“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” – Sydney J Harris
I love this quote. It is no secret that I am mad-passionate about education. I’ve spent most of my career in schools, working with children, since I was 19 years of age. First as a teacher’s aide, now as a teacher, and in the future, as a guidance officer. I believe that no educational activity is a waste of time, whether it’s primary school, TAFE, university, post-graduate learning, or learning on the job. It’s all good.
Theoretically, as someone who has the benefit of working in more than ten schools in a variety of roles, I know exactly what I want – however, choosing a school for Soren was a difficult task.
We sold our first house and moved to a suburb where we could access excellent state education options. No regrets. We love our suburb, and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We would still consider state schools if our first choice doesn’t work out. I’m not fussed on public vs private, I care more about quality of the school.
When Soren was about six weeks of age, I started emailing all of our local private schools – Catholic, Anglican, and non-denominational. We settled on an excellent prep – 12 school that was non-religious, all boys’, and had a good track record with inclusion, with several same-sex families enrolled with no issue.
The process we went through in selecting a school exposed me to a side of the schooling game that is vile, anti-human, and quite frankly, offensive – not only to me as a parent and a human, but to me as a teacher.
Almost all of the Catholic schools we emailed took months to get back to us. When they finally did, it was evident that they were delivering a script with a lot of vanilla keywords about “inclusion” and “tolerance.”
Note – I do not wish to be tolerated. I am not a fly. I am a human.
However, like a fly I have razor sharp eyes that can see through all the educational buzzwords.
When I pressed them specifically on same-sex families, they would ignore that part of the email and not respond to it at all. Do you really think I’m going to trust you with my child if you ignore the most crucial part of my email?
A few other Christian schools would not reply for months, then tell me they wouldn’t discuss this via email, and to arrange a time for a phone call. I did a few of these phone calls, and boy, were they disappointing.
One school told me that “It’s okay, everyone falls short of God’s grace in various ways, yours is just your relationship. We accept everyone.”
Um, I fall short of God’s grace in many ways, but my marriage to my wife is not one of them.
The same school also told me, “The family unit is quite a personal matter anyway. It’s not something your child would need to bring up at school.”
Yes, it’s a personal matter. Very personal. But like hell it will be a private matter to make everybody else comfortable.
The same school allowed students of other religions to wear garments that weren’t part of the Christian faith. I guess that’s more marketable – so people can see how “tolerant” they are – whereas the gay family thing is still seen as taboo and immoral. No pride badges, no talking about your family because people are funny about it.
For what it’s worth, I think everything should be included. Religions, cultures, and all family structures – not a cherry-picked selection of things that tick the “diversity” box for marketing fliers.
In any event, I found the conversation condescending, vile, and offensive. The fact that they wouldn’t correspond via email was also a huge red flag.
I think it is absolutely fine if consenting adults want to be in environments where they are not around us rainbow folk. By all means, build your churches and your super-straight bars and exclude us. But when it involves children – who cannot consent and are being educated in these environments – I think schools need to be held to a certain standard, one that reflects the values of the secular society that is largely funding its existence.
Why do I care so much? When I was a child, I went to three different private schools – one Catholic, one Lutheran, and one Christian. I was exposed to extreme ideas of conservative Christianity in two of them, including physical punishments. In another, I was kicked out with no chance of redemption for what was realistically not a huge mistake. The lack of “grace” was evident.
When I first came out in year 10, I was gossiped about within my school community, sent to an unqualified counsellor who burdened me with guilt for my existence, harassed online, and I was then kicked to the curb.
Again, no “grace” whatsoever. I lost all my friends and had to move schools, because my values didn’t align with their “values.”
It was messed up and it did a lot of damage. Still, I can’t be mad because it gave me exceptional insight into how I make decisions for my family – what can be tolerated and what can be avoided if possible.
The only advice I have is to drill any potential school. Do a tour, or two if you can. Go to their open day. Ask every question that is important to you. If they take months to respond, consider it a huge red flag. Check out their Google reviews – often a very accurate picture if there are a lot of disgruntled parents. Ask anyone who has their child enrolled at the school what the pros/cons are. See if there is anything about the school in the media – child abuse cases and articles about extreme bullying or sexual harassment are often very easy to find if they have been published. Ask about their teaching strategies, class sizes, how they choose their teachers, and why they have chosen the strategies they use in the school. I always asked about the school’s vision and 5-year plan if I thought we may consider enrolment.
Overall, trust your gut.
I did all of this. Will it be the perfect school? Goodness no. Will we have frustrations and disappointments? Yep. Am I the perfect parent? Most definitely not. But I feel like I’ve done my due diligence for now.