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Thank Public Schools

Thank Public Schools. Matt and Mom, Dad the photographer, University of Virginia 2013

Thank public schools! They worked for my family, and for many other American families. Sometimes problems get all the attention. This post? Gratitude.

Graduation Day for my son Matt is today. He’s one of about 4,000 to receive a degree today from the University of Virginia.

Thank Public Schools.

Thanks to All Who Work to Make Those Schools Work

That means teachers. Also students. And others who make public schools work.

This Mom is proud of her hardworking boy.  Ahem, young man.I’m proud that he won an actual award for working hard. And getting along with other engineers.

Yes, amazingly, Engineering School at the University of Virginia rewards that. UVA presents this award to a few of the Fourth Years. It’s called the Louis T. Rader Award.

Thanks Public Schools! On Behalf of All the Parents

All over the blogosphere, relieved parents like me are gushing. Praising our college grads. Praising the colleges. Yes! Yes! Deservedly!

Like Mitch, my husband, and me, we all have our reasons.

But how often do we proud parents stop? Pausing to acknowledge the awesome contribution of American public schools.

Big Thanks, Public schools!

When my son was little, most of my Mom friends despised public schools. It was homeschooling for them. Or Waldorf Schools. They despised mere public schools.

As I remember it, conversations often centered around what? Horrors that, supposedly, awaited innocent children.

What if they were sent to the local elementary schools?

Apparently it would be like Mary’s little lamb, like the nursery rhyme. Only these innocent lambs at the schoolhouse would receive a gradual slaughter, administered over years. 😉

Thank Public Schools. On Behalf of Grateful Parents and Kids

During these passionate discussion over the inadequacy of public schools, I held my tongue. Already Mitch and I had started saving money. Towards Baby Matthew’s college degree.

We weren’t going to devote our lives to financing pre-college education.

Granted, I did shop around for a pre-school. This is the only non-public school Matt attended: Hunter’s Woods Preschool. In nearby Reston, Virginia. It was a co-operative preschool, where he went twice a week the first year, then three times a week for the second year.

Magnificent preschool, I thought. And then…

Thank Public Schools. Elementary Schools

Sugarland Elementary School had a superb principal, Dr. Holley.

Kindergarten was magnificent. Mrs. Hansen was the official teacher. Her aide, Mrs. Fulcer. Such a team. They played “Bad cop, good cop.”

Mrs. Fulcer has gone onto my personal Life List of Saints. (Yes, Blog-Buddies, I maintain that list as well. Not as long as my Enlightenment Life List. Not that I plan to ever put that Saint List onto a blog post.)

Other teachers I still remember from Matt’s early days: Roz Zeitz, Melissa Dober, Jill Lenz.

Such professional, caring, smart teachers! Every one of those Elementary School teachers and school staff. (Even if I do not recall all of their names.)

Thank Public Schools. Middle Schools

More gratitude to Seneca Ridge Middle School. Fine teachers, terrific administration.

By then, I stopped volunteering. Therefore, I had way less contact with the school officials.

Sure, I would go to the occasional Awards Assembly. Where just about every student would be handed an award for something.

Sure I’d go to the concerts, which my son was in. (Clarinet.) And the plays, which he wasn’t in.

Always I would bring plenty of tissues. Matthew wasn’t the only one in the family who learned things. Mom learned to bring tissues to all these events. Heart-melting!

Thank Public Schools

Especially The Academy of Science at Dominion High School

A brand new high school opened up just in time for Matt’s freshman year. And so did a science magnet school for Loudoun County, Virginia.

For years, our family was aware of Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology. It sounded great… except for a bus ride taking two hours each way.

Lucky us, we never needed to struggle over whether or not to apply. Because the Academy of Science opened up.

Amazing Dr. Brewer, the principal at Dominion. He came to our home, to each child’s home. Personally visiting each family before freshman year. What a fabulous administrator!

And especially thanks for amazing George Wolfe. Charismatic and kind. An absolutely brilliant educator who founded the Academy of Science in Loudoun County.

Matt was given such great opportunities to learn. Almost all of his teachers were superb. Many were dazzling.

All public school educators, have I mentioned?

Thank Public Schools

University of Virginia, Engineering School

All three in our family have loved this school. On Graduation Weekend, we got to walk the grounds of UVA one last time.

Now as parents of a grad. Thomas Jefferson’s University. (Couldn’t get away from him, after all. Despite going to the Academy of Science rather than the TJ magnet school.)

Every contact we parents have had with the administration and faculty, impressive! Special shout-out to President Teresa Sullivan, whom we have always admired!

Professor Lach, Matt’s advisor, was especially helpful. He helped Matt to write and publish his first journal article. Urged our boy to apply to 12 grad schools.

To our amazement, Matt was accepted by 10 of them.

Engineering is not like being a Music Major (like Dad). Or an English Major (like Mom).

Engineering has money attached to it. So the schools that accepted Matt paid him to fly out and visit. All 10 that accepted this young engineer offered him a stipend. Covering study up through Ph.D.

Harvard and Princeton accepted him. But their engineering departments aren’t ranked nearly as well as the school Matthew chose. The University of California at Berkeley. You know, an American public school.

