A recent article in The Atlantic argued that smaller private schools are dying out and are gradually being replaced by more affordable options such as public and charter schools. This argument had me thinking about the value of a boarding school education; boarding schools have an opportunity to “double down”—but only if we can articulate what makes us special, a value we all deeply believe exists.
This article’s wake up gong is good for us to consider. And yet, the 24/7 model of a boarding school creates what I believe are hard-to-measure interactions across the spectrum of things we do.
Certain things are timeless. This week, I was reminded of that when I heard about the varsity baseball teams victory over Pomfret and listened to the student council present to department heads. The dance concert tonight is another example of creating an invaluable student experience. In all of these examples, the “doing” means that you have to be there.
The article also had me thinking about how the argument of “turning to families from Asia who can afford tuition” is always, and I mean always, written as a pejorative. There’s a story in that. Schools have always evolved over time. If American boarding schools are a highly sought after experience among an international population, is that so bad?
Until the great social changes brought upon by the Civil Rights movement—I am thinking here of such landmarks as Brown vs. the Board of Education and Johnson’s Civil Right’s Act—boarding schools, and indeed colleges in New England, catered primarily to elite populations. Then the great egalitarian sweep of U.S. geographical distribution occurred. And now we are schools to the world.
While tuition costs may be growing, I believe the world view, rather than the provincial one, will create growth opportunities for building sustainable models. Certainly private institutions need to increase endowments for tuition relief—but most important is that we continue to offer relevant and timeless education opportunities for all.