The Way It Was
Private schools have pretty much come full circle. The first schools in America were private schools. They were small institutions established by families who knew that this country's future would be secured by well-educated citizenry. There were no public schools until much later in our independence. Those early private schools were rather modest affairs reflecting the times and customs in which they operated.
In the first half of the 20th century private schools again reflected society. Segregated schools were the norm. Usually only the rich could afford to send their children to private school.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way, thankfully. Private schools have come to value, indeed, champion, diversity. Financial aid is awarded based on need. Schools actively seek students from every kind of background.
The Way It Is
Do you think these statements are true?
- "Private schools are elitist."
- "Only kids from rich families attend private schools."
- "Private students are under enormous pressure to perform academically."
"Private schools are elitist."
If by that you mean independent schools pick and choose who they will accept, then they probably could be called elitist. But not for the usual reasons. A private school will not accept applicants only from a certain social or economic strata. Decades ago you could have made a case that private schools were elitist. Read Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools to see what I mean. No, nowadays, private schools are remarkably inclusive and try to accept applicants from every economic and social, even national, quarter. And not just the top schools like Exeter, Andover and Choate. Almost every private school prides itself on diversity. The only exceptions will be certain religious schools which insist on religious exclusivity for understandable reasons.
"Only kids from rich families attend private schools."
I was once interviewed on a Toronto radio talk show where the hostess tried to get me to agree with this statement. Of course, I disagree. It's all a matter of prioritizing. Private school fees are expensive. No doubt about that. But, human nature being what it is, where there's a will, there's a way. We parents will scrimp, save, sacrifice, work extra jobs, in short do anything we have to do to ensure that our children get the best possible education. Our children's education, giving them a head start in life, teaching them the value of hard work - these are things that matter to most parents. Nowadays most private schools offer substantial financial aid. Make a point of inquiring!
"Private students are under enormous pressure to perform academically."
In What Kind of School Should We Choose? I make the point that private schools offer a complete package: academics, sports and social life. Is there pressure to succeed in this environment? You bet. More often the pressure is a self-imposed set of goals which a child comes up with after realizing what he or she can achieve with a little hard work.
Should parents push their children? I don't think it is a question of pushing. You have to know your child. You also have to achieve a clear understanding of what that child is capable of achieving. Remember: each child is different. No sense comparing siblings. As long as each one is doing the best he can, you can't ask any more.
Private schools can accommodate your requirements more readily than public schools. There's going to be a school which will meet your needs. With over 29,000 private schools available and more opening every week, you have some wonderful alternatives to the one-size-fits-all approach which public education offers. Visit them virtually today.
Read What Are Exonians Like? Grand old prep schools such as Exeter have proactively sought out applicants and found students from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances. What do they have in common? They all want to learn. Diversity initiatives have been a part of most prep school mission statements for decades. It's all part of their desire to produce graduates who understand the world around them. It's all about producing graduates who respect others.
Are private schools elitist? They used to be. But not any more. Diversity is the watchword these days. Diversity rules!