Two Parenting Dilemmas

In some ways, parenting becomes easier as the kids grow. They need less attention. They can cut their own meat. They remember to wash the shampoo out of their hair.

But other problems arise. How much freedom do you let them have? How much do you let other parents shape your parenting decisions? How much heat do you put on them for good grades? In the past month, we have had two big debates about Jonah, our 13-year old.

Last month, his French teacher sent out an e-mail to parents announcing the eighth grade French trip to Quebec. She said that it would only cost $750. There will be a general class trip later in the year that will cost about the same amount of money. This is an outrageous amount of money for a class trip at a public school. The trip would also mean missing four days of school. 

What to do? We didn't want Jonah to be the only kid in the class to not attend this trip. He would miss out on bonding time with the other students.

But the trip had only marginal educational benefits; it is a glorified cruise. He would have tons of make up classwork to complete when he came back. We could scrounge up the money, but then we wouldn't be able to do something else as a family.  And it was the principle of the whole thing. Public schools should not put parents in this tough position. 

We decided to hold him back from this trip. 

Problem number two is the Violent Video Game problem. 

We don't have Call of Duty or Halo. We don't have a big screen TV. Recent studies show that violent video games make kids more aggressive. We have a ten-year old on the house with an autistic spectrum disorder, who isn't great at distinguishing between reality and fiction. We have plenty of other video games like FIFA soccer, Portal 2, Skyrim, and Minecraft. We held the line here and told him that he couldn't have COD or Halo. 

But this is leading to playdate problems for Jonah. On Friday, he invited a friend over after school. This doesn't happen very often, so I pulled out all the stops on fun. I had pizza for the boys. I let them break into the stash of soda in the basement. But what was the first thing the kid asked when he came in the house? "Do you have Call of Duty?"

Jonah plays those games at other kids' houses. He has friends who have nine and ten-year old little brothers who play Grand Theft Auto and worse. 

We decided to buy him COD for Christmas and then activate all the parental controls on the game to the maximum. We'll also make the rule that the game is only for an hour on weekends and then keep Ian out of the playroom when the game is on. 

Parenting 1, Peer Pressure 1. We stood our ground with the French trip, but gave in on COD. 

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42 thoughts on “Two Parenting Dilemmas

  1. Leaving aside the money, I can’t see how the school allows that many missed days for a trip like that in 8th grade. Also, it is my understanding that the French spoken in Quebec isn’t even that comprehensible to your standard French speaker.

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  2. My understanding is that Parisiens understand Quebecois fine, they just pretend not to. Like a Londoner pretending not to understand someone from Minnesota, except that English-speakers aren’t snobby that way.
    I’m curious, though, what percentage of students went on the trip? At my daughter’s private school, the trips weren’t optional.

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  3. When I first asked her about the trip, she told me that almost all of the kids would probably be going. But then we got a desperate e-mail from her last week that said that only 23 kids signed up and she needed more kids. The trip is sponsored by some tour company and they need a certain quota of kids.

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  4. I actually did go on a trip to Quebec in 8th grade, and it was magical. Our teacher got us out of bed to see the Chateau Frontenac lit up at midnight, and I thought she was so cool! MH is right about the French being incomprehensible to us, but we had fun picking out words we knew on menus. But my parents took staycations, so it was my first trip anywhere and hence eye-opening. Laura’s kids have much more travel experience.
    Laura, if it’s any comfort to you, we don’t have a gaming system of any kind. Kids are floored when they come to our house. We also have a TV from 1995. Pretty soon the BBC will be calling to film a reality show like “20th-century House” at our place. But no new TV until I get a dishwasher…

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  5. We’re in the same boat with CoD – but our kids are only 8 and 10. We get the – but EVERYONE at school plays it. I often envy my friends who send their kids to the local, expensive private school. They’re agonizing over whether to allow their 10 year olds to start playing Minecraft. We like to have those kids over every once in a while to break the private school bubble.

