A little while back I had a conference with Magnolia’s principal and teacher. We got to talking about the ways in which her school program was a “magnet.” I was new to the area and new to the concept of Magnet Schools. If you are unfamiliar, I’ll give my perception but it’s not the official definition: Magnet programs adopt a special curriculum which focuses their school on a “specialty” which is aimed to attract students and families. So, Maggie’s school, as an environmental magnet, should attract people all around the city (not just a particular neighborhood) to attend the school, who are interested in any kind of “environmental studies.” So, what makes it an environmental school? It sits on 39 acres. Students have access to a planetarium. They have Partner In Education days where students get to do outdoor activities such as sledding or fishing. There’s a greenhouse, and an outdoor garden, and last year a geologist came with a fancy digger to take a very deep sample of soil, and explain the layers. Pretty nice for an elementary program. While this had a lot to do with choosing which magnet school I liked for Magnolia, it’s not why I chose the public school system.
I operate under the assumption that my kids are smart enough to succeed at most any school and that the education they receive will be good enough because they will make the most of it. So if you take the quality of curriculum out of the decision, what’s left?
When Eleanor came home and said, “I saw a pregnant teenager and heard the F-word five times,” I thought, good. That wouldn’t have happened in the middle school in Chelsea, Michigan. When Maggie’s principal said, “Some of these kids have never seen soup made and have never eaten a meal cooked from raw food,” I was like really? I thought that only happened on Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution. One of Maggie’s classmates lives without hot water. The poverty she sees belongs to a real person – one of her friends. She also told me, “Someone on the bus asked me if I live with my mom or my dad.” I said, “What did they say when you told them you live with both?” She said, “They were like, ‘You don’t have to rub it in.'” I know she felt confused, but I think that’s good. I want her to have to think through that. I want the kids to be a part of the community in which we live, and experience the culture of Indianapolis. That’s why I chose the public school system.