The Necessary Uneasiness of Independent School Benefits


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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65 Responses

  1. Saul DeGraw says:

    [Saul, you are right about what place I am talking about, but I’d rather not have the name formally associated with this post. I trust you understand the reason for this. -K]

    I agree with a lot of this post but independent schooling still only covers about 10 percent of all American K-12 education, how many kids are really benefiting from this? It seems to me that K-12 scholarships for fancy private schools is a kind of tacit admission that we can only help a few kids and just damn the rest.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      “It seems to me that K-12 scholarships for fancy private schools is a kind of tacit admission that we can only help a few kids and just damn the rest.”

      This begs the question that independent schools are necessarily preferable to public schools. I do not hold that belief.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t either but I think it depends on the public schools.

        I grew up upper-middle class in an upper-middle class suburb and attended public school from K-12. When I went to undergrad, I met a lot of people who attended very prestigious independent schools. These ranged from day students at traditional private schools like St. Albans, boarding schools like Exeter, and more modern and touchy-feely schools like Urban in San Francisco.

        Obviously we ended up in the same undergrad so are educations were good enough to get us to that area. Many people in my high school went to colleges and universities which would be considered elite.

        However, I still felt really inadequate compared to the kids who went to private high schools. Independent schools seem to have a way of breeding confidence, precociousness, and independence that public schools do not always have the resources, time, or mandate to focus on. One classmate in undergrad was allowed to direct and star in a production of Waiting for Godot as a student in high school. He admitted that he was in over his head but the school thought that it was a worthwhile thing to support and had the resources to do so because of a small student body. My high school had great theatre and music programs (Fall play, a student directed one-act festival, an opera, and a spring musical). We did not have the time or resources to allow someone to direct and star in a production of a Beckett play.

        As I understand it, independent high schools seem to work as mini-versions of college in terms of giving students freedom to pick classes and such.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        I also had classmates in college who grew up in very poor households and in very dangerous neighborhoods and they went to independent schools for a good chunk of their pre-college careers. As far as I can tell, some outside force found them, thought they were intelligent, and arranged for the education somehow or they had parents who fought hell and highwater to get their kids into independent schools.

        I am glad this happened to them and they got opportunities but it occurs to me that it is more of a lottery than actual aid.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s hard for me to comment on high schools because I have never worked in a school that had a high school. The oldest students I’ve encountered were 9th graders.

        Some of what you describe tend to be hallmarks of independent schools. However, you also have to be mindful of various selection biases. Were your independent school peers more confident because of what their school was able to uniquely instill in them? Or was this another way in which their presumed privilege manifested itself? I also know that you went to a quality liberal arts university. I’m sure there was no shortage of confident and precocious students there. The prep school kids might have genuinely been unique in the degree to which they exhibited these characteristics OR they just have just been easier to identify as such.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy says:


        Probably a bit of column A and a bit of column B. My parents were just as well-off or even possibly more well-off than my of the parents of my college classmates. Under no reasonable definition of want can I say I grew up knowing want.

        Yet my parents choose to send me to public schools. They choose a public school district that was largely filled with other professionals but public school is public school.

        I think you are right that there is a privilege in their birth but the private schools amp it very special opportunities and mini-college environments where there are already seminars and independent projects and being treated like a quasi-adult. Public schools might really want to do these things but they often cannot for a variety of reasons in their mandate and mission.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Most of the kids I hung out with in college were also public school attendees, even though my alma mater (Boston College) was rife with prep school kids. Now, a number of these kids were coming from elite public schools — most often in suburban Connecticut — that could rival most independent prep schools. Still, I never really got the sense you are describing here. When we talked about our high school experiences, there certainly were some real difference. “You took AP economics? And philosophy? In high school?!?! I didn’t even know that was possible!” But I never got the sense that they were any more prepared for college or the adult world than I. Maybe that is just my arrogance. If anything, I saw them as sheltered. Sure, they had traveled the globe. But many had never rode on a city bus before. That seemed sad to me.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy says:


        My public high school had philosophy (it was the honors level course for seniors who were really good at social studies) and AP economics.

        However, it is the precocious opportunities that really give independent students their edge.

        The Godot example stands. My high school really cared about the arts (at least when I was a student during the 1980s) but Godot would not be performed because it did not provide enough opportunities for student participation, not enough in the budget to mount an extra student production, and not enough time to supervise the student director.

        Independent schools with their freedom from educational mandates and requirements, can easily put a student production of Waiting for the Godot in the schedule and call it part of the literature curriculum. That kind of freedom makes an impression and extends natural privilege. It encourages grads from those systems to ask for independent side projects whereas a publicly educated person might feel out of line for doing so.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        I have to admit I’d love to hear high school interpretations of Godot.