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  6. Our school (also private) also doesn’t see the class trips as optional (and, I believe, offers support for those who receive financial aid so they can still participate). My kiddo loves the class trips (and loves them more if they involve cities and foreign cities as opposed to camping/wilderness nature trips). We also travel a fair amount as a family (try to get an international trip every year, and do a few domestic trips a year). So, for me, the Quebec trip would have been a no-brainer. I’d definitely have shelled out for it (and be happy that getting the money together wouldn’t have involved scrounging, as it would have for my own family when I was growing up).
    We haven’t had to face the issue of violent video games yet — our older is not interested at all, and is a girl, so doesn’t face the peer demand. We’re also very restrictive about video games. I’ve developed a not very well supported but decent working hypothesis that video games cause maladaptive brain development — one that no one else should rely on, but is just enough incentive to help me remain firm in my opposition, at least right now, when the games don’t seem required for social interaction in my kids’ peer groups.
    However, one of my parenting rules is never say never (I also have similar half-baked theories about head injuries, but somehow, my kiddo plays hockey, something that still surprises me on a regular basis). We had a short discussion about Magic (the card game) and whether we’d support it if the kids wanted to play. Right now its not an issue, ’cause the girl doesn’t want to play (though she rightly objected when I said that it was because she was a girl) and the boy thinks that boys who play Magic are weird. But, in general, I think you can only remain firm on so much of what the rest of your kids’ peers are doing and have to pick your battles carefully.

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  7. I kept thinking that “two parenting dilemmas” was going to be about you and Steve disagreeing on a parenting issue. I even have trouble remembering that when I know what this article is about (i.e. did Steve & you disagree on the two issues — I know, that’s not what the article is about, but the title primed me incorrectly).

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  8. The French trip was a big decision for us, because $750 is a LOT of money for us. Like I said, we could find the money, but it would mean that other expenditures couldn’t happen next year. We couldn’t go on a family vacation in April or we would put off putting a new roof on the house next year. Jonah wouldn’t be able to go skiing. We had to carefully weigh the pros and the cons. And we’re middle class. We attend a public school in a diverse town. There are some incredibly rich people, but there are also people in apartments in the center of town. We know of one family that is storing another family of 6 in their attic, so the kids can attend the schools in this town. It is IMMORAL to expect that people are going to have pay that much money out of pocket for a class trip.

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  9. I think i’d be more willing to make the financial sacrifice for the trip if it were something designed by the teacher. I’m not impressed with the school tour company trips and assume the teachers are just going to get a free trip for them and their friends/family.

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  10. “It is IMMORAL to expect that people are going to have pay that much money out of pocket for a class trip.”
    As I said, in our private school, the expectation is that if you receive financial aid, these costs will be covered, too. In our area, PTAs in public schools also try to raise money for those costs (though I don’t know how the less well off families in a school gain access to them), but I’m guessing it would be through knowledge of their free lunch eligibility.
    That solution doesn’t address the problems of the family that is stretching to pay for the school (like one who is stretching to pay for the suburb that the public school is situated in) but doesn’t receive aid (either because they’re not eligible or because they didn’t ask). And, it doesn’t address the issue of how people balance their choices when money plays a significant role (i.e. the trip or soccer or skiing or piano — even leaving out the issue of necessities like roofs and food).

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  11. And, this issue, of balancing priorities in economically tight circumstances is the bigger issue we’re discussing at every level. In schools, it’s STEM v writing v music v art v sports, . . . . As always there are people who imagine that we can just do more with the same money (by spending it correctly).

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  12. As always there are people who imagine that we can just do more with the same money (by spending it correctly)
    In the case of traveling with 13 year-old kids to learn a foreign language, they’re completely right. That’s an absurdly inefficient teaching technique. Sure travel is broadening, but Canada isn’t very different anyway.

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  13. Are we expected to call them playdates even when our children are teenagers? Because I hate that word now and my kids are only three and five. I think once they’re teenagers it should be hanging out or some other less annoying phrase.

