President-elect Trump recently announced that while he would live in the White House, the first lady and his grade-school son, Barron, will stay in NYC to finish the school year. This decision may be the only thing I can relate to in connection to Trump. A year and a half ago, I had to make the decision whether to move the entire family halfway through the school year (and one of my children was midway through 5th grade, his last year at the elementary school) or wait until the following fall. I didn’t want to move them mid-way through. I thought the change would be too much for them, they might flounder with a potentially different curriculum, and how could they make friends suddenly as the new kids. This is where my commonality with Trump ends because even though I’m framing it as if I had a decision, I didn’t really. Finances made the “choice” simple. I couldn’t afford to maintain the mortgage on a new house and rent on another, couldn’t live in my parents cramped place any longer, and thus had no choice but to move mid-year. For someone who built his campaign, at least in part, on his claim to understand the struggles of the lower or working class, I think he’s missing a key difference between the rich and the not rich: access to choices, especially with education.
One of the main reasons we moved was to give my children access to excellent public schools. At our old neighborhood the elementary schools were strong, but the middle school was on more shaky ground. To be sure that my children would get a strong, or even safe education, we were told to either try out for a specialized middle school. Someone advised me to start teaching my son a string instrument when he was four. Unfortunately, he showed no aptitude for that so music wasn’t going to be our ticket. Then, we were told to try out for the gifted program. Getting your children into a NYC gifted program is a serious endeavor which often involves tutoring and coaching. Much has been written on the inequities of the system. We didn’t do any coaching because we figured if he couldn’t get it on his own, then he’d be doomed to a lifetime of coaching to remain competitive. He didn’t get in. So, our last choice was to move to a place with more taxes but access to great schools. We were privileged to even have that opportunity.
As those criticize the Trump decision to leave his child behind, they do so sighting clogged NYC traffic, the cost of secret service protection, and making a decision that affects everyone at the expense of disappointing a 4th grader. I can advise Trump that moving midway during the year was actually the best thing that ever happened to us. The kids were all treated special by the schools and given a moving helper. They were fine with the curriculum and got attention when needed, and most important, they had a chance to be seen as the new kids in the middle of the year rather than blend with the newness of the fall when they wouldn’t have been given any special attention. The kids survived.
It’s not easy to be kid. It’s especially not easy to be a White House kid as tales of Amy Carter’s loneliness at her first day of school when she was not even allowed out for recess, the media satires Chelsea Clinton had to entire, and the lack of privacy for everyone abound. Yet, first children have access to major privilege and opportunities the rest of us lack. Barron, Trump’s child, would survive, and probably thrive, given that the Trumps have access to any private school they want. I would hope that rather than spending time exploring this particular decision that Trump is making in terms of cost and one child, it’s time to tackle the larger issues of education, access, and the hard decisions every parent must make when it comes to doing right by their kids.
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