Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Now that fall is here and all the kids are going back to school, it seems everyone I talk to asks me where I'm going to send Isaac to kindergarten. I'm not sure if it's naivete, or denial, or what, but this is not something I have spent a lot of thought on, or plan to spend thought on anytime soon. I mean, Isaac will not be going to kindergarten for three more years.

However, we live in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which, in case you weren't aware, is one of the "worst" school districts in the nation. I think it's second worst, behind NYC. Or maybe that's 2nd largest. I don't know how they rank schools anyway, and if it's based on some kind of standardized test, then I am not surprised--I would bet that at least half, if not three-quarters, of the student population is Spanish-speaking. I can't imagine those tests come very easy to you if English is not your first language.

Many people we know are struggling to get permits for their kids to go to the Santa Monica schools, which apparently are much better than LAUSD (much wealthier client base). Or they are applying for charter schools or magnet schools, or trying to move to a district with a better elementary school. The elementary school in our neighborhood is "improving", but still scores really low, compared to other elementary schools in LAUSD. They bus kids in from all over LA, since no one in the neighborhood goes there.

We cannot afford to send the kids to private school--nor do I have any desire to do that, even if we did want to shell out $15,000 for kindergarten. We cannot afford to move--two bedroom homes in neighborhoods with better schools are selling for $850,000 to $1,000,000 these days. We have no relatives who live in Santa Monica, nor does Lance work there, so getting a permit is out of the question. That leaves the charter or magnet schools, or our local elementary.

If Isaac went to the local school, we could walk there. And I keep thinking--it's only kindergarten! How can it be that bad? So what if a lot of the kids don't speak English very well.

I can't seem to force myself to see this issue as life-or-death, the way so many others do. I have no fear that Isaac and Vivian will struggle to learn to read or write. I can't imagine they will struggle much in school at all, no matter where they are. And I guess I just don't believe that their lives will suffer if they don't go to a good college.

I went to a public university. Yes, it was difficult to get into, and yes, it has a fairly good reputation, but still, it's a state school. And in many areas of the country, no one sees it as more than that. So I don't necessarily feel that my making good grades in high school to get into that college helped me in any way after school.

I just don't think--unless you are going to go into something highly specialized--where you go to college makes much a difference in your employability. And further, I guess I'm just not that concerned with my kids' employability. I have confidence that they will do fine. I don't care if they are lawyers or doctors, or mail-carriers. Truly.

But even as I type this I know that I am being dense. That in 3 years, I may change my tune entirely and start begging on the corner for tuition money. That when Isaac is cutting class in high school I will be screaming at him, "How do you expect to get into a good college with grades like this?!" That when Vivian tries to go to school in a belly shirt in 5th grade I will lose my mind.

But still, I can't seem to muster the hysteria that other moms in the neighborhood have, and I'm not sure why. Why doesn't it seem as important to me as it does to my parents, my in-laws, even my husband? I don't know. Maybe I have my head in the sand.

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