Is It Wrong for Public School Principals to Send Their Kids to Private School?

One of our friends is a principal at a charter high school for underprivileged kids. My youngest son goes to public school with a wonderful principal. Between the two principals, they have five children. All five of these children go to private high school. I have never asked the principals to explain their reasoning, but it seems hypocritical. It’s fine for them to work there, but not fine enough to send their children there? — Name Withheld

From the Ethicist:

I can see why their choices raise awkward questions. But don’t assume it’s a vote of no confidence in public education. There can be all sorts of reasons that they think the specific schools their kids are attending are a better fit for them, and you’re not acquainted with the particular circumstances, priorities and needs within each family. (For one thing, people might very well not want their kids to hear them being bad-mouthed by their classmates.) If you’re curious, though, why not ask? As school leaders, they won’t be surprised to be questioned about their choices. There’s a broader conversation to be had, of course, about the resource gap between public and private schools. But people who help run public schools don’t lose their rights as parents to make the decisions they believe are best for their children.

Readers Respond

The previous question was from a woman who disagreed with her husband about whether to divulge important information about her unborn child’s conception. She wrote: “My husband and I are thrilled to be welcoming our first child this spring, after an arduous I.V.F. journey lasting nearly two years. We ended up needing an anonymous egg donor, whom we found through an egg bank, to conceive our child. Select family members and close friends who knew that we were trying are aware that we took this route. However, my husband told me that he doesn’t want anyone else knowing that we used donor eggs, and that he is upset that some people already know. He is afraid that in a few years, someone will let slip to the child that they were conceived with donor eggs before we as parents have a chance to tell them ourselves. He believes we’re violating our unborn child’s right to privacy by sharing this fact with others. …What could possibly bring him around? Or how could I make peace with his position? And have I really deprived our unborn child of a right to privacy by telling a few people about how the child was conceived?”

In his response, the Ethicist noted: “When your husband talks about the child’s privacy, he’s suggesting that the child deserves the right to decide (at some unspecified age) who does and who does not know how this conception occurred. Yet we don’t usually think that the basic circumstances of our conception are something to keep secret. In the typical case, people understand children to be the product of sex between their parents. Is that a violation of privacy? It’s true that people who are the result of an anonymous egg donation can keep this fact quiet. The question is what interest it serves. … A two-decade study by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that in assisted-reproduction families, both kids and parents did better when the facts were disclosed early. Many fertility clinics have therapists who can help couples work through such issues.” (Reread the full question and answer here.)

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