From a Paren⁠t⁠’s Perspec⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ve: Why School Cho⁠i⁠ce Ma⁠t⁠⁠t⁠ers!

January 25, 2023

January 25, 2023

My name is Boris Zelkin and I believe in school choice.

As parents, our goal is simple: raise our children into good, strong, competent and compassionate adults. One of the most important decisions we make in service of this goal is choosing how to educate our children. The operative word here is choice. Ultimately, as parents, we must decide what it is we value for our children and seek to inculcate those things over time. Without choices, parents are forced into situations where this crucial aspect of their childrens’ development is taken out of their control. Without the means to pay for a private education, many parents are powerless over what their kids learn and the values they are taught. They are forced into a one-size-fits all educational environment that is increasingly at odds with the needs and desires of parents. My family experienced this struggle first hand when it came to educating our own child. 

For many years, while living in Southern California, our family struggled to find good educational choices. While public schools were failing to properly educate, private schools were too expensive and the charter movement was hamstrung by tremendous political opposition.

Public schools in the Los Angeles area were not an option for us. Between poor educational outcomes, low graduation rates and test scores, and the predominance of a jargon filled, non-merit-based, approach to educational metrics, we understood that the public school system in California was not for us.

We enrolled our son in a private school, but the cost and methodology was not a good fit either. Ultimately, the lack of affordable education options became a driving factor in our decision to move out of California.  

We chose to move to Arizona, in large part due to the strength of the school choice movement there. Unlike southern California, the robust drive for choice-based education in Arizona allows for schools whose values and educational goals align with those of an increasingly diverse population. We found that there were public charter schools that appealed to a wide range of people. Some schools focused on American Traditions, others on STEM, still others on Peace Studies and Social issues. In Arizona there is an education marketplace that serves an increasingly diverse society; parents with different needs and values can choose schools that align with those. We were overjoyed to see the diverse choice open to us and others.

Our choice for our son’s education was a classical school in the Great Hearts network whose educational philosophy deeply resonated with us. It states:

“We believe that truth exists, and we must seek it relentlessly by disciplined study and good-willed conversation. Truth is never just “my truth” and “your truth”; truth itself is not subject to historical or personal conditioning or circumstances, though individuals and cultures are.” 

When my wife and I first read this educational philosophy, we had to do a double-take. We were excited to send our son to a school that actually valued the shared pursuit of knowledge. The notion that truth exists and can be found is at the center of their educational philosophy. This aligned with our belief that this should be the cornerstone of education. We want our child in an environment we believe will help stave off cynicism and allow him to navigate the particulars and problems that life will throw in his path. 

As a charter school parent, I couldn’t be happier. My child is receiving a wonderful education, replete with the classics upon which the western notions of freedom and human dignity are built. He comes home discussing Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Homer, Locke, Rousseau, Shakespeare, Dickens and Dostoyevsky and is wrestling with the issues they bring up. He is constantly thinking and talking about the issues central to becoming a free learner, a good and happy person, and a thoughtful citizen. His math and science skills are developed while also rooting his inquiry in Euclid, Aristotle and methods. All of his teachers are passionate experts in their fields whose joy in teaching is evident in every conversation. In addition, despite the school’s focus on education as a good in itself, our son’s performance on standardized tests and state metrics has improved. Ultimately, we are seeing that he is learning how to learn, what questions to ask in search of the truth, and to trust in his own authority.  

Our child is also getting a wonderful character education that aligns with our vision for his best future. He is learning the value of duty to his neighbors and how best to balance his thinking with that of the society around him. By wrestling with the philosophical and moral questions that built the west, he is consistently thinking about the push and pull between morality, freedom, duty, individuality and society. These are the most important things we’d like him to get from his education, and the school we chose strives to meet these most important goals using methods we laud and support. None of this would have been possible had we not had the choice to find a charter school that aligned with our values and educational goals. He certainly would not have learned this in a one-size-fits-all public school. 

We love that we have the ability to choose the education that we believe can best help build our son up into a good, strong and wise adult. As we watch him grow into adulthood, we are thankful for the school choice movement that gave us the options that were absent earlier. We couldn’t be more supportive of the idea that education should be chosen by parents and not forced upon families.