Monday, March 23, 2015

More Schools

Good comment from Nilsa on my last post, and my response was getting too long, so I am just going to post it. First, the comment:

"Wait wait wait, are you trying to tell me that by putting your kids in private school, they'll "be around people who look and talk and think differently than they do."????? Or you're saying that by living in the city that happens and by putting them in private school, you ensure they get a great education?"
And yea, that didn't really come across as I meant to write it, I guess;-). Because no, kids in private schools are not going to come across a whole lot of diversity in the classroom. Well, certainly not socio-economic diversity, at sister's school (where the girls will probably go) has a remarkably broad mix of races, ethnicities and religions; it does not have much in the way of economic diversity.

I mean that cities do that for kids. If lived in, say Weston or Dover or some other town like that, the kids would see the same kids at school for 12 years, and they would also see those same kids in their youth soccer and basketball leagues, and in dance classes, and at church (just pretend I go to church) and in girl scouts, etc. It would be pretty difficult to avoid that, since many of those programs are specifically limited to kids within that town.

My sister basically went to school with the same kids from 4th through 12th grade, and they were FAR from a cross-section of humanity. But she played little league with kids from Roxbury and basketball with kids from Allston and Brighton, her very brief foray into Girl Scouts was mostly with girls in Cambridge (which isn't technically Boston, but whatever:-P) and she did some summer camps with kids from everywhere in Boston. Those were very often kids who lived very, very different lives than the kids she spent her days with...and it is hard to replicate that outside of an urban environment.

Beyond that, it just has to do with what you see on a daily basis. Walk into a Starbucks in Needham, and you will see an awful lot of people who live in Needham...and chances are they have a world view pretty similar to everyone else in the store. Walk into a Starbucks in Downtown Crossing, however, and who knows what the hell you'll find. Mind you, that is pretty obviously NOT always good.  Most of the suburbs in question are safe and welcoming and provide a communal commitment to nurturing kids that can be absent in a city. I could never tell my 10 year old sister to ride her bike to soccer practice, for example. Frankly, I'd never have let her walk into Starbucks in Downtown Crossing by herself, either! That's a pretty scary idea.

But growing up riding public transit? Having the major museums and the theater district across the Common? And being able to drop in for some authentic dim sum beforehand?  Walking to school among professionals on their way to work? Seeing waves of tourists from every corner of the world on a daily basis? And the constant mass of students? I like all of that. I want my kids to think that is totally normal.

{Warning - we are entering the "overly broad racial generalizations" portion of this post}

There is another peculiarity about Boston...there are very few places to live where you will truly get a cross-section of the populace. The city itself is diverse at the macro level, but not so much at the neighborhood level. Back Bay, Beacon Hill and the South End? You'll see lots of different faces and hear a lot of different accents, but you won't find many poor people. Allston, Brighton, South Boston, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury? There is a lot of economic breadth in those places, and varying age demographics...what there is not a lot of are brown people.  Roxbury, Mattapan, Mission Hill? They are as dark as the other places are white.

The suburbs are, broadly, very white. The biggest exception is probably Brookline, which is the most racially diverse, but also the most expensive (it's geographically the closest, and it draws much of its diversity from the area's many doctors and professors). The burbs tend to be affluent, and the minorities tend to be mostly Asians that went to the same schools and have the same jobs as everyone else  That's an oversimplification, but the general idea is that there are very, very few places around Boston that are truly diverse, multicultural places. The ones that are...Quincy, maybe Dedham...don't have the school systems that make the others so attractive.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I am concerned about raising sheltered kids. I didn't lead a sheltered life, and I think I am better for it. I did my best to make sure that my sister didn't, either, and she is better for it, too.  Is it the answer for everyone? No, and I'd never tell anyone else what they can or should do. I know plenty of people who grew up in those lovely suburbs (like, um, the husband in question!) who turned out to be be perfectly well-adjusted adults, and plenty of people who's kids will do great by those towns. But, it's what my husband and I think is best for us and our kids, and it's what we're gonna do...tuition be damned!

1 comment:

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Oooooh, great, long winded, but great response. The older I get, the more I realize there really isn't the perfect, well-rounded, diverse solution for our kids. So, we do what we think is best given our own circumstances and hope to raise conscientious, thoughtful, well-intentioned people.