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  14. One thing I think is sad is that a lot of paths for earning money at Jonah’s age no longer exist like they did for me when I was 13 in the late 1970s. Most of us babysat or had paper routes (or both). The morning paper was a great way to make money and not interfere with after school activities because by 6:30 you were done for the day. Two of my girlfriends paid for most of their Catholic high school tuition that way. I was putting $30/month into a savings account (still have the passbook) in 8th grade. That’s a lot of money by today’s standards. Today we generally don’t have 12 and 13 year-olds babysitting and newspapers are delivered by truck drivers who toss them at the end of driveway, making subscribing useless to those with mobility issues like my late mother. She continually lamented the end of the “paper boy/girl” who put the paper in the door.

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  15. bj – Public schools should assume that all the kids are poor and not expect that parents should pay anything but a nominal amount for activities that aren’t covered by the school budget. You private school people can do whatever you want, but a public school is different. You pay your taxes, and then you get an education. End of story.

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  16. You should probably run for school board, except that if you win I think it would just be a whole bunch of unpleasant work. It’s probably not the kind of office were you can do good and have fun.

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  17. “You pay your taxes, and then you get an education. End of story.”
    I agree, but that means that you’re going to loose whatever anyone considers an extra. With our largely state based funded education, cities and localities don’t get to choose to pay for their priorities (whatever they may be). In our state, public schools try to fund these activities with fees and fund-raising (sometimes even for personnel deemed non-essential by the administration, like librarians, counsellors, reading specialists, art and music teachers).
    For example, our local middle school has a nationally known music program. It’s the only program in the MS that manages to have a web page, at least partially because parent fundraising funds a substantial part of the program. Reading the web page freaks me out, because its clear that it is the path to providing a private service at a public school (fundraising, parent volunteering are requirements of participation). I’ve recently learned that private music teachers come to the school to offer instruction to students during class hours (i.e. the star trumpet player gets music tutoring, paid for by parents, during the school day). But, its also true that without this fundraising, this program would be gone. It would not be funded by our ever-decreasing commitment education, and, folks in schools where people are not meeting reading targets would (rightfully) argue that music is a luxury.

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  18. I loved the two examples of what we don’t have to worry about — they can cut their own meat and wash the shampoo out of their hair. Two things that my (typical!) 12 year old daughter still struggles with! Our (public) school also does multi day trips — but they at least do not pile on the make up work recognizing that these are school opportunities. We had pretty open discussions with our kids about budgeting — if this money gets spent here it cannot be spent elsewhere.

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  19. We would make the opposite decisions: yes to trips, no to COD/Halo/WOW. In our state, parents may refuse permission for field trips, but it does tag the kid as, “poor guy with the weird parents.” If every eighth grader participates in the trips, there won’t be piles of homework to catch up on. The teachers who don’t go on the trip must think up things for the kid to do, which wouldn’t leave everyone else behind. In our public school, that would have meant movies (Disney variety.) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” does not substitute for Quebec. On the other hand, if only 23 kids in the grade take the trip, there’s no social stigma in not going, and there will be homework to make up. Also, something dicy happens on every middle school trip, unless the teachers act like prison guards, locking kids into rooms, hiring security guards to patrol the hallway to keep young teens from roaming to the most daring kid’s room.
    No violent video games. I’m sure my son away at school plays these games with friends, but it’s important for them to know that we don’t approve of pretending to kill people.
    Once kids get to high school, the play dates under parents’ watchful eyes stop. Kids often stay at school to pursue extracurricular activities. We would make the opposite decisions: yes to trips, no to COD/Halo/WOW. In our state, parents may refuse permission for field trips, but it does tag the kid as, “poor guy with the weird parents.” If every eighth grader participates in the trips, there won’t be piles of homework to catch up on. The teachers who don’t go on the trip must think up things for the kid to do, which wouldn’t leave everyone else behind. In our public school, that would have meant movies (Disney variety.) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” does not substitute for Quebec. On the other hand, if only 23 kids in the grade take the trip, there’s no social stigma in not going, and there will be homework to make up. Also, something dicy happens on middle school trips, unless the teachers act like prison guards, locking kids into rooms, hiring security guards to patrol the hallway to keep young teens from roaming to the most daring kid’s room.
    No violent video games. I’m sure my son away at school plays these games with friends, but it’s important for them to know that we don’t approve of pretending to kill people.
    Once kids get to high school, the play dates under parents’ watchful eyes stop. Kids often stay at school to pursue extracurricular activities. If the high school is near town, this will also involve wandering over to Starbucks for coffee. Sports teams divide the student body into interest groups. Team practices take up time. Students get jobs.
    I agree about the dangers of creeping privatization of public schools. In our town, the extra fees levied on parents of children in the school system were tied to activities defined as “extras.” In the 10+ years our children were in the public system, we saw bus services for middle schoolers, after school sports, and participation in music groups moved from the “free for students in public schools” to “open to students whose parents pay the fees (some scholarship money available.)” We objected to it in our town, which didn’t make us very popular.

