school and more to do with your ability to learn. Do you have an open mind? Are you creative? How are your skills at getting along with others? Can you lead? More and more people are "unschooling" their children ie: homeschooling. The little boxes that children are put into and how and what they are taught is only nice for a small percentage. Better off in life means happier, healthier and integrating yourself with solutions not problems in our world. Loving and being loved. My father was an educator in a large NorCal school system. I went to private school on my grandpa's dime. ( A wonderful gift, but I would rather have had a hot wardrobe at the time) I don't think I started to grow until I got into Junior College and could pick my own course load. I also had a bigger variety of students to hang out with. I was so stimulated and supported by my peers. After an AS in Junior college I went to a Nor Cal State college. Again my grandpa was able to help me. I didn't start wracking up student loans until I went to an out of state University. My father told me that an education was the one thing "they" couldn't take from me. Paying off loans for ever was worth it. What I think is the best thing is having a lot of parent interaction with their cild and his education. Love your kids, be with them, teach them what you know. Life has some hard lessons. An unconditionally loving hand is priceless. The career, the material stuff, it may happen it may not. I always got to do what I loved and it dovetailed with my passion. Maybe the best thing in school was I learned to show up every day and complete things I didn't really want to do. My whole my now has done a 180. I am disabled, I can't work, so I can't do my passion anymore to the degree that is satisfying. It sucks but such is life. I don't think anyone realizes what happens to your psyche or your spirit until life gets ripped out from under you. You don't learn it in school, it may never happen to you but having a lot of love in your life, a creative spirit and an ability to do an about face and some new skills. Better living.

So there is my rant, can you tell this is a hot topic for me? I hate seeing people get lost in the cracks. There is no reason for this. I believe everyone's different needs can be met one way or another. What an awesome entity the US would be worldwide. I don't think we would be so hated.

2 things: I was very blessed to get the education I got, traditional white middle class. Same thing with work. I got a lower wage and the stink eye for being a woman but I got the work I wanted. I know it's not that way for everyone.

Claire Kiefer said...

This is an anxiety-inducing topic for me b/c I have 91k in student loan debt (four years private undergrad, three year graduate program).

I went to public schools all the way through high school b/c that was just what people did. My parents certainly couldn't have afforded a private school, but honestly, there was no reason to go to one b/c the public schools were fine. I'm pretty passionate about public K-12 education, b/c I think it's unfair that wealthy parents are able to BUY their children a better education and therefore a head start in life. The whole thing emphasizes cycles of poverty & lack of opportunity, etc.

When I was 17 and made the decision to go to Tulane, I had no idea what it would mean to pay off loans. Then I took out the max amount of loans in grad school b/c I was a broke student, etc.

So scary to think that I'll probably be paying off those loans for the rest of my entire life.

kathy @ vodka and soda said...

the way i see it, it ultimately is on the person attending school. i know a lot of really bright people who were just too lazy to do well and ended up doing whatever with their life when they could have done so much more.

you can stick a kid in a top school but if they lack the drive/ambition to do well, it won't work out.

i also know many people (myself included) who went to a regular public school, worked hard throughout their entire academic career and did well for themselves. although they weren't taught by the best teachers or learned from some of the brightest students, they still worked hard and went over and above to be successful and made it.

while it does help to be in an environment that fosters a zest for learning and provides all possible resources at the tips of your fingers, if the kid doesn't want it, there's not much those resources will do.

Aline said...

i grew up in yorba linda in orange county, ca and had access to very highly ranked public schools. i went to an all girls private catholic high school for a year and a half, but then convinced my parents to let me go to public hs with all of my friends. they agreed as long as i did a ton of extra curricular activities. my parents paid for my state school college education. my bf went to very good public schools, also in orange county and paid for a very expensive college education at a private school himself through loans (he's still paying).

i often think about this since i'm hitting the age where i'm seriously going to have to decide/try to have kids within the next few years if i want to. there is no way i'd send them to public school based on where i currently live and i'm already budgeting for a private education in my head...

Lorena said...

