Why You Do NOT Want Me On Your Education Council

As they have already done with Kindergarten, Gifted & Talented, and Universal pre-K applications, the New York City Department of Education has pushed back their deadline for parents wishing to run for a spot on various education councils, including Citywide Council on High-Schools, English Language Learners, Special Ed, and several District offices. The final forms were due on March 10.

Not only does the DOE have robocalls dialing our land-line, urging me to run (obviously, not me specifically; they’re calling everyone with a child in the public school system), but my friends have also gotten into the act.

“You should run for CEC! Nobody knows more about NYC schools than you do!”

“And you would be the first in line to impeach me within a week, if I am,” I predict.

That’s because I know that my idea of what makes a good school is diametrically opposed to theirs.  (And yet, even in these polarized times, we still manage to be friends.) As an example, at a recent meeting at one of my children’s schools, as the counselor was explaining how much stress all our kids were under and what the administration was doing to relieve it, my husband and I looked at each other and, almost in sync, mouthed, “What’s wrong with stress?” This, I realize is not a popular or even socially acceptable parental stance.

If you take a seat on an Education Council, you have to believe that you know what’s best not only for your children, but for everyone else’s.

I don’t.

Well, OK, that’s not true. I do believe that I know what’s best for your child. I just don’t believe that I have the right to impose my views on you.

Homework is another issue that gets parents worked up. Why is there (allegedly) so much of it? What good does it do? Poor, overworked kids deserve a break! All schools should follow this Kipps Bay example and ban it altogether.

As it happens, my daughter is the kind of kid who benefits from repetition. If she didn’t get homework in math facts or spelling, she’d fall even further behind in class. For her, homework actually is beneficial so, no, I don’t believe it should be banned.

So how about this, then? I send my children to the school I believe would be best for them (not saying I’m right, as my mother instructs me, “Don’t worry, any decisions you make about your children, you’ll be wrong,” – again, not me specifically, parents in general), and you send your children to the schools you believe would be best for them.  Zoned, unzoned, gifted, traditional, progressive, public, charter, private, religious, single-sex, co-ed, it’s totally your call!

If I were to serve on an Education Council and be forced to vote on how to educate all children, I’d obviously vote for principles I support. So get ready for accelerated instruction, homework even on the weekends, and if that stresses out your kid, good — stress builds character! But what if you don’t see eye to eye with my vision? Why in the world should anyone but you be making decisions for your family? Education isn’t one size fits all.

For those, like the DOE, who say that a Community Education Council doesn’t make its own policies but simply represents the needs and wishes of their community members, I say… eh. When it came to Upper West Side District 3 rezoning, the community came out in droves to object, but the CEC went ahead and rubber-stamped the proposal anyway. There’s no two ways about it: They’re making decisions for your children.

So thank you for the invitation, friends and robo-calls. I am honored that you all think so highly of me (really). But I think I’ll pass.

I may know a ton about local schools and how they work (and where many of the bodies are buried). But the ones who know what’s best for your children – will always be you. I have no intention of getting in the way of that.

What do you think?

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