The battle of Chicago public and private schools

Lately, it seems that everyone wants to pick a fight.

Take education, for example. There are many people who insist only the wealthy and privileged send their kids to private school in Chicago. Others will claim that a public school education is akin to one of Dante’s circles of hell. Yet after completing another year with dual CPS and Catholic school citizenship, I have uncovered some semblance of truth.

Most Catholic school families come from modest incomes. There are often more siblings than there are spots in the minivan. Parents are driven to sacrifice in order to offer the same faith-based education that they themselves received. After all, it was this very education that inspired them to lead lives of service in teaching, policing and firefighting. Community, faith and family are the cornerstones of most Catholic schools, and it is this profound message that resonated with my husband and me when we switched our two oldest from CPS.

Having a child with an IEP, I also appreciate the vast resources of the public schools. I have watched in awe as CPS therapists perform magic to help children achieve milestones never thought possible. The level of education, certification and pure dedication for most CPS teachers is second to none. These folks simply know their stuff.

As is the way of the world, people usually view the other side with a degree of suspicion, distrust and even hubris. Despite kids in both private and public schools, even I have fallen into the trap of judgy-judge thinking:

“Good luck trying to get a Montessori kid to turn in his expense report one day!”

“Nap time in KINDERGARTEN? This is why America is falling behind.”

“Play-based education is code for ‘will live in basement forever.’”

For the record, I was wrong on every single front. Karma normally kicks me upside the head to ensure I learn things. It is amazing I can still walk after all the kicking.

The other day, I found myself driving past a CPS school during dismissal. Like my older sons’ Catholic school, the boys were all wearing navy uniform pants.

And just like their Catholic school counterparts, every single boy was sporting a pair that was two inches too short.

The reason? NO mom out there wanted to invest in new slacks with only a month left of school. So the boys were sent out with flood-worthy bottoms and a hearty warning to not grow even a half inch more until mid-June.

In times of great crisis, Mr. Rogers once taught us to look for the helpers.

In times of great division, I say look to the kids wearing too-short pants.

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