I went to private school, then to public school.
So i saw a bit of both, it all depends on you.
if you are good, you will be good no matter where you go.
For college I went to private ones (bachelor (grandma paid), mbas (i payed).
There is one thing that catches my attention and it's that people tend to think that if you are smart you will do well and i honestly think it does not work that way.
I have seen geniuses become stay at home moms and surfers become top lawyers.
I think that your ability to find solutions, communicate, deliver work on time... amongst many other characteristics drive you wherever you want to go.

Jen Vallette said...

Great topic and I had something to say about it and now I don't. Weird Mood Monday I guess. :)

Cheryl Ann said...

no kids for me either, as you know, so i don't have to worry about the schooling issue for anyone else. i lived in southern CA (san bernardino...yikes) until i was 15, and went to public schools. my parents asked me if i wanted to attend a GATE/Magnet (don't really remember the correct terms) school in 7th grade, which i turned down b/c it was on the other side of town and none of my friends were going there. when we moved to Texas, i again attended local public schools, but the area we moved to here was pretty "uppity" so the school was great, but i totally didn't fit in with the kids. i ended up going to a small, private, Christian university...long f'ing story, but it was NOT my first choice...and i ended up loving the hell out of it. my school loans are OUT OF CONTROL, though. barf.

sohbet said...

and a friend while keeping the insurance on the back burner and bring it up only when it seemed appropriate and be their solution. You want them to come to you because they like and trust you and then you can sell them becau

Stoic Tia said...

Ugh, this topic makes me want to take a nap. My husband and I have talked this TO DEATH! He went to private school, I went to public. I have always been pro public, for more social/diversity reasons. It's probably not an issue in Cali, but here in Southern Indiana, my husband had ONE black kid in his class, and zero hispanics. WTF? It must be a shock to those kids when they go to college and realize that more than 1 black family exist! I feel like diversity in race and social status is an important lesson, and I don't think some private school kids get that. All my husbands friends growing up were wealthy, and I don't think he really understood until he got much older how much some people have to struggle. His parents also paid for his (7!!) years of college. I on the other hand worked my ass to get a couple of small scholarships, used some money my mom had saved up for me, then paid the rest myself with a combination of loans and credit cards. When I graduated I had maybe $5,000 in debt.

That being said, we do send Lincoln to a private school. It's just preschool and kindergarten, so no big deal. And it's not a religious private school, but it's just a really cool place that we felt was the best for us and our lifestyle. It's def more expensive, but he's 4 and reading, so I think so far, it's been worth it! It's called The Garden School, and they do so much more than a normal preschool would. They go on field trips once a week, have learnt spanish and sign language, learn manners like you wouldn't believe, and have a 'zoo' room where they care for a whole slew of animals. When he starts 1st grade he will go to public school, and luckily the schools in our area are opt out schools, so we can choose to send him to any public school we want, if we are willing to drive there. I guess comparing him to other kids will be the best way to see if the extra money has been worth it:)

MD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Tuttle from Tacoma said...

a topic close to many hearts in my country. i always asked that question myself except it's what if i went to the neighbourhood schools instead. i went to all the good schools but didn't make it to university.

Kathryn said...

Success in life is subjective depending on what values, priorities interests and passions in life are.

A prestigious school puts you in a social circle of people with money and influence, but they are not always accepting of those that are "not their own".

I used to work with a woman who was a single mom her daughter was able to get her daughter into the most prestigious school in the area with the majority of it being on scholarship and she had to move in with her brother as it still cost $300 a month. While more geared for college prep and more emphasis on excelling, it also put more pressure on her daughter to try to catch up to where the other kids were at academically and she was alwasy behind and never felt like she fit in as she didn't have the expensive clothes or money to do the expensive extra-curricular activities that her peers did. She went from being passionate student that excelled to getting ulcers and dreading going to school. She was reluctant to make friends over as where she lived in was not as nice as theirs. Her mother put her back in public school the next year and she turned back into a happy, excellent student.

I went to public school and a 4 year state college and worked my way through (full time my senior year) and borrowed $3,700 and thankful not to have borrowed more because the $50 a month was a struggle the first few years. I attended two college classes years later towards a graduate degree that were employer reimbursed only to hear from too many people who had graduate degrees waiting tables and it was no guarantee at the bank I worked at at that time it would make a difference in being promoted.