Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BIanca Knows Best ... and Helps With a School Decision

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Dear Bianca,

My husband and I have a 4-year-old son, and we live in an area of town near inner-city public schools. I love our home with its big backyard, and our neighbors are wonderful. But my husband has mentioned that we should move to DeSoto County before our kid starts school.

Some of my friends have accused him of resorting to “white flight” but I don’t think his motives are racist. He says our child will get a better education elsewhere. As an alternative, he’s suggested home-schooling or private schools. But I attended Memphis City Schools as a kid, and I received a fine education. I’d prefer that my son grow up around more diversity, and I’d really love to stay in the house we’re in.

How can I convince my husband to give the urban school system a chance? I really don’t want my kid growing up without exposure to diversity, and I certainly don’t want him to live the sheltered life of a home-schooled kid.

— Confused Parent

Dear Confused,

These are tough decisions. I’m not a parent, so I’ll simply offer my inexperienced opinion: First, you should consult with your friends or others who have kids in Memphis public schools.

I grew up in a medium-sized town in Arkansas. We had four public school districts (which sounds crazy considering that my hometown is way smaller than Memphis, but that’s how Arkansas schools are set up). I went to a school in the smaller, more rural area, based on where I lived. I got a fine education there, graduating as Valedictorian in 1998. I had good friends, but there were only a handful of non-white people enrolled in my school. I always wished I’d been able to attend the larger city school district, which had more diversity.

I’m a big proponent of public schools. Interaction with people from all classes and races is crucial to shaping how your child will view others later in life. As for Memphis versus DeSoto County, I think my advice would depend what school your child attends.

Just this week, Memphis Police were called to break up fights at Northside and East high schools. You certainly don’t want your child to attend a violent school. But there are a number of excellent schools in the Memphis system. Research your options and make your decision based on safety, test scores, and conversations with teachers, and other parents in the schools you're considering. If the school you want is not in your area, you'll have to sign up for early registration and wait in line. But a free, diverse, quality public education is worth it, and probably easier than moving to DeSoto County.

As for convincing your husband, ask if he’ll at least consider starting your son out at a public school. Gauge how your son is doing after a couple of years, and if you both feel his education is inferior, then you can move to another district.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

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