        Hell, I could see making it about high school, adolescence, and adulthood.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        At the risk of being dismissive, I think you are a bit hung up on the Godot thing. You tell me that your school offering courses I didn’t even know existed isn’t really a difference but some school offering Godot does. Can you see why that might be problematic? At the risk of being offensive, I wonder if your perception of the gap between prep school kids and their public counterparts says more about you than it does them or either of your schools.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        strong island!Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        It seems to me that an independent school that goes out of its way to exclude students in extra-curriculars is one that parents are going to be less enthusiastic about spending lots of money for their kids to attend. It seems to me that independent schools have the same incentives towards inclusiveness among the student body, where possible.

        I don’t particularly see the incentives at work to exclude, here. This part may be ignorance, but I sort of think of private school field hockey teams as specifically being a way to increase participation. Parents wanting their kids to have stuff like that on their resumes. I would think that they’d be keeping an eye towards plays as well, and it wouldn’t bode well if a school had a tendency to have small-cast productions where kids wouldn’t be able to put participation on their resume.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        I went to high school with 4000 other kids*. That meant that participation in next to nothing was guaranteed. Not football, not the senior musical. But what were my parents going to do? Take their business elsewhere? The only solution was to build more high schools. That’s hard, takes time, and costs money. So the district didn’t need to be nearly as responsive as a private school that needs parental favor and approval to keep going.

        * – And it was great and I think big high schools are great. But this was a downside.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Kazzy says:


        Public schools need to take all comers. Private/Independent schools tend to focus purposefully on maintaining small classes. My high school only had somewhat over 1000 students overall during my senior year. I thought this was a pretty reasonable student body. My girlfriend thought this was huge because her independent high school only had about 360 students or 80 per a class. A brief wikipedia search shows that most non-Catholic private schools in the Bay Area have enrollments of between 300-450 something students and a good number of faculty to have low student body.

        Very few public schools can meet this unless they are in very small towns and then they usually fold to a big regional high school.

        Independent schools exclude because they determine their own students while public schools need to take all-comers for the most part. Sure every now and then they might be forced to admit a child because his or her family has a long history with the school and with giving money but they can generally just cherry pick among the most precocious.

        It might be irrational but the existence of K-12 independent schooling bothers me a lot more than the existence of Harvard or Williams or my alma mater of Vassar. It seems false to say that private schools and charter schools can educate better when they pick their own students via admissions policies.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        My kids’ (parochial) middle school did a Shakespeare play every year. Theirs were As You Like It and Henry IV , Part 1, but the previous class did Lear with 13-year-olds. (“Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise. Or thy voice had changed.”Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        300-450 students is doable*. School districts choose not to so that the schools can offer more programs and they see some advantage to larger schools (more economic, easier, bureaucratic empire-building, whatever). Which, personally, I’m quite glad they do.

        But obviously, we’re not talking about head count. We’re talking about the types of students that go to these schools. You and I went to public school, so go us. Of course, it’s easy to go to public school when you just so happen to live in a place where they’re good. I do support public schools. I don’t even need to carve out an exception for colleges. Ultimately, though, the moral distinction between living in a place with great public schools and putting your kids in private school isn’t particularly remarkable.

        * – The local high school where I lived in Arapaho was at about 500. Not only was it not about to close, its size puts it in one of the higher divisions for interscholastic competition (the second division of five). So it can be done.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Kazzy says:

        I understand the point @saul-degraw is making, though I might put it in slightly different terms – comments have focused more on school size, but student:faculty ratio might be another facet of the same issue. It was absolutely impossible to get lost in a high school (or college) class that was numbering 10 students, and even more difficult (in high school) where a teacher’s total student roster was capped at low numbers.

        There are precious few, if any, cracks to fall through. Attempts to avoid the gaze of the teacher (or prof) don’t work when there are so few students that you’ll stand out if you don’t do the reading. And there definitely isn’t any goofing off in the back of the class when student:faculty ratios are so low (in my experience anyway).

        Also how flexible the school is in curriculum and to accommodating the extracurricular desires of students. Can a school get a local college professor in to teach a class on X? Or how many bureaucratic hoops, if any, must the school go through to start a club? I think the Godot play is a good stand-in for the the kinds of things, depending on the independent school, that be set aside and resources brought to bear in an independent environment. And also, the world of college advising similarly benefits from the low counselor:student ratio – there’s a big difference in tailoring advice to students and time allotted to family meetings. They don’t have to speak in generalities of reach and safeties, but can say, well here are the schools that I think fit your particulars.

