I was perusing one of those miscellaneous email threads at work today and came across one asking about a local school for gifted students called the Nueva School. It’s K-8, private, evidently very well-reputed (everyone on the thread had wonderful things to say about the place), but I was shocked to see the price tag for 2006-2007:
|1 st Grade||$21,240||$100||$21,340|
|5th Grade||$22,170||$1,190 (Southwest)||$23,360|
|6th Grade||$23,030||$1,940 (Washington, DC)||$24,970|
|7th Grade||$23,030||$885 (Ashland and backpacking)||$23,915|
|8th Grade||$23,430||$3,480 (Japan)||$26,910|
For most people, the tuition rates for this school are well beyond their means. Up until today, the highest pre-college costs I had heard of were for a handful of elite high schools, not elementary schools. I’m sure I’m revealing my ignorance as a non-parent and non-teacher here, but when is an elementary school education worth this amount of money?
Yet, to be fair, nearly all of my friends who have served as public school teachers swear that public school conditions these days are so awful that they would go out of their way to send their own children to private schools. So there must be something really attractive about private schools, and obviously there’s a market for even the most elite ones.
I went through the public school system until 9th grade, at which point I switched to a private, all-girls school for my 4 years of high school education. The college I attended was also private, followed later by grad programs in public schools between and during full-time jobs.
Personally, I think I really benefitted from having a mix of the two experiences. And though I realize that my private school education probably did me much further than if I had stayed in the Tennessee public school system, in my experience, those of my classmates who attended private schools straight through from elementary school through high school (and usually then onto private college and grad schools) tended to really hold a particular kind of consistent perspective on life, current events, politics, and other issues. It’s one that can only be described as being much more academic and sheltered from first-hand experience. I know I suffer from this to some extent, too.
While the benefits of private schools have been extolled everywhere, for me, it was only after seeing both sides of the divide that I realized that the diversity of experiences and abilities you get when attending a public school just can’t be replaced, and, with few exceptions, it’s a much closer reflection of the reality you face once you leave school.
What’s even more interesting to consider is that in many other countries outside the US, public institutions are far more in demand and better reputed than their private counterparts, because government support means public schools, universities, and institutions have better and larger resources, and they’re usually tougher to get in due to demand.
Anyway, feel free to sound off here. I’d love to hear your opinions!