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  20. My daughter’s 8th grade class is doing a DC trip in June. *eyeroll* We were there 3 years ago, same time of year. It’s hot as hell. Also, do the kids do ANY learning in June? I have yet to see anything educational happen after Memorial Day.
    I’m paying the $650 for the trip. We can do fundraising, but the first option was poorly timed/organized.

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  21. The trips sound nuts to me, and I do think they are mostly an east-coast (and quite recent) thing, with fairly minimal value, (and often a bit of scam, as noted above.) But this is the part I want to comment on:
    The morning paper was a great way to make money and not interfere with after school activities because by 6:30 you were done for the day.
    As a former paper-boy (3 years or so, I think) let me say that it’s a terrible job, one that more than anything taught me something about exploitation. If you had to try to collect the money from people, as we did, you also got to learn what scum bags many people were when they’d cheat you and try not to pay you. I think it is too bad that kids have harder times earning money these days (and think it’s nuts that babysitting has changed the way it has) but delivering newspapers was an awful job, and having done it makes me less sorry about the death of newspapers than I otherwise might have been.

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  22. I have hired 7th and 8th graders to babysit. Many are too busy with organized activities to sit regularly. They also grow up quickly. By the time they know how to load the dishwasher or turn on the porch light, they’re high school juniors, loaded up with APs, and no time to sit.

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  23. Like your sons, I was a boy of well educated parents going through middle school in an economically diverse town. In New Jersey. In 1982. The issues that you describe now are not much different from the issues I faced then. There was a trip to Quebec: we did not go. Attendance on it was probably less than 20% of the class, though, so if there is a higher percentage today, perhaps the world has changed. But dealing with the priorities of other parents has not changed. Giving their sons an education was a paramount concern of my parents, and there were many parents who did not view getting into an elite college, or even any college, as being that important.
    For what it is worth, I too spent a lot of time on video games, because when you are a middle school boy, that is pretty much all there is. I attribute some portion of my success with the skills that I learned playing Adventure, Space Invaders, and whatever else was coming out of that 4-bit box. I probably would have gone further if I had a read a book or two.

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  24. Our schools aren’t primarily financed through property taxes — I believe it’s sales taxes. We also have a state supreme court ruling saying that our constitution says that education is the first priority of the state (or something along those lines). People are hoping the ruling will impact funding decision making (the goal among progressives is an income tax along with our state-based funding), but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed.
    I also don’t think that the funding mechanism will substantially change the creeping privatization. The creep is being caused by a difficulty of coming to a consensus. This discussion, about school trips is a case and point, ’cause really, I think they’re great. But, that belief probably depends on a lot of factors in our individual situation, including our family’s belief in travel as a broadening experience (any travel at all), our kids and their characteristics (my daughter could go to DC every year and learn something new, and has actually been two times this year). On the other hand, my kids don’t currently need access to a world class band. Unless resources are abundant, conflicts will inevitably arise around these priorities.

