Monday, October 25, 2010

a transplant experiment

I stayed at a certain hostel here where the manager is a middle-aged American woman. She runs an outstanding place, and has lots of interesting stories, but she's one of the majority of non-corporate expats who have...issues. Vaguely defined. It takes certain personality traits to go move yourself permanently somewhere else; for lack of a better word, expats who aren't set up by a big organization (e.g. company job or diplomatic corps) are usually somehow flakey.

She had brought her teenage daughter here some years ago and put her in a Chilean public school. I could barely conceal my shock: my eyebrows rose, as though possessed. I'm not of the opinion that you have to sacrifice everything to give your children the best of everything, but I am definitely of the opinion that you should sacrifice as much as you can to give your children the barely-adequate of everything. Choosing to put your kid in a Chilean public school, when you have better options, doesn't qualify.

I got my eyebrows under control and continued the conversation.
"Well, I wanted her to experience being around kids who didn't have as much stuff."
"That's a good idea. How did that go?"
"She came home one day and boasted that she was getting sevens." (Chilean grades go from 0 or 1 up to 7.) "I said, 'How are you pulling sevens? You don't even speak Spanish.'"
Ooookay, so you put your child into a barely-functional school system where she doesn't speak the language and there's no facilities for teaching it to her.
"So what happened?"
"I took her out of the school when she came home one day and said she had to go meet her friends to graffiti some stuff."
I say "parenting fail," despite the broadened cultural horizons. (As of our meeting, the daughter hadn't been heard from for several months, which Mom thought meant she was dropping out of college, possibly not for the first time.) What do you think?

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