I recently found myself drawn into an online debate about the merits of public schools.The person I was conversing with claimed to be a former college professor and the husband of a public school teacher. He advocated privatizing the entire educational system, arguing that private, for-profit companies are better able to operate efficiently.Six years ago, I might have agreed with him. I spent almost 25 years in the business world and was very critical of our failed educational system. I felt that schools had moved away from their mission of education. I believed I could fix the system, but the money just wasn't in teaching.The economy took a bad turn, and I found myself out of work. I became a teacher.I entered my class determined to teach the way I was taught. It took one day to realize this would not be possible. The world has changed in the last 30 years, and so have the students.The first major difference I noticed was students' short attention span. The only way to keep their attention was to change the activity or lesson to bring them back. After researching this observation, I realized that with the electronic overload from Internet, cable television, iPods, computers, video games, etc., their brains could not focus for longer periods of time.There also seemed to be more discipline issues than when I was a student. I learned that special education students who would have been sent to different schools in the past were placed in regular classrooms.I met students who had no food, no electricity, no water at home. The only meals they got were at school. Many told stories of hearing gunshots at night -- or worse, actually having shots fired at their house.How could they focus in class when they were always worried about survival?How could they finish homework with no lights at home?My attitude changed. These students want to succeed but often do not know how. One of my students did very well on the TAKS test. When I told him I was proud of him, he gave me a blank look then said, "No one has ever said they are proud of me."Some of my students made national news several years ago, during the swine flu epidemic. School was canceled on the night before the science TAKS test. Students were told not to get together with other students. My students started a study group via text messaging so they would be ready for the test.Online, I found a fairly large movement to privatize schools, but here are some of the misconceptions.Private schools operate with less money per student. Most public schools receive $3,000-$5,000 per student. The average private school tuition is $10,000. Additionally, private schools receive donations from alumni and foundations. Religious schools (87 percent of private schools) often receive support from the church organization.Private and charter schools are more fiscally responsible. Many private and charter schools close every year due to financial problems.Private schools teach better. Private schools often have academic admission requirements. If grades drop, students are expelled.Private schools handle discipline better. Most private schools normally do not take special education students or students with emotional/behavioral issues. Public schools are required to accept any student.Our educational system is not perfect, and it needs attention. It does not, however, need to be scrapped and replaced. The majority of the teachers are in the classroom because they care about children. Before you criticize the schools, ask yourself, "What have I done to support the efforts of my child's teachers?"Michael Sanderson is a middle school science teacher in Tarrant County.