“Private Schools Are Indefensible” and a Speech for my Daughter’s Wedding

March 20,2021 – This morning I posted a note about the latest cover story in the April 2021 issue of The Atlantic entitled “Private Schools are Indefensible” to the “Public Affairs” discussion group that I administer on our local Nextdoor site.

I wrote:

Never having traveled in those elite circles of wealth, I suspect that there may be some exaggeration in the writing due to the clear disgust with what is described, but I don’t know how much.

It does strike me though that this is the logical end of a system that rewards money over all else…

This is probably the article that justifies my subscription price to The Atlantic  for this year. I will be writing up a detailed response later for my education blog.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/private-schools-are-indefensible/618078/

An interesting discussion ensued on Nextdoor and mention was made of a “landed gentry mentality” developing in our country along with references to the recent college admissions scandal which included people from our own backyard.

Regarding the subject of the influence of money in our lives, I felt that this was an appropriate time to share with the group a speech that I composed for my youngest daughter’s wedding in October 2018. The text follows below.

First, however, please note that this article is not the detailed response that I mentioned in the Nextdoor quote above. I am still pondering the article’s implications and am seeking other perspectives from readers before I write a response. After you read the Atlantic article, I welcome your opinions in the Comments section below.

Now for the wedding speech which, believe it or not, is relevant to the topic above. As it was not quite the appropriate time (plus a a bit late 😉 ) to give advice about sex, I spoke about the other big obstacle in many marriages – money. Obsession with riches has invaded many aspects of our society and leads to the behavior described in the Atlantic article.


 

Back in the early 1970s, while I was attending college at UC San Diego, one of my all time favorite movies was released, “Fiddler on the Roof.” I saw it on a truly enormous silver screen at the Loma Theater on Rosecrans Street in San Diego.

Little did I know that the girl who I would eventually marry lived just a short distance away from that theater, but I wouldn’t meet her for another decade and in a completely different city. That meeting would eventually lead me to this place today.

Why do I mention “Fiddler on the Roof?” Besides the memorable music, the picture it portrayed of traditional life being challenged by the powerful forces of modernity stayed with me, in particular Tevye’s haunting line, “… and because of our traditions every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

This phrase resonated strongly in me, a member of a generation brought up on Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics “‘Kathy, I’m lost,’ I said, though I knew she was sleeping. ‘I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.’”

Those in the audience who remember that time might also recall that biologist Paul Ehrlich was predicting catastrophe by 1975 due to population growth outstripping the planet’s resources.

Well, folks, we survived, and, looking around the room, I can’t help but think how blessed we are. Yes, now we are confronting other challenges like climate change, but I remain confident that we will find a way forward and that our children’s children will continue to thrive.

But this will be “because of our traditions,” not in spite of them.

We live in one of the most exciting and beautiful areas of the world, the Bay Area, which is home to Silicon Valley. This is where the future is being made.

We pride ourselves on being “disrupters,” exhorting knowledge workers to “move fast and break things.”

But humans need a source of stability and tradition in their lives in order to thrive, something that is not “disrupted,” and that is what we are celebrating here today, the marriage of Amy and David.

They are one of the happiest couples that I have seen, and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. There is a wisdom in their relationship that almost makes me hesitate to give them any fatherly advice at all.

It’s a little late for me to give the “Sex Talk,” so instead I will address the other source of strife that many people encounter in marriage – money.

Everyone has heard the old saw, “Time is Money.”

I believe whoever composed this line got it completely backwards:

Time is not Money. Money is Time.

So many people, both husbands and wives, work very long hours and exchange their time for money. They have no time left for their families. Life in the Bay Area is demanding and expensive, and there seems to be little choice but to submit.

My advice to the newlyweds is to live modestly and not become slaves to possessions.

Unless you are the richest person in the world, there will always be someone with a bigger house, a nicer car, a bigger yacht, or a fancier wine cellar than you have. In my opinion, that is the road to envy, not happiness.

It is too easy to become trapped into devoting all of your time to paying for a lifestyle instead of living it.

When you work, you exchange your time for money, not just to pay your bills, but, most importantly, to ultimately gain the freedom to spend your time the way you wish to do so.

If you remember that money is primarily your store of time, you will not squander it, but invest it wisely for growth.

But, as with everything, one must strike a balance. Not only would it be sad to be a slave to possessions; it would be just as sad if one deferred consumption completely in favor of savings, and then ran out of time to enjoy it.

Finding that balance is your challenge, but, ultimately, time is your most important asset, and your money should only be a means to make the most of it.

So please raise your glasses and let me end with a toast, using the words from another, more recent, song:

“I hope you” have “the time of your life.”

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired scientist, teacher, bioinformatician, IT director, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist (7690 miles and 724,300 feet of climbing in 2015), backpacker, you name it! Current avocation is tutoring high school students near San Mateo, CA in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Please see the Bio link in the right sidebar for my detailed background information.

3 thoughts on ““Private Schools Are Indefensible” and a Speech for my Daughter’s Wedding”

  1. The article’s most valuable remark:

    “ In a just society, an education wouldn’t be a luxury item.”

    I have one child in private school. Like the author, I feel that I want my daughter to have access to what I never had, but also because I don’t think our public system has addressed misogyny and gender inequity particularly at the middle grades. I have to pay for that unfortunately, so she will go to high school confident.

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    1. Good point, Dyuti. A friend of mine noted yesterday that this article focuses on the very “top tier” private schools, not, for example, Catholic schools, which are also private, so it is a bit of an extreme situation.
      However, I remain concerned that these schools also produce some of the “movers and shakers” of our society and I am concerned about the implications for the future.
      Although it may have been paternalistic, the old East Coast “Establishment” at one time seems to me to have had more of an inclination towards public service. The Roosevelts are a prime example that comes to mind.

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  2. My favorite sentence from the article:

    “Shouldn’t the schools that serve poor children be the very best schools we have?”

    Makes sense to me. It seems as a society we have decided that its okay to provide the best or better to those already most privileged. My boys go to public schools, and not the rockstar public schools. Do I think they are getting the BEST education all the time? NO. Do I think they deserve it more than any other person their age? NO. They already have myriad advantages based on where they live and the family into which they were born. Although I love them more than other kids, I do not believe they deserve better just because they are mine.

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