Over the last week or so, there has been some debate on my neighborhood community Facebook page about whether it is appropriate to lie about your address to get your child into the local public school. The local public school is kind of a legend in its own time. It has a fabulous reputation and over the years its students have managed to score higher than provincial average on outcome scores. Aside from the main stream, it also has a special needs and gifted program, which are both highly regarded by administrators across the province.
The debate, becoming heated, is centered on families who have lied about their address in order to fall into the catchment area of the school when they do not in fact live in the area. They argue that it is the best school in the area, better than their own home school, and they would do whatever it takes to ensure their children get educated there. The other side is arguing that it takes away from the community of the school, it is overfilling the classrooms which are already too full, and is sending our children a message that it is alright to lie in order to get what you want. Clearly, I am merely summarizing the argument, which goes way deeper than the scope of this blog.
So is it alright to lie to administrators, and have our children learn this message directly from their own parents in order to accomplish a certain goal? Is it ever okay to deliberately lie? If so, how can we expect our children to be able to differentiate between good and bad lies? Does such a thing really exist?
The school board very clearly defines the school catchment area. So if others from outside the community lie about their area of residence in order to get into the school, do local parents have a right to fight this? After all, the school is already over capacity. Those who live in the catchment area pay higher taxes to live in the area. Many families have even moved into the area specifically because of the school. Is it okay for others just ‘to join’ in without paying their dues, so to speak?
The truth is, I have no answer to this question. I have chosen to stay out of this online debate, as I have friends on both sides, and I can see both sides. Currently, despite the fact that I too live in this ‘catchment area’, my own children are in private school and this whole argument does not affect our family. However, if we chose to send our children to our local public school, I too would be highly concerned about class sizes and the lack of personal attention my children would receive if the classroom sizes were not adequately capped.
On the other hand, if I did not live in the neighborhood, and wanted my children to attend this school, would I do everything possible to ensure my children could attend the best school around? I probably would do that too. And I would most likely get the backlash that these families are getting now.
There is obviously a growing tension between both sides, and this is unlikely to resolve itself any time soon. In an ideal world, both sides would be better off using their resources if they put all the time and energy they are using now to spew commentary on Facebook and focus it instead on what is really important – realizing that we all have the same goal in mind, regardless of the boundary that defines our neighborhood. We all want what is best for our children, and we need to figure out a way to work together without lashing out or throwing insults back and forth.
The unanswered question remains however – what messages are we sending our children if we do lie? Are these the messages that we wish to send our children? And ultimately, is the message as important as the outcome when it comes to our children’s future?
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