L is only 15 months old (yet already throwing tantrums...awesome!) but Sam and I are already starting to worry about school. Actually, maybe not Sam. I've been a small neurotic wreck since we're currently planning a move down to Southern California. Like many parents (I assume), apart from Craigslist, Westsiderentals.com and Google Maps, I've been using GreatSchools.Net as an informal real estate guide and frankly, it's driving me nuts.
Here's the thing. I never, ever want to end up like these parents. I know affluent NYC parents are a different kind of species from, well, everyone else. Seriously, how is it that there hasn't been a reality show yet where Upper East/West Side parents get to compete to see which of their 4 year olds will win a spot in some coveted private school. It seriously makes the upper middle class in New York seem bat-shit crazy. $5,000 - 10,000 for Mommy-and-Me classes a year? I paid over $100 for 8 weeks of swimming lessons and I thought that was pretty nuts.
However, my point here is not to disparage upper crust NY parents (fun as it is). It's to ask aloud how is it that we, as parents, are supposed to be both responsible for the education of our kids yet still socially responsible at the same time? For example, one thing I've been looking at with GreatSchools.net is the ethnic breakdown of different elementary schools and I'll be straight-up: I'm more than a little uncomfortable at the idea of sending L anywhere that has more than 2/3rds majority of any one ethnicity, especially in Los Angeles. I've basically written off any elementary school - regardless of academic quality - that has more than a 50% white majority (no doubt, Sandra Tsing Loh would approve). However, I also have balked at schools where the Asian population is more than 50% since that, to me, seems highly socially distorted (except in, say, Hawaii). Provided, I've probably lived in the Bay Area too long so I wonder if I'm not being just a tad too p.c. about this whole thing.
But let's put ethnic breakdown aside for a moment - I'm not sure what to think of charter/magnet schools (public, not private. In fact, let's not even get into private schools...that's one some whole next level confusion for me). Should I be encouraged by alternative styles of pedagogy? Or concerned that some of these schools' test scores, on paper at least, look abysmal? I could pretty much give a fuck about the obsessive drive towards standarized tests that's infected the public school, post-No-Child-Left-Behind mindset but at the same time, I admit that I use those scores as a basic form of evaluation. Ultimately, I'm just not sure how to even judge these schools...I barely remember my own elementary school days so I'm not sure what kind of criteria I should be bringing to bear here.
And just to note this again: L is 15 months old. She's at least three years away from actually attending pre-school, let alone needing to feed into a K-5 system. Aiya.
So how did you other parents figure this out?
Unrelated (but interesting) news: German non-mothers are going against evolutionary impulse; could Americans be too far behind?