It’s too expensive to send your kids to school

Doctors have finally started talking about the long-standing practice to medicate low-income kids with Adderall so they can compete in the school environment. To those of you who follow the Adderall debates, this confession should come as no surprise. People in both the medical community and the academic community have been predicting school would come to this. In a test-based classroom world, Adderall is a major boost to anyone’s performance and it shouldn’t be only rich kids who have access to it.

The New Yorker reports that it’s so common for high performing kids to use Adderall as a study aid that even very bright kids often need to pop Adderall pills just to stay on a level playing field with their peers. (Stuyvesant is a good example of this sort of school. One of the most prestigious public high schools in the country, but renowned for being extremely focused on testing.)

It makes sense to me that that such a wide range of kids need to be medicated in the public school system. The system is not about the kids. The system is about keeping teachers well paid while they occupy the kids so the  parents can work.  The system is about career planning for adults, not education for kids. Perhaps the most insidious aspect of this deal with the devil is that if parents want to keep their kids occupied while they go to work, the parents have to work in higher paying jobs so they can afford to live in higher-income school districts.

So your aspirations for which school you send your kids to dictates your career choice. And your aspirations for which kids your kid competes with dictates your kid’s off-label drug use.

If you look at it this way, it’s no surprise that the most expensive private schools in the country are moving toward a homeschool model—child-directed, customized learning, with heavy parent involvement (often from parents rich enough to have one hanging out at the school all day long).

It is a privilege of the rich to not have to medicate kids to cope with the school environment. And it’s a privilege of the financially secure to not have to send one parent to work just so you can send the kids to school.

So do you know how to raise your kids like they are rich kids? Take them out of school so they are in an environment where Adderall isn’t necessary. And stop working so hard to live in an expensive school district.

The real cost of sending your kids to public school is pervasive financial and emotional insecurity for the whole family. Which is why the recent surge in homeschooling families is among those with incomes between $50K and $150K. These are the people who understand that the cost of sending kids to school is way too high.


13 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m thinking if we want to change and optimize how kids are educated today then we have to educate the parents first. It’s the parents who need to understand how children learn best and the environment best suited not only for the child but also the family as a whole. Focusing only on the child is short sighted as you point out here. Thanks for pointing out that message on this and other posts.

  2. Lynn Lawrence
    Lynn Lawrence says:

    Often, the cost can be measured simply by looking at the amount of time it takes at home to support the kids in their schooling environment. If it’s five hours of school a night at home…you’re really already homeschooling.

  3. redrock
    redrock says:

    I have been aware of the Adderall or Ritalin debate for a while – and I think it is plain wrong to take it unless there is a good medical reason to do so. It is risky, and it does not even produce great results in terms of writing quality.

    From the New Yorker article it is pretty clear that it is not taken just to enhance grades, but because a student is unable to set priorities and study. Rather then party, or do 500 things which sound more appealing. It is a life choice rather than a study aid. So, learning study habits, and being able to persevere on a project will be a much better course of action then taking medication, which might mess up your brain for the future. And I can’t believe the family medicating all of their kids…. seriously?

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      I agree redrock and will add that I think the emphasis on testing in the schools is most likely adding to the problem of Adderall and similar drugs being used by students. And that would include too many papers and too much homework which I think are commonplace in today’s traditional school environment. Performance enhancing drugs (which I’ll label as PED’s here) in education remind me of PED’s in sports – they don’t belong and shouldn’t be used for many reasons.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        I think testing is only one part of it – the other one is that we expect EVERYTHING should be done by students. They should have a job at 16, be socially active, work in the soup kitchen on Saturday, and do 5 sports. I think this simply does not promote learning. And in depth focus.

  4. CJ
    CJ says:

    This takes me back to the Race to Nowhere film, where we are introduced to a young lady using to keep her grades up as she crushes under pressure.

    Also, it reminds me again of the wonderful work of Sir Ken Robinson and his fast draw (can be seen on YouTube) of the map of the USA and the Ritilan drug use pattern as it gets closer from west to east and south to north- that saturation of use is clearly demarcated with population density and competitive areas. No surprise the northeast has the highest usage or that in other countries the drug is banned. Ugh….

    The plethora of costs of sending children to public or private schools is mind boggling to me.

  5. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    Every time I come to your page and you don’t have an update I want to kill myself.

    (No, not seriously)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s funny, because every time I don’t have a new post for my blog I want to kill myself. Not seriously. But the same as you. So I know you get it.


  6. nia owen
    nia owen says:

    ‘The system is about keeping teachers well paid …’
    well paid!? not that i’m aware of.

    also, i just don’t understand what’s wrong with an education system also being a babysitting service. 2 for 1. That’s great.

    If only what the children did while being babysat would get better, more self-directed and more like homeschool, we’d have a perfect situation.

    Baby, bath water.

  7. Pam5
    Pam5 says:

    An idea that’s missing here is the high cost of urban housing. We need two incomes – earned in interesting jobs which cannot be done at home – to pay our mortgage. We don’t have a high mortgage because our house is overpriced because it’s in a “good” school district – we pay a high mortgage because 1) we didn’t inherit our house; and 2) we live in an expensive city in a location that allows us to walk or bike to work. We don’t send our kids to school in a “good” school district – we send them to school in the Boston Public School system which boasts excellent teachers albeit dismal test scores. The school is a 1 mile walk from our house. Our kids routinely meet interesting and educated people from all walks of life during the course of their school day – children from one-parent families, ambitious college students, inspiring music teachers. Homeschooling is not a one-size-fits-all solution,

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