As I said in my last post, those "bad days" of mine are really just an accumulation of annoyances. Nothing serious (luckily). I try (and try again) to keep it all in perspective. But I can't always get it through my thick skull that my current problems are just little flies to be buzzed away. Last week I found myself swatting one of those problems around and getting myself into a fluster. I'm feeling calmer about it now so I'll share the pros and cons with you.
We're soon going to be leaving the cozy world of the babysitter and enter the puppy-eat-puppy world of pre-school. It's not an obligation in France but since the sitter we have is part of an association that only takes children until the age of 3, we have to find an option come September. So I called the town hall to find out what pre-school we're zoned for. Then I asked the pharmacists at my local pharmacy about it as they both have young children. They had some less than glowing things to say about this particular school in terms of its education level. One pharmacist switched her child to private school and found he was learning more there. The other option is to ask the town hall that an exception be made and Juliette could go to the other school not far from us which apparently has a better reputation. But also a huge number of students per class 'cause everyone wants their child to go to it!
So I did as I always do in these types of situations. I asked everyone around me for advice. The sitter said, well, you know those first years are very important. Remi said the same. But I went to public schools for part of my education and have always had faith in them. I know there are some with problems but I don't like the idea of mixing them all in the same label. My mom and aunt teach in what are considered at risk schools and I know they are both excellent teachers. It's not that the teachers are "bad" in "low" schools. It's that they've got maybe more difficulties to work with than teachers in upper-class neighborhoods where the parents are super-involved. And that no matter how hard the teachers try, some kids have got hardships that are going to affect their schooling.
Ok, I'll step off my soapbox, but my democratic ideals make me feel strongly about this. I basically gave Remi the same speech, to which he replied, but this isn't America. Oh, and don't I know it. He is French and has lived here all his life, so maybe he does know a bit of what he's talking about. Maybe some public schools in France are less than stellar. Maybe the public schools go on strike more (that one is true, I know). But I know plenty of my students who send their kids to public schools and are satisfied. Public doesn't equal low quality.
And though private may be in Juliette's future if we found that her middle or high school was really in poor shape or had problems with violence, I don't necessarily like the idea of putting her in a crowd we can't compete with so early in life. Call it the anti-snob in me but I worry (already) that she'd be mixing with les enfants des riches, kids whose parents can offer them fabulous vacations in the summer, autumn and winter. Things we just can't do. But then again, that's the way life is. If she doesn't learn it at school, she'll learn it later in life.
And then I rail against the idea that private is inherently better. Maybe the schools do have more money and fewer kids per class, but that doesn't mean the education is in fact higher quality. And I don't like the idea that a good education is only reserved for those who can pay for it. Doesn't this destroy our idea of public education and education for one and all? Oops, I guess I put that soapbox up too quickly.
And so at not even three years old, our child is already facing reality. That life is not always fair. That the differences of inequality have already started. But for now at least, she'll be a public school girl with parents who invest their time in her education. And that's the best start in life we can give her.