In the United States, public schools are free. Sort of. There might be a small registration fee, and some schools require students to come prepared with school supplies, which is a relatively small expense, but for the most part public schools are on the taxpayer's dime. In other words, we all share the costs for public education, whether we have our own children in school or not.

The reason for providing a good public education system is fairly simple: a well-educated citizenry is essential to a well-functioning society. People who have a solid background in math, science, literature, social studies, art, and music contribute their skills and knowledge as employers, employees, and citizens at large. The electrician you call to fix a light in the bathroom should know essential principles in science and math in order to do his or her job, but he should also have the opportunity to know something about Pablo Picasso's art or Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays. The United States functions smoothly when it helps its citizens become well-rounded in all areas of study.

Another benefit provided by a public school education is the sense of equality among all students, regardless of income level, race, religion, gender, or physical ability.  We're all Americans when we're in school together, and we learn to work together. Children of immigrants are as welcome as the children of people who have been here for generations. There are occasional conflicts that may arise because of a student's background, and racism is still evident in many area of American life, but overall schools are places where teachers work hard to overcome conflict and instill a sense of shared values among all of the students. Anyone who spends enough time in an American public school will come out of it thinking like an American.  

Schools are also incubators for the next generation of inventors, artists, business people, lawyers, health care workers, and teachers. Students learn to work together but also learn to think for themselves in a competitive environment. Public schools also teach cooperation, teamwork, and self-motivation as much as they do science and math.  However, all schools are different, so when you visit a school prior to enrollment, find out what the school's mission statement is. The mission statement will be a short, carefully worded vision for the school and how it regards its role in the lives of the students who attend it.


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