        (There’s a similar dynamic going on in college as well. Does the university have a stand-alone scholarships/fellowships office with experienced advisers who can direct students in submitting competitive Fulbright, Marshall, or Rhodes applications? Will the university subsidize unpaid summer internships?)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @creon-critic @saul-degraw

        I’m not arguing that there aren’t certain benefits that certain independent schools offer. But they are far from universal. I don’t even know who or what Godot is. A school offering such a program wouldn’t do much good for an art-challenged kid like myself. But you know what we did have? Outstanding football, basketball, and track teams and a damn good baseball team. Many independent schools can’t and/or don’t offer such things. Some do… but not all. My school did have a strong arts program… we did a spring musical that was always highly regarded and a student-directed one-act series; my friend even wrote an original piece for it. And the most famous alum from my graduating class is an actor: Gaius Charles, who played Smash on the FNL show but who we couldn’t get to pick up a football once with us. Go figure.

        My point is not that there aren’t certain benefits — many of which you’ve described — afforded by independent schools. But if we focus along one specific metric — their Godot Quotient — we’re going to miss a lot of other important differences.

        I’m glad I went to public school and we are most likely going to send our own children to public school. I would not have traded my experience for another. I did not feel inferior to my college classmates, despite many of them having gone to superior public schools, private prep schools, and even elite boarding schools (which I though only happened in old books and movies until I actually met those kids). Sure, I was aware that they were able to take AP classes in subjects I had never heard of. But I also got to do things they never could. And we all walked out of there with the same name on our degrees.

        If Saul would have rather have gone to a school that would have let him Godoted, that is all well and good. But generalizing from a very specific, very isolated instance doesn’t do us much good in looking at things on a macro level.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t even know who or what Godot is.

        I don’t, either. But I hear he’s gonna show up around here any day now.

        But I think I mostly agree with you, @kazzy . I wouldn’t trade my public school experience for a “better” private school one, although at the time and as an undergraduate I did entertain an inferiority complex (in both high school and college, I was so ashamed that I worked and so successful at hiding the fact that very few people, especially in college, knew I worked or where).

        Also, my happy experience at a public school also has to shoulder a couple of qualifications. My particular public school and the school district was good; they paid for us to take the AP exams as long as we had at least a C in the relevant course, which was a HUGE benefit. I was able to enter my undergrad with sophomore status and by my second semester there had junior status. I still took the full four years to graduate, but that was largely by choice because my scholarship lasted for four years and I thought I might as well milk what I could. The elevated status also meant I could take interesting classes and not get bogged down in intro classes. (The district stopped paying for AP tests the year after I graduated).

        And it was good for *me*. There was a tracking system of sorts*, and I benefited from it whereas it seemed other students got left behind. I’m not sure, for example, if other students got an investment comparable to the school district’s decision to pay for my AP exams. In retrospect–and even at the time–it is/was easy to see my privilege. The fact that I was white and English was my first language was huge, especially in my school, when so many (although perhaps fewer than I thought at the time) spoke English as a second language. I was working class, to judge by my parents’ and family members’ occupations, but I never wanted materially for anything, which is not exactly what I could say for some of my classmates, many of whom had a concrete reason to feel fortunate just for being in the US.

        *I think it was nominally not a tracking system in that someone theoretically could take a class higher than his or her “track,” but in practice, I understand that doing so was discouraged.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Probably to your credit, you underestimate how many people get off on being exclusionary. Part of what makes certain people enjoy doing certain things is the mere fact that not everyone can partake.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

        The best public schools are clearly capable of providing an education and extra-curricular activities on the private school level. It should also be pointed out that not all private schools are equal. Some private schools can get really crappy for a variety of reasons. The yeshivas that ultra-Orthodox Jews go to are usually very bad when it comes to secular subjects. The private schools that cater to the Evangelical crowd often sacrifice good education in the name of religion.

        The real issue is that most kids are going to be educated at public schools and variety of factors. Even excluding things like student body size or available funding, a lot of public schools are going to want to play it safe when it comes to curricula and after school activities to avoid the ire of parents or politicians. One reason why I think there is so much focus on STEM is that with the exception of evolution, science and math education usually doesn’t create a lot of protests. Having kids read Herman Hesse in literature or learn a controversial take on history can. Best to not do anything to ambitious and keep it calm.

        Saul, our high school operated on the level of a very high level private school. We might not have been Exeter, there might not have been a student production of Waiting for Godot but how many high schools put on a full-fledged opera production?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

        There is one good example from Saul and I’s high school years that illustrates the difference between the best public schools and the elite private schools. When we in the 9th grade, the high school band, orchestra, and chorus participated in a high school music competition in Toronto. We apparently impressed somebody because the band, orchestra, and chorus were