May 01, 2014
A few times now, I have read "When Elite Parents Dominate Volunteers, Children Lose". A few of my circles of friends on Facebook have been reading, thinking, and commenting on how this article opens our eyes to the diversity of our circles and the importance of living inclusively.
In my first world, at this moment, I am living this. I am stuck in the middle. My daughter is in an elective class at school that culminates in an end-of-year competition and trip. The whole year is littered with performances, extra fees for transportation or uniforms, required after-school practices. This has consumed my daughter's free time as well as our discretionary income.
All along, parent volunteers of this class have oozed accolades for this trip: "It's so worth it. The kids have a fabulous time and they learn so much." Also: "The first payment of the $550 trip fee is due in two weeks."
Uh, OK. When I talk to other parents, they tell me how much this is a priority for their student to participate in the competition and trip. So, "we make sacrifices in other areas so they are able to attend".
What if even just putting food on the table is a sacrifice? What if the student's bus pass is a sacrifice? What if a new pair of shoes to replace the ones with holes is a sacrifice? That means there is nothing left for $32 uniform shoes or $15 bus fees (called "optional") or - definitely not - the $550 competition and class trip.
When I ask what a student should do if they cannot commit to this intensive course, I am told: "Students can opt to take the 'intermediate' class if they feel that the time and financial commitment of the 'advanced' class is too much for their families." Really? So, if I cannot afford the Algebra textbook, I should just take Pre-Algebra, even if the Algebra course is the appropriate level for me?
This whole discourse makes my blood boil, and perhaps we do it to ourselves by affording to rent in the "good" neighborhood and attending its privileged public school. I wonder how these discussions would be on the other end of town?
The good news is that we do have the privilege to make some sacrifices and our student went on the trip. The bad news is that our student has friends in the same class whose families couldn't send their students on the trip.