On “The Ethics of Private School”


So the other day, I took a teacher field trip of sorts that will stick with me for a while — for a long while, I think. Having grown up in a middle class city/suburb/whatever you can call it that is in the middle of the second most segregated American city, I never really got around. Never really traveled. Never really understood how other people lived. Even if those other people were just a few miles away from me. For the first time ever, I visited a private school. A real private school. A $27,000-a-year-kinda-real private school. With teachers like professors. I mean, up until two days ago, private school was only something I knew about from Will Smith on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 

Through a mini field trip planned by my MTLD from Teach For America, we, a bunch of TFA teachers, visited Cranbrook-Kingswood High School and observed classes in our subject areas. First of all, as compared to a for-profit charter school, none in specific, it appears that Cranbrook is not a business-first-school-second model. In some for-profit charters, parents are considered “customers” and school staff is merely providing a service — the employer and employees per se. The content of classes is based upon what the parents will most accommodate, even when the parents are not the experts on education by any means. The food provided at the school is what the parents would want. The teachers’ dress is what the parents would want. The religious preference of the teachers is most what the parents would want. Not what the school feels best. Not what the teacher feels best. Not what is best for the student at all. Everything is done in hopes of being agreeable with parents. In order for them to keep sending their students to the school to the end of getting more money to keep your business going, and growing.

Even if it means your students are not learning. Even if it means that you, as a school, are not responsible for the life-changing growth of any of your students and in fact are responsible for the cognitive decline and gradual retardation in social aptitude of the bulk of your student body. All for the sake of claiming your trophy of a “100% graduation rate”. Read the fine print: Even your eighteen year old who reads at a fourth grade reading level will get his high school diploma. The hyper-capitalism that exists in the privatized education sector is beyond unjustifiable. It has breached the boundaries of immorality and is sunning in the shallow end of pure evil. Education was once the government’s responsibility because it literally molded the citizen. But education today is not molding the citizen; only some “educations” are molding the citizen — their citizen. But all citizens have the right to education. Yes, but only 47% of the country is registered to vote. Exactly. Because a state with full participation is a state with equality and a state with half participation is a state with only half its citizens. Logically, this makes sense… The nation-state comes after the realization of a group of people with shared cultural or regional or racial or lingual identity that they want to be politically autonomous. Now, the only people who fit all three parts of that definition are the ones who are registered to vote because they have a desire to rule themselves. The people not registered to vote are missing the “wanting to rule themselves” part — thus exempting them from being a part of the nation-state. Thus exempting the nation-state from having to provide services to them, including the right to a proper education. Back to my original point, these people who are not registered to vote are exempt from the right to an education. And they have no say in how their kids are educated simply because they are not voting. SO, those who are being granted their right to an education are the ones who   the government claims as its [desired] citizens. Everyone else is simply a squatter. If the government really wanted them to vote, they would have found a way to do so already. Being registered to vote would be mandatory and failing to register would be punishable by law. But the state only wants voluntary registration. So that the people who are already benefiting from the government are participating in government. Because of this whole paradigm of a ~50% population of dispensable citizens is the foundation of educational disparity in this country. For profit schools like Cranbrook or for-profit charters are distinctly different in one way: the latter serves the dispensable citizenry whereas the former nurtures the actual citizenry. 

As a mere one day visitor of Cranbrook-Kingswood, I can only base my opinions off of my first impressions and some self-reflection. That does not, however, make my opinions less valid; if anything, I feel that if I conducted further research on my hypotheses, there would be many others who would agree with me. First of all, Cranbrook’s main goal is not to make money. Cranbrook has money and it knows that it will never cease to have money because it has hand-molded the cultural identity of the population it serves. In some way, the institution predates the people. The people mold their actions to be the way Cranbrook would want them to be. The parents hold Cranbrook as the standard as opposed to the for-profit charters which hold the parents as the standard. Cranbrook identifies as the expert in that dynamic, because it is. No need to worry about keeping your “customers” happy, your “customers” are happy just being your “customers”.

What I still struggle to get my final-semester-senior-year-high-school AP students to do was the standard in the ninth grade social studies class that I observed. Students were analysts, interpreters, and owners of their own ideas. They not only were able to identify patterns, they were able to synthesize their own patterns as they analyzed historical events. They were able to bridge the shrinking of the city of Detroit with the gradual decline in the power of the Roman Empire. Class was not run in a call and response kind of way; there were no gimmicks, no hard-and-fast rules, not even colorful posters on the wall. Students were in there just to learn. Just to learn, imagine that. They were being trained in there, trained to be members of the American citizenry. Whereas students who are not already a part of the American citizenry will continue to be excluded merely as their birthright. Unless someone or something intervenes and fundamentally changes how they identify, they and their offspring will remain perpetually unfree.

… So, no, Matthew Yglesias, private school is not a waste of money. As a matter of fact, your self-professed private-school education was not impossibly unreasonable and your private-school education has blinded you to the impervious system of privilege from which you benefited. Writing in “ThinkProgress” does not exempt you from your privilege and it is shameful for you to make such claims negligent of reality as you speak on behalf of the publication. You’re right, maybe private education is not ethical but it is not ethical for reasons far different and more destructive than your silly utilitarian “cost-benefit analysis”. It is not ethical because it is perpetuating a market capitalism that is social Darwinism in sheep’s clothing. 

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