Trying to Clear Up Some Confusion but Probably Only Making Things Worse

December 23, 2008

I can see that I have spread vast confusion through my incoherent story-telling. I will try to make things worse.

In the United States, most government supported schools (kindergarten through high school) are known as “public schools” and are free. Some people, not happy with the public schools, send their children to private schools and pay fees. Private schools include Catholic Schools (generally known as “parochial schools”) and some Protestant schools often called “Christian schools). These schools appeal most to people who want religion mixed in with their children’s education. Other private schools vary from very liberal (similar, I suspect to the famous “Summerhill” in England) to very strict, to very academic-stressing (often aiming to get a child into an exclusive college/university) after high school.

My knowledge of public education in England, Australia, and who knows where is severely lacking. I have the impression however, that the term “public school” has an entire different meaning in England, and means a fairly exclusive and expensive “private school” in American terms.

My daughter went to a private “pre-school” and then went to public “government-run” schools from kindergarten through high school. She skipped the last year of high school and attended one of the United World Colleges, a chain of two-year colleges around the world and nominally head by Prince Charles. She then went for four years to Oberlin, an expensive private (non-government) college in Ohio, where she met, roomed-with- and became sweeties with “Mommy,” the birth mother of Random Granddaughter.

(David Rochester also went to Oberlin College, where he had a horrible time and left without finishing college. I suspect this is more a failure of Oberlin than a fault in David, but he knows how to evaluate this better than I. When I first “met” David, it startled us both a bit that we had this Oberlin connection in common.)

I went to public school in Los Angeles, California, junior high school in Brea, California, and then my father got a job for a defense contractor involved with the earliest days of the computer industry, causing our family to move around the United States. I went to high school in Brea for a few weeks. We went from California to New Jersey, where I enrolled in a high school in Suffern, in Rockland County, New York and a suburb of New York City. We then moved to Woodstock, New York (long before it became famous as the epicenter of the hippie movement where I attended high school in Kingston, New York. (Yes, this is all crazy and part of the reason I am a crazy person.)

We then moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where I went to high school for a few weeks. We then moved to Verona, Wisconsin (a tiny suburb of Madison), where I attended high school for a while. Finally we moved to Spring Valley, New York, also in Rockland County.

I graduated from there, went to the University of California at Berkeley, where I promptly flunked out, in large part because my emotional maturity at the time was about six years old. I then went to Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles, met my wife to be, go married transferred to San Fernando Valley State College, our daughter was born, I graduated, went to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle, dropped out, dropped into a special program to train teachers for working in minority area, got a Mickey Mouse Masters in Education and a teaching certificate. I then lost my teaching job, moved or Portland, where I never met David Rochester (though for all I knew he lived next door to me unbeknownst).

After they graduated from Oberlin, my daughter and her partner lived with us in Portland.
Then my daughter decided to go to graduate school at Cornell to get a doctorate in horticulture, specializing in rescuing the American chestnut tree. After she enrolled, she decided she hated Cornell, hated graduate school, and hated chestnuts. However, she is a very conscientious and self-disciplined person, so she completed a Master’s degree in horticulture at Cornell, but left without completing a doctorate.

My daughter decided to move to Seattle for various reasons that didn’t work out as she planned. Eventually, my wife and I left Portland, and joined them in Seattle. We bought a duplex together and lived together for a while, and then for various amicable reasons went separate ways. First my daughter and her partner planned to build a B&B on another island. They also planned for Mommy (daughter’s partner) to have a baby. Mommy lost two babies before they were born. After serious medical efforts and bed stay for almost the entire pregnancy, Random Granddaughter was born. At this point, partly because they had suffered considerable expenses because of the pregnancy problems and also because having a baby refocused their attention from starting a business to becoming parents, they decided to stay in Seattle, where they bought a house. In the meantime, my wife and I moved to an island.

My daughter had intended to go back to working as a medical research lab assistant (as she had done in Portland before going to Cornell) but it didn’t work out. Her partner worked as a nanny in Portland. In Seattle she became a Montessori pre-school teacher, and then got a certificate to become a grade school teacher in public schools However, after a year of substitute teaching in public schools, she got a teaching job at an expensive, exclusive private school that specializes in teaching very high-IQ students. I call this school the “School for Very Bright Children” (SVBC).

After Random Granddaughter was born, she went to a crèche at SVBC. She was then moved to a pre-school at a private Jewish Community Center. She then was moved to a private Montessori school. She was then moved to a small Montessori school in a private home. Next year she will go to kindergarten. However, those plans are very much up in the air.


4 Responses to “Trying to Clear Up Some Confusion but Probably Only Making Things Worse”

  1. truce Says:

    I had to explain why ‘Private schools’ are called ‘Public Schools’ in the UK just yesterday, to a bemused Aussie (Australia has the same school and college system as the US, judging by your explanation).

    Way back, at the dawn of civilisation in England (okay, the early medieval period from about 1066 AD), most children never had any schooling at all. Those who did were the (male) children of the wealthy and they had a private tutor at home, in their family’s castle. 😉

    Later, roughly during the 14th century, as the wool trade provided England with its first real economic boom since the Romans buggered off and left us to the mercies of the Picts, Angles and Saxons, a middle class emerged. They had cash, but no castles, and they weren’t about to blow it on their good-for-nothing offspring needlessly. So, they began founding schools were several boys could be taught together – in public – by a joint master or masters. Their parents paid for this education and the boys often had to travel a fair way since the schools were rare, so they boarded. Hence, public schools.

    Girls were mostly still expected to stay at home and learn to spin. Until the advent of the Governess (beloved of BBC costume dramas) in the mid 18th century. Then they had to learn a bit of French, piano and painting, too.

    As the middle classes grew, more and more boys (and then even some girls) were trying to get into the few places at the Public Schools. Some enterprizing child-haters recognised an opportunity to make a quick florin and established fee-paying schools of varying quality all over the UK. These are known as ‘Private Schools’ because they are still privately funded by the parents, rather than the state, but they are not to be confused with the REAL Public Schools.

    Much later, in the early 20th century, all children were forced by law to attend school – whether their parents could afford it or not – as Britain needed a better educated workforce to govern the largest empire the world has ever seen. *preens* So, the government had to pay for it and these were called State Schools.


    I am amazed you remember all your educational wanderings Mr Random. That is quite some list.

  2. modestypress Says:


    Thank you for the explanation of private/public school.

    I had to sit down and scribble on a piece of paper for a while to reconstruct my educational career and all the way out points. Unfortunately, I am not sure I remember that much of my academic learning. If all the final exams I took in school suddenly materialized on my desk, I am not sure I could get a passing grade on any of them.

  3. pandemonic Says:

    Thank you for the long, drawn out explanation. I believe that in Canada, can people send kids to Catholic school as well as public, and without paying for it.

    I don’t know about Oberlin, I’m glad my son didn’t go there. There’s something children-of-the-cornish about a major university located in a corn field.

  4. flazillaply Says:

    No way!

    4 hours ago I got a phone message from 972-284-0600 – 9722840600 and I thought the caller was a scam.

    So I complained and contacted the the company and went nuts.

    Anyway, I feel like such a fool Gulf Coast Western -the oil drilling company- called was calling to tell me I got the job!

    Any advice or help on how I can fix the complaint – and get the job?!!

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