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OpEd: Kids miss out on real life if they attend private schools

Canada's public schools deliver the Canadian experience: good friends from all walks of life.
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Nevil Hunt, September 3, 2013 12:21:56 PM

Despite what a commentator says, you’re not a bad parent if you think private schools are the best place for your child.

But it is still a serious mistake to think that just because a school is private, it will turn your child into a better adult than a public school ever could.

Slate’s Allison Benedikt suggests that American parents who send their kids to a private school are weakening the public system.

It’s fair to say that if there were no kids in private schools, public schools would improve a little because a larger group of concerned parents would spend their time pushing for better public schools. But if we could snap our fingers and have all private schools disappear, it would be the rich kids – the current private school fodder – who would benefit the most.

Today’s private school students may have smaller classes and wonderful teachers, but they miss out on the real-world experience only a public school can offer: meeting and befriending different kinds of people.

Limiting the kind of people your kids will meet by sticking them in an ivy-clad brownstone full of the same kind of students in the same kind of plaid uniforms ensures Johnny or Caitlin won’t have to deal with challenges and experiences that could enlighten them more than any teacher.

Private schools are home to the rich kids, and few poor kids. Will there be as many new Canadians at an expensive academy or junior college as at a public school? Of course not.

Beyond the ivy and plaid, there are also religious private schools, which by their definition are even more homogenous. Some of those private places will stream boys and girls into different classrooms, further limiting your child’s interaction with anyone unlike them.

The real Canada – the one after private school – is a place full of diverse people with diverse ideas and cultures. Schools are a place where kids should be prepared for what comes next. And having a friend of a different race, colour or income must be more educational than studying different races, colours and income levels in a textbook.

Of course, if you’re stuck on private schooling for your kids because you’re afraid of “negative” influences, remember that there’s no guarantee the rich kids are a better influence than the students at a public school. After all, the snobs and the mob both have plenty of money to send their little ones to fancy schools, junior colleges and academies.

Rich parents should consider giving their kids the richest possible education: the kind that money doesn’t need to buy. The kind available for free right down the street at the local public school.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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