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Monday, December 14, 2009

Institutional Schooling

I often read about homeschoolers' viewpoints on education and this-and-that, and I often read about the comparison of homeschooling versus public schooling.

But there is another faction that they often leave out, namely private schools.

Or perhaps they are actually lumping private schools together with public schools. Some might object to that, and rightly so; private schools (on average) probably achieve better academic results.

I attended a private school from the middle of 6th grade through 9th grade, after which I attended an IB program at a public high school. I really can't speak much on how I "would've" turned out if I'd continued at the local public schools, because I can't observe my parallel universe self who attended those schools, nor can I rewind time and convince my parents to keep me in the then-status quo. But what I can tell you is that in terms of character building (or shaping of self or whatever), it's my opinion that a private school is not much better than a public school.

Sure we attended chapel every morning (you had no choice). Sure the teachers were a bit more free to make the occasional mention of God. Sure we had a religion class every Friday (you had no choice). (memories of my religion classes go something like this: watching an old Lion/Witch/Wardrobe production and laughing at the stupid looking costumes, watching Ben-Hur, and the Episcopal priest telling us that sarcasm is a form of anger, to which I thought "I might be a very angry person.") But the fact is that aside from those things, uniforms, and school size, private schools still do strongly resemble their public counterparts. You still get grades and your scholastic development is completely tied to that fateful range of letters. It's also age-segregated, and there is no requirement of any sort of piety from students or their parents.

This is why when I discuss education with Harmony, I will often discuss in terms of two groups: homeschooling, and institutional schooling, because I have grouped private and public schools together. I do that because, while private schools get better results than public schools, my observation is that private schooled children are still largely being educated by someone else and are spending the majority of time around someone other than family members.

Perhaps I've ruffled someone's fur in this matter. My point wasn't that privately schooled children can't turn out to be wonderful people (just like publicly schooled children can turn out to be wonderful people, for instance my wife); goodness no, if Pearl were to be struck motherless or otherwise unable to be homeschooled some day, I'd do everything I could to get her into a private school. Rather, the point was that it's not really valid for people to trash public schooling while thinking of private schools as proverbial cities on a hill.

What do you think? Are any of you former private schoolers? Do you agree or disagree with what I've said? Am I completely missing some secret point about private schooling? Do you notice a difference between public or private schooled children?

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5 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    My dad spent some time as the administrator of a private Christian school as well, and he agreed with you. In fact, he said he thought the possibility of bad companions was worse at a private school because of two things.
    1. parents let their guard down because they assume it will be better.
    2. Troublesome kids are often removed from public schools and sent to private schools in the hopes that the private school will 'fix' them.

  • US

    I agree with Headmistress (whose blog I also read). My oldest 2 were in Christian private school until 6 years ago. I will avoid institutional learning for my children, as long as I have a choice.

  • Smockity Frocks

    My husband attended K-college in Christian schools where his dad was the principal and he always says you can find all the same evils in Christian schools as in public: drugs, nasty language, sex, etc. Parents who think otherwise are fooling themselves.

    (I fixed the link in my post on parenting babies and toddlers. Thanks for the heads up!)

  • Alan

    I've been shying away from commenting because I have no firsthand experience with private school. I would guess that private school has some advantage simply because the parents are generally more engaged (hey, they're forking over quite a bit of money to be there!) But it does still have the downside of age-segregated socialization -- meaning that they learn social norms primarily from their peers rather than from (hopefully) mature adults. It's a rather poor way to bring a child to maturity IMO. And as others have pointed out, there is still plenty of worldliness and sin in private schools, and I would guess the larger ones are the worst.

  • Heidi Girl

    I was blessed to attend Christian School my whole life in an era where that was unusual. As a mother of 4 daughters now I have homeschooled them for 9 years. I've been intrigued to watch as large numbers of former classmates all homeschool their children today. One difference is that people admit that they actually ejoy their children today. Homeschooling is a way to truly enjoy your family. I also think that Christian School legislates morality, but homeschooling teaches a child how to love and serve from a place of true love. Christian Schools teach children. Homeschooling teaches children how to learn. Christian Schools teach students how to be students, homeschooling teaches a child how to be a citizen.
    Homeschooling also has drawbacks too though, it's not all roses and sunshine...but maybe I'll blog about that someday soon.