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  25. I showed the brochure to my SIL, the middle school teacher. She said she thought that this trip and others like it were a complete waste of time. A big chunk of the money was going to pay for the teacher’s trip and to the tour guide operator. We could go as a family to Quebec for about the same amount of money, and Jonah would learn twice as much, because he has very smart parents.
    But I don’t care how fabulous a trip is, a public school should not ask parents to pay that much for anything. It’s nice if you can spent $750 without blinking an eye, but that’s not the realilty for 99% of the population.
    My kid has learned valuable lessons by not going on this trip. He has learned that rich people spend money on stupid things. He has learned that one has to make choices about money. If you buy X, then you can’t buy Y. He has learned that he’ll survive if he doesn’t keep up with the Jones.
    Privatization of public schools is happening, because nobody is saying no to the rich people who keep cranking the screws up on public schools. Not only are they demanding these trips, but they are fund raising like crazy in this town. One local elementary school raised $100K at a charity auction and all that money went back into the local schools. They have too much disposable income.

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  26. Where I live privatization is happening because property taxes are insufficient to pay for basic things, like science labs in the high school. Varsity athletics are pay-to-play, with a mechanism for financial aid for those who can’t pay. Participation fees are common for theater and music and art. And this is in the blue state paradise of Massachusetts. Privatization is happening because the public does not want to support public education through taxation.

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  27. 100K is standard around here for our local public elementary schools in the “better” neighborhoods.
    I don’t have a solution, to the creeping privatization, though, because, as I admit, my solution, for my own kids, with the fact that i want all these extras while still opposing the privatization of the public schools (and, I fully believe that’s what’s happening in our local schools, with the money being used to pay for necessities like librarians) is to send my kids to a private school where no one can complain about the extras (for the most part).
    I fight for a more generous system, in my votes and conversations, but, ultimately, if my choice is between skimpiness in a public school and a private school, I’m making my choice for the extras. I would be willing to support for everyone, with higher taxes, on me — I did vote for our income tax initiative, but I’m not willing to give them up.
    (Oh, and I realized I’d said I’d pay for the Quebec trip, but, of course, I can’t know if I’d pay for the trip your kid was offered. All I can say is that I pay without qualms for the trips my kids are offered, which is not the same thing, and not just ’cause they’re in private schools).

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  28. Eldest went on a Quebec trip in 8th grade but, since her school was French immersion, I expect they had a better time. (Also, being Canadians, we don’t find a problem with Quebeçois French.) But the cost was a bit more reasonable as they were mostly spending the time in a small ski town.
    Making the choices about what’s right for your family and your kid aren’t easy and what is the right choice can change quickly as your situation changes. But try telling that to the busybodies in real life and online who’re SURE they know a better solution than the one you’re employing. Bah!
    Autistic Youngest didn’t get to go on her school’s 8th grade trip which wasn’t language-oriented and would have required us trusting her to manage herself. She cheered up when her high school ASD class did two all-expense paid trips last year, including one to the nation’s capital. Those we could feel good about, not only because they weren’t breaking the bank but because we knew that the kids would all be appropriately managed.
    We don’t have CoD or Halo but that’s just because nobody here wants to play them. However, Autistic Youngest’s deep aversion to noise and conflict on television means never having to watch drama or pretty much anything scripted. Yay?

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  29. I don’t think the privatization stems from a lack of money. Any reasonable person can look at our school budget and notice that the system’s spending more money for a shrinking enrollment, yet funding fewer programs. It stems from a fundamental disagreement between the administration and certain parents on the issue of “necessities.”
    Is it necessary to have an extracurricular activity competing to be the “best in the state,” when a more modest program would allow more children to participate, without the need for fees? Can a small system support multiple after-school activities (robotics, chess, band, several sports, choir, enrichment lessons, etc.) at the same time? Should it, when the financial pressure divides the student body into the children of those who are willing to pay for extras, and those who are not willing to pay for extras? (Should families even contemplate going into debt for middle school extras? Is it not unethical to demand of other parents that they spend more in a _public school_ “to keep up with the Joneses?”)
    When I was a child, we could participate in music programs during school. One sport was offered for each gender each season after school during middle school–and we didn’t compete against other schools. Our field trips were day trips to local museums, not multi-day, out of state excursions. Our education was not inadequate.

