Our family is a herd of nomads. Our kindergartner has been enrolled in four very different Chicago-area schools. She insists she loves spreading herself around like Bobby Brown, *not her words, and we’re about to be on our third house in seven years of marriage. The school we’re in now is good and we’re (probably?) staying, but I do miss those days of CPS. Man, I can’t believe I just said that. I did though! Thus, I feel qualified to give you a big dose of my opinion on why picking a more diverse school system isn’t just something nice to say. It’s actually nice. For you, whitey pants. Be selfish. Choose to live in an area that reflects the actual world:
1. So when your kid does something out of the norm, no one freaks out. All kids are going to go through rough patches – adjusting to a new baby, raging against gluten, discovering The Cure – and when yours does, the teachers have seen it all in a more diverse school. If all the kids are exactly alike and the whole place is insular, micro-deviations from the norm get exaggerated. Your little cookie-cutter Raddison having a thing about not wearing socks with boots will flip a delicate apple cart. But! Throw in some special education kids and people from different backgrounds with different hangups about all kinds of things and now your kid is just another marble in the kaleidoscope. Awesome!
2. For more lax lice policies. Now, hear me out. I’m not saying I want lice or I love it or it’s good. I’m saying there are things you can do to not get lice and IF your kid does get it, he can still go to school. He won’t get singled out or ostracized or branded with permanent cooties, either. Kids get lice. Well, most of them. Wouldn’t you rather go to a school that doesn’t make you take time off work every time your kid has a harmless nit or make you feel like the Worst Parent Ever for bringing such a plague into their Stepford School?
Sure, lice is nasty, but you just kill them and move on with your life. I don’t know why everyone jumps up on a table about it like an elephant afraid of a mouse. Just braid your kid. Spray your kid. Tell them not to trade hats. It’s not like getting lice is going to kill you anyway, so you may as well get that public education you’re entitled to with your tax dollars. Feel free to disagree. My comments are like a bubbling stew of dissent sometimes.
3. So your kid isn’t a close-minded jerk. I’m guessing you’ve spent some time in the city. You’ve traveled. You have a few decades of life experience that tell you some generalizations about groups have a grain of truth and there will always be someone who proves it. You know who else you’ve met? A bunch of people who don’t prove anything. You know people are people. Everyone is a little selfish and a little kind. There are funny ones and serious ones and those who get offended by crap and those who eat in their cars and brainiacs and neat freaks and introverts and Guy Smileys of every single demographic. YOU know that (I hope), because you are an adult who sees the world in many shades of gray. Your kid however, only sees the last, like, five years of living in a homogenous suburb.
What is unfamiliar is sometimes scary. If you don’t make people of different backgrounds part of the everyday life for your children, they won’t get exposed to how the world really operates until they are in college getting embarrassed by more metropolitan people. Don’t raise a bumpkin in a bubble. Live in a reality that reflects, well, reality.
4. Cooler parties. Just stop it. You know it’s true. Life is way more fun when you mix it up with a colorful crowd. Give that gift to yourself when it comes time for killing an hour waiting for birthday cake at a jumpy house.
5. The usual reason people like diversity – food! Authentic restaurants in your own neighborhood are are always a plus. It’s a weak reason, but it’s honest.
Who knows where our move will take us. Maybe we’ll just stay here and grow old or transform ourselves into magical elves who fit under doorways so we always bring the diversity wherever we go. There is no knowing. There is only a craving for Thai.
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