As you’ll read in this issue’s guide to private schools (page 64) administrators at several of the state’s finest are reluctant to talk about the advantages of the educations they provide, preferring instead to say that what they offer is merely different than a public school education.
Fair enough. They are different, as any casual conversation in this office would attest. Each discussion about the pros and cons of either raises questions we may be able to relate to our individual experiences, but can’t even come close to answering.
Do private school students miss an important element of socialization in classrooms that are usually less racially diverse than public schools? Do public school kids miss important lessons imparted by private schools based on, say, religious values?
Such are the intangibles every parent and student weighs when choosing a school. True, it can be shown that private school alumni attend better colleges and in proportionally greater numbers than public school grads do. Yes, there is an obvious difference in price. But does either form of education come at a cost?
I attended a private high school for two years. (It shall remain unnamed in order to preserve its fine reputation despite my less-than-stellar academic performance.) As court-ordered busing went into effect, I returned to public school for two years.
Different experiences? You bet.
My public school class was twice as large as my private school class. Private school emphasized development of the total person. Public school emphasized no one thing in particular. Private school classes and schedules were highly regimented. Public school classes beyond 10th grade were not. I’m certain that, when the 40 kids in Mr. Rohr’s college-prep algebra II-trigonometry class stalled out on page 84 of the textbook around Thanksgiving—for the rest of the year—my old buds at private school were plowing through and doing just fine.
That’s not to say public schools don’t offer significant advantages. And though schools are certainly far different than they were 30 years ago, their reasons for being remain the same. So which is for you?
Knowing what I do now, I can think of only one thing that could tip the balance if I were forced to choose one over the other.
I can’t help but suspect that, had I remained in private school, I wouldn’t have delayed college. Despite the things I may have disliked about school at the time, there were obviously closer relationships between teachers and students. My guess is that, at private school, someone would have called me out when I’d decided not to register for SATs—if they hadn’t already inspired a love of learning that, to me, should be the heart of any education.
So if there’s one advantage, it’s that closeness, and that’s good for any kid.