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  30. Quebec City is pretty awesome but it sounds like a trip I would not love. I agree that $750 is outrageous.
    For CoD, I am not familiar with all the games but I have filed away in my brain this possibly aprocryphal story about parents who let their child play some war game…but required him to play by the Geneva Convention, which involved both learning the Geneva Convention and applying it in fast situations like don’t shoot the civilian. I thought that was cool. Fortunately Angry Birds is as violent as it gets at my place lately.

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  31. I just have to say I really enjoy your blog, and all these comments. As an ex-PTO president at a big-city public school, I understand about the trip and “creeping privatization.” And with a mature 8 year old (if you can call an 8 year old that) who loves video games, I am walking that path, too; right now he’s obsessed with the Megabloks Halo line and really wants the video game. His dad and I say “no way,” but it seems hypocritical or like a futile gesture. Thank you for the link to the study, I needed that for an argument I’m having with another kid’s parents.

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  32. Disclaimer: I have no children and I travel like a mad woman and VALUE travel. Both Pesto and I worked (paper route and housecleaning/fed cats respectively) and we made mad money–still valuing this 30 years later.
    My mouth is agape. I can’t even fathom sending a child on a school trip for $750. That’s two RT airfare to the Caribbean and *almost* two RT fares to Paris. As a woman who places a high value on travel, I’m with Laura and Steve on this. Instead, I would prefer to enroll a child in a year long activity for that kind of money. (Sorry, I’m finding this mind boggling, $750? We make a decent living DINK NYC, but even I think this is crazy money. But maybe I’m out of touch?)
    Admission: I got in trouble in 8th grade and couldn’t attend the class trip. I’ll never forget how awful that felt. I couldn’t help wonder if my mother couldn’t get the money together for the trip and punished me so as to have an excuse?

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  33. We’ve started saying no to this kind of stuff alot now that we have two kids in high school and one in middle school. I’d rather spend the money on music camp and better instruments for my kids, rather on these pseudo-vacation like things. There’s always a lot of them with orchestra and band — Go to New York and play ONE concert and then call it a traveling orchestra event.
    I’m a former foreign service officer, I have a British graduate degree and I spent my junior year abroad, so I like to think I have a nose for the good programs and the bad ones. (I also handled educational exchanges as part of my foreign service portfolio.) My sense is that the parents most likely to feel guilty that their child is missing out on some incredibly valuable activity tend to be the ones with less education and less money — which is why this whole thing is actually so immoral. Someone like Laura and her husband has had enough experience with travel herself that she’s able to make a statement like “You’ll get more out of a museum if you go in a family group of 4 than if you go in a busload of 60” but it’s often the lower-income family that is going to be taken in by the brochure with the colored pictures and so forth. All I know is that in our neighborhood, there’s a kid whose dad is a fireman and his parents have coughed up for that ridiculous “Youth Ambassadors” program twice, sending him once to Australia and once to Europe. The other family I knew that fell for that scam was one where the guy was enlisted and the mom was a recent immigrant from the Phillipines. They spent three thousand dollars to send a child to some kind of Youth Ambassador soccer camp in Spain. In both cases, the parents didn’t understand that the ‘personal invitation’ is generated by the company buying mailing lists, and even though the copy says “You’ve been selected for this unique opportunity based on your leadership skills” every kid in the neighborhood gets one of these. And the first family was convinced it was going to get their child into Harvard. Some of this stuff actually strikes me as predatory.

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  34. It seems like $750 is a very large amount of money for a class trip when kids are that young. I think that I’d consider paying that much for a senior class trip in high school but not in 8th grade.
    As for the Call of Duty, I can’t blame you guys for giving in a little it is tough to hold out when so many parents openly let their children play hours of video games each night. However, I do like the restrictions that you put on their gaming time. That was a responsible decision.

