Posted by: ladybughugs | September 5, 2008

Mean People

We spend money and make sacrifices so that Scout can attend the school he that he does. He started in kindergarten five years ago because the school had a full-day program (the public school system does not) and an aftercare program which, combined with tuition, was about half the amount of the full-day kindergarten at the daycare where he’d been for the previous three years. As icing on the cake he’d receive religious instruction five days a week (instead of only 45 minutes on Sunday) and he’d learn the true meaning of the religious holidays we celebrate. We registered him figuring we’d put him in public school for first grade. Funny thing, though, we found ourselves in a community of like-minded people, people who were willing to do more (volunteering is required) to make the school a better place for their kids, people who had higher expectations of their kids and their school both academically and morally. To our surprise it wasn’t just Scout making friends and developing relationships. We look around the school now and see a social network of friends that have become a part of our core…a community. We decided to stick around for a while and keep him there through first sacraments (at the end of second grade). Five years later he’s starting fifth grade and is now closer to graduation than his first day (was the half-way mark half way through 4th grade?).

In the summer we try to provide Scout a variety of camp experiences. He spends the bulk of each summer at gymnastics camp, with a week at Cub Scout day camp, maybe a week or so at the school’s camp, and, rounding out the season, a week or two at a local high school’s sports camp.

His experiences at camp confirm (for me) that we’re doing the right thing for him by sending him to private school. The picture I’m getting is that his school is a kinder, gentler place than the public schools. (Not that the public schools in our area are bad. They’re actually very good…and he’d probably have access to more enrichment programs there.) This summer he has come home from camp not wanting to go back the next day for an entire week because the teasing/name calling/meanness by the other campers is so intense. This is uncharted territory for him. While there are disagreements at school (and he’s been in the thick of it too many times, in my opinion) it’s water under the bridge the next day and everyone moves on. They’ve written their letters of apology to each other and they’re back to being friends. In the five years he’s been there I can count on my fingers the number of times he’s tried to avoid school because of a conflict. I counted more days like that this summer alone. In school he also has five years of positive history, so a day of friction here and there does nothing to diminish the overall positive relationships he and his classmates have developed. The children have also learning which buttons they can and cannot push, which ones get giggles and which ones get explosions, so they know those buttons that are to be avoided.

The type of behavior he encountered at camp is not permitted in the school; so, he doesn’t have the tools he needs to combat it. Now, I can certainly argue the points both pro and con on that subject. I know the importance of developing a thick skin, of being able to stand up to a bully, of figuring out how to ‘give it back’ without ending up in hot water yourself. In general, the world is not a kind place. But then, if he learns how to get away with teasing/name calling/meanness and that it’s accepted then what kind of a person would he be? What kind of a big brother would he be? Would he be as caring, as gentle (as much as a 10-yo boy can be gentle), and as sensitive to his little sister’s needs? He adores Lil’bug. His friends are like an extended family of big brothers and sisters to her. They and their siblings are sweet and gentle and give high-fives and hugs and play with her and I know we are blessed to have these relationships. Is this not normal? If he were in public school would his friends be as attentive?

It’s appalling to me that the behavior he encountered at summer camp is permitted anywhere (camp, school). That these kids think it’s okay to pick on and get away with harassing, younger, smaller kids makes me wonder about the bullying policies in the public schools. Would their parents allow this kind of behavior at home? on the ball field? I know I’ve pulled Scout aside and made him sit to think about his behavior for less.

It all makes me wonder about the ‘path not taken,’ about what his life (and, as an extension, ours) would be like had he gone to public school, about the battles we’d have to fight with him and the school to get the behavior we expect from him and from his classmates towards him. I see the other parents on the beach in our community ignoring their kids’ when the life guard blows the whistle for dangerous behavior. It’s obvious that we hold our son to a higher standard. It hasn’t been an easy road. He hasn’t made it easy on us. He’s spirited. He’s full of energy. He’s smart, so he’s constantly thinking, which usually ends up getting him in trouble. It gets tiring keeping him on a straight path. How much steeper would that path have been if he’d been in a public school where the tolerance for teasing might not be as low?

As it is he will not discuss going back to the camp where the teasing was the worst. It doesn’t matter that he’ll be a year older, a year bigger, and the oldest kids will be gone and there will be younger children taking their place. Maybe time, between now and next spring when we have to make our decisions about the summer, will diminish the memories, but then maybe not. And that would be the worst part of all of this. That, if he refused to go back, he’d miss out on what the camp has to offer. All because some kids decided it would be funny to be mean to someone smaller than themselves.

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Responses

  1. would you consider sending him to me for a week next summer? I know the girls would love it!!!

    Maybe, he had a bit of a rough start spending four nights at grandma’s house this summer. I’m having a tough time picturing myself putting him on an airplane by himself.

  2. Oh, I am NOT looking forward to dealing with this for our kids. Right now, Short Stack is still in the “innocent” stage and does nothing out of malice. His world is full of happiness and love and I’m horrified at the thought of him getting hard to life in any way, necessary though it may be.

    As a kid, I attended both public and private school. K-6 for me was at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and other then a few bumps, I loved it there. After that, 7-12 was public and BOY, was it different. I would not say that it was better, either. For college, I wound up back at a private, Catholic school.

    I have to admit, if I can, I’ll be sending my kids to private school later on. I’d do it opposite of my own schooling though. They will be going to public school for K-5 and then, if we can afford it, Private Catholic school for the rest. It’s funny. Neither my wife nor I are practicing anymore but I have strong convictions about going to a Catholic school. It’s the best of all worlds. You get the personal touch from the staff that you often fail to get at a public school along with the high moral standards that you often find lacking at secular private schools.

    -Turkish Prawn

    I love that age where all they know is that the world is a kind and gentle place. No cares. No worries. I attended Catholic school like you, from grades 1-6, and then, after we moved that summer, went to public school. They were great schools in a district that didn’t mind spending for education. We live in a different world today. Innocence is lost at a very early age. Kids pick up the foul language that their classmates’ parents use (because the classmates bring it to school) and if you’re in the wrong district they learn what those words mean! I don’t want that to be ‘normal’ for my kids. I’m looking to set the bar higher.


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