To Choose Or Not To Choose, The Greatest Non-Debate

Last weekend a friend tagged me in a high-octane, drawn out tweet-debate with some of the greatest minds in education. Mini-essays of no more than 280 characters flooded my mentions late Friday night and throughout Saturday. A big, fat battle line was drawn, one side choice and the other not so much. I was drafted to join TeamChoice to defend families rights to choose and have access to great choices. I am all about that. But that hasn’t always been the case.

There was never a question about what school I would attend and the whole choice thing was a foreign concept even as I had my own children. I was shocked to learn that people actually encourage realtors to show them houses in low-crime neighborhoods zoned to “good schools.”

Mind-blowing.

When we were in the market for a home, co-workers (always white) would strongly recommend I check out the schools before making a decision. They dared to suggest I shop around, cheat on the default school by searching for a “better” one. I took offense that they believed I, like them, was too good for whatever school was assigned to me. To wit, I was committed to the system that made me. It was free and if it was good enough for my people and me, it was good enough for my family.

I’ve shifted some since then, especially since I found myself becoming more selective with my own children. I truly believe parents have the right to choose the educational option best for their child, yet I still find myself harboring resentment for those rich enough to go to private schools, and questioning those who choose to homeschool. I may be just a little salty over the fact that the quality of education, like most things in America, is correlative to class. A great education and money go together like peas and carrots.

“at least until I was able to afford a home in a place where quality schools were embedded in the ZIP code and came with the keys to the house.

But so many families will never financially be able to make that move; without options, their children are condemned to the same schools that have been failing their neighborhoods for decades.” – Cheryl Kirk

In Nashville, however, some schools are bucking that trend. These schools, and many of them are charter schools, are killing it. They’re serving mostly minority students, and many who come from poverty and getting the kinds of results you’d see at wealthier and whiter schools. That fact will likely piss off quite a few people, particularly the people who make it their business to actively create an environment so toxic that it scares off potential charters operators while taking a public piss on everything current operators do. I mean, they really work hard at the hate, yet, most of our charters succeed anyway. Instead of celebrating student success, the politically-affluent foes actively fight it. They leverage their privilege to ward off additional charters and shame families who chose them.   

Oddly enough, these choice foes can also be seen advocating for #BlackLivesMatters, #KeepFamiliesTogether, #DREAMers while suggesting these same people be loyal to a system that was neither created for them nor is operated in their best interests. Suggesting that a free and appropriate education should be enough for those who must rely on it. And a parent’s questions and searchesonly indicate a lack of gratitude and an act of betrayal to the giver of the gift horse.

Public education may be free, but that ain’t freedom, my friend.

Unlike those in last weekend’s Twitter battle, I’m not a academician or policy-influencer. And while we disagree on how to get there, I choose to believe everyone wants what’s best for children. As for me, my lane begins with parents and ends with what they believe to be best for their child. All parents, no matter their income, deserve to the right to be selective and about their child’s education and proudly defend their choice – whatever it is. In my view, this is not up for debate.

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