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  35. Cranberry said:
    “Also, something dicy happens on every middle school trip, unless the teachers act like prison guards, locking kids into rooms, hiring security guards to patrol the hallway to keep young teens from roaming to the most daring kid’s room.”
    Oh, yeah.
    Wendy said:
    “My daughter’s 8th grade class is doing a DC trip in June. *eyeroll* We were there 3 years ago, same time of year. It’s hot as hell. Also, do the kids do ANY learning in June? I have yet to see anything educational happen after Memorial Day.”
    DC is nice in either April or October. Otherwise, it’s either too cold or too hot/humid. During the warm months, going outside is like being wrapped in a huge, hot, wet wool blanket. I have no idea how people who have big, serious jobs in DC get through the hot months while looking somewhat professional.
    Sam Crane said:
    “As long as public schools are financed primarily by property taxes, the creeping privatization will continue, because funding is chronically insufficient.”
    The human condition is that resources are finite and desires are infinite. This trip will be lots of fun, but the education value will be minimal (or even negative, if we count the time lost that could have been spent in real school). You could get each child hours and hours of one-on-one French tutoring with a native French person for $750. You could buy a very nice library of French movies for $750 or a nice collection of French-language comic books or music. And that’s just one $750. Multiply by 23 and you could practically hire a part-time native French aide.
    But, I have to confess, the trip sounds like it will be very fun. I’d love to go myself, were it not for the presence of two dozen middle schoolers (see Cranberry’s remarks above). I missed going on a school-organized trip to France and Spain as a high schooler and I’ve never had a chance to go since then. I’ve been to other (less expensive and grittier) parts of the world, but no Paris for me yet. Do I regret that a bit to this day–oh yes.

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  36. When we went to Quebec in 8th grade, we public-school students had to raise the money for it ourselves: car washes, door-to-door candy sales, made and sold Christmas wreaths… it took several months. I’m shocked that the schools are sticking the parents alone with this. I would bring this up at a PTA meeting; I’m sure there would be a lot of support.
    (When I later went to private school and they went to France, the parents paid, and there were no organized fund-raisers. Mine couldn’t, and I had to stay home. And it sucked because I was a strong French student and *everyone* kept asking me why I wasn’t going. This was character-building for me and a lesson in “how the other half” [or 99%] lives” for my classmates.)

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  37. Laura said:
    “We could go as a family to Quebec for about the same amount of money, and Jonah would learn twice as much, because he has very smart parents.”
    …and would not be running around with two dozen Anglophone peers.
    By the way, there’s a similar objection to a lot of study abroad programs for college kids of the sort where you live with and go to class with two dozen fellow Americans. I did a study abroad in St. Petersburg that was set up like that (although I did have two Russian roommates) and it can be rather limiting.

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  38. Oh the class trips. My kids’ middle school always FLEW the eighth grade to Washington DC for a cool $800. Insane. (Although the trip was very well designed, the kids learned a ton and the hotel halls were patrolled.)
    I agree that it’s disgustingly immoral in a public school.

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  39. Regarding Anglophone companionship, we sent our daughter to a summer program in Spain two summers ago. She met lots of Spanish girls, but their English was better than her Spanish, and they wanted to speak English, so her Spanish didn’t realy improve. However, she did acquire a Spanish-speaking friend or two whom she could text to get help on her Spanish homework. I’m not sure if that counts as good thing.

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  40. I’ve come to the conclusion that school-based language interventions in the US are unlikely to be of practical benefit to Americans. Interesting that the Spaniards spoke better English than she did Spanish, because that’s the one language where I might have thought Americans might actually have acquired useable language. In my travels, I’ve found that it is highly unlikely that even a fairly dedicated language learner in the US will have French, German, or Italian that surpasses that spoken by the French/German/Italians one interacts with in an educated workplace.
    The exceptions are people who spoke those languages in their homes (and not at school, or not just at school). Otherwise, our language is just not good enough. And, a few days ago, I spent some time using google translate, and found that, in general, Google translate did a fairly good job of translating (German, Dutch, Hebrew, and Arabic). I had to do some guessing, but I could follow the text of newspaper/magazine articles in each of those languages using Google text. True, I was missing complexity and the possibility of bad guesses were of concern, but the translation quickly surpassed my 5+ years of German (though, admittedly, I’ve never lived in Germany and haven’t taken the language in a long time. I was a star student in my day, though).
    I still like foreign language instruction (I took German to read Goethe in German and am glad that I got to do that), but I think the benefits of foreign language instruction are oversold, especially if we’re not willing to seriously commit to learning it.

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