Monday, January 20, 2003


(I was on a radio station this afternoon, Omaha's KCRO, 660AM, to talk about my plan to take Nebraska's public schools private over the next 10 years. I received many thoughtful emails (swilliams1@cox.net) and wanted to share this one. My plan is based on the belief that the public school system is broken and can't be fixed, but that private schools are doing the things that should be done. But here is a slightly different point of view from a mother of four.)

"I have had experience with two different public schools and four different private schools. I am not all that happy with the private schools anymore and wonder if the money is worth it!

"The things people complain about with a public school education -- sex, drugs, and unruly, obnoxious kids as well as parents -- are in the private schools as much as in the public! My 14-year-old daughter one day mentioned that (her private) school wastes time talking about not smoking (cigarettes) when they ought to be talking to them about not smoking pot or not having sex as she knew kids doing both! (Yes, I took that opportunity to have an indepth discussion about that!)

"My 11-year-old son was invited to a birthday party last year of a (private) school friend . . . but it turns out that the parents were taking six boys to Hooters! I have friends who have told me horror stories of the kids 'making out' in the school halls . . . drinking at grade school dances . . . and this is in PRIVATE grade schools with 13-year-old kids!

"The education doesn't appear to me to be any better than what I have seen in public school. For example, the private school has gone the way of requiring Spanish (starting in kindergarten!) when the kids haven't learned English, computer training when they cannot write yet, and while I don't have a problem with those subjects fundamentally, they take away from the curriculum and the kids are not learning basics.

"My kids can't speak Spanish but they've had three years of it. Their spelling went right down the tubes when they no longer had Spalding (a phonics program). The religion education even leaves something to be desired. They may go to Mass once a week but young kids watch PG-13 movies on the weekends and play Teen- and Mature-rated Nintendo games at home. My own boys were banned by me from not going to one of their friends' houses whose dad has Playboy all over the place! They are not being taught morals or ethics or even just manners anymore.

"Our private grade school, in my humble opinion, hires the low end of the teachers because they simply cannot afford to get better. The better teachers go to the public school system for more pay which is entirely understandable given the fact that if you were mixed in with both types parents and kids you wouldn't be able to tell any difference.

"My point here is that parents have turned into 'wienies.' They don't pay attention, they have dropped their standards, they want to be their child's best friends. The school just goes along . . . I don't know why, but they have turned into 'wienies' as well! The voice of a parent with standards and ethics and morals is in the minority. (Money does NOT talk, in my experience.) I can't tell you how many times I have had my child's friends here overnight and no parent calls to check into who I am, if I'll be here the whole time, etc. Most don't even call -- they just drop their kid off and come back the next morning to get them. (I have buddies who say they run into the same thing.)

"I complained about an R-rated movie being shown to seventh graders on a (private) school bus trip! The parent chaperoning brought it and the school ignored me when I complained. And yet our family has given generous donations over the years. It just doesn't make sense.

"I won't say I am entirely innocent, either. It is tough to police kids when the whole world seems to have lost their minds.

"So, I don't know. The ideas you have are great as far as funding but there's a real problem in society today . . . and I really think it's apathetic parents . . . and the same apathetic parents who haven't the energy to police their children are ironically the ones who'll be yelling loudest at you to lighten up and stop being so straight-laced. You'll find them in both school environments.

"Parents not only need to get involved in the education system, they need to get involved with their own kids, and I don't mean making sure Johnny is the number one soccer player! Our priorities are messed up and until that's fixed . . . I don't think the schools can get fixed."

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