Thank Public Schools

In Social and Political Context

Public schools help middle class kids. Yes, they help kids growing up in poverty. And they can help the children of wealthy parents.

In my lifetime, though, I have seen such erosion of what was once the great and growing American middle class.

My husband and I grew up middle class. Our good fortune has allowed us to remain middle class. Although while millions of others have slipped into poverty.

My husband and I grew up at a time when America had more social mobility. Helping many disadvantaged kids to achieve a more middle class American dream.

Now America has less social mobility than most nations in Europe. Increasingly, this is a country of crazy-rich and (mostly) poor.

Education matters in all this. Unlike many Americans in his age cohort, my son has a shot at middle class or even upper class financial standing. Why? Because he was offered a fine education. And he did what he could to make the most of it.

When Matt went to open houses, after grad school acceptance — what a shock! Matt met many of the same kids. And they were, mostly, graduates of Harvard, MIT, and such, or children of engineers turned college professors.

He felt intimidated. “I only went to public schools,” he told me. Not apologetically. But recognizing the gap in social class.

Yes, that’s right. Matt only went to public schools. And now he will be going to another one.

This parent has good reason to be grateful.

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  1. 1
    Jean says:

    Congratulations Rose, Mitch and of course…Matt!

  2. 2
    an avid.reader says:

    Dear Rose,

    I was so moved in reading this. Congratulations to your son. You and Mitch must be so very proud of him– and rightly so.

    Many blessings to all three of you.

  3. 3
    Paige says:

    Congratulations Rose, Mitch and Matt!! I know you are so proud.
    As a mother of 3 children who attended both Public and Private schools I see the value in Both.
    I have one child who went exclusively to Public schools and got a fine education, made tons of lovely lifelong friends and is doing well, graduated from college and has a good job.
    My middle daughter went exclusively to Private schools including college all of which were incredibly expensive. The problem as I see it with those schools is not the curriculum but the population of privileged children and with the Academy she attended the incredible work load these kids have. The upside the atmosphere fosters ambition to achieve but sometimes to a fault forgetting that these are still kids, still growing and maturing, needing at least some downtime. At least in our experience there was tremendous pressure to perform and not a lot of praise just expectation.
    My youngest attended private school until High school. He had a terrible time because as it turns out he truly does suffer from ADD/ADHD and private schools aren’t equipped, or at least this one wasn’t, to even recognize it.
    Public High School for him has been wonderful. He has had such an education in a more diverse population of students. He had never been exposed to kids who had no lunch money, or who have to work after school to help support the family. The experience has created more compassion and gratefulness in him and he is excited about college and doing well.
    My husband went to all public institutions earning a phd in Biochemistry and then a Medical Degree, training at Johns Hopkins. Now who would even know if your Dr. went to public or private school.
    There are plenty of fine public and private schools, maybe it’s not where the desk is but whose sitting at it.

  4. 4
    Paige says:

    It’s funny I left myself out. Now that I think about it I went to almost exclusively private religious (Seventh Day Adventist) schools. I got a terrible education mixed in with a lot of religious scary stuff.
    In High School I finally got to go One year to public school and it was by far the best education and experience I had.
    Congratulations Again to Matt!!!

  5. 5
    bmeade says:

    Such an inspiring story!

  6. 6
    Anabela says:

    Regardless of social class, Matt got to where he is today because of his ability and nurturing parents.

    In Hong Kong there are parents who will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars (US Dollars) just to hold a place in a posh international school even before the child is even accepted or of age to attend. It’s perverse and the beauty of education and the cultivation of the mind is sorely missed in these circles.

    In education personal aptitude for learning is key, regardless of background. You can send some people to the most reputable schools, but you can’t make them geniuses if they’re not born that way. Nothing can replace learning where a child discovers and does problem-solving on his or her own, whether in a good or bad school.

    I’ve definitely known people who were not educated nor blessed with a lot of money. Yet they managed to transcend their circumstances.

    Congratulations to Matt, Rose, and Mitch!

  7. 7

    Thanks, ANABELA, PAIGE, AMAZING AVID, and JEAN.

    Of course, I never meant to cast aspersions on private schools, just to give a shout-out to the public ones.

    PAIGE, you really shared the full range here, didn’t you?

    It’s good to be home, after being gone for many days. Will be posting again soon.

  8. 8
    Paige says:

    I know sorry, it was late. lol

  9. 9
    Julie says:

    Congratulations to Matt on his graduation. What a happy day!

  10. 10
    Jordan says:

    Congrats to Matt and the whole family. 🙂

  11. 11
    Jill Erin says:

    Congratulations to Matt and you, Rose and Mitch! What a very happy occasion!

  12. 12
    Anita says:

    Dear Rose,

    This is such happy news. Congratulations to you, Mitch, and recent UVA graduate Matt!

  13. 13
    David says:

    Congrats!
    My younger son just graduated from a public university in Canada. There were certainly fees but I’ve been very happy with the education he got, the effort he gave it and the results. A fine thing to celebrate, another milestone in life.

  14. 14
    Elaine says:

    Congratulations Matt and family. Such accomplishments are always a group/family effort of time, committment and love.

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