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Parents who choose private schools for sons and public schools for daughters

/ Feb 06, 2013 7:04AM / Print / ()

Parents who choose private schools for sons and public schoo...

I heard something truly horrible last week. So distressing that I felt I had to share.

A forty-something friend was telling me about the decisions that a group of her friends were planning to make for their young children. Apparently her friends were discussing the old private versus public school debate and she was surprised to learn that the general consensus in the group was send to the boys to private school but not necessarily the girls.

It seems that if you can afford to send the boy and the girl then, no question. Also, no question if you can't afford to send either. But if you are an in-betweener and could really only afford to send one then you go with the boy.

The decision is shocking enough but the rationale is what will lead you to despair. The boys apparently will need the networks for their careers that come with a private boys school education. And worse: the girls won't need that.

As you can imagine, I was livid when I heard this. We tell girls they can be and do anything they choose. We encourage organisations to change their culture to embrace and reward talented women. And yet at the early stage of their life, in some homes at least, decisions are made to keep promoting the old boys network that excludes women.

I have two sons and my husband and I made a decision early in their lives that if we couldn't afford to send both boys to a private school then neither would go, unless one of them earned a spot via a scholarship. To choose one over the other would surely be impossible. So why would it be easier to consider if I had one of each gender instead?

Before my oldest son was two I was asked where I had put his name down for school. I had no idea that I needed to make that decision so early. What did I know of my son's personality and relative strengths at that age? Some schools have an academic focus, others a sports orientation or creative bent. Surely if I was going to choose a school for my child at that age I would need to know if the school would be right for him.

If I had to choose between my children at that age, what criteria other than gender is there? Groups of parents are making a conscious decision to choose an education with potential positive career benefits for their son because of his gender - and it's no longer the fifties.

It's too horrible for words and I'm not sure we can do anything about this in the short term other than declare outrage.

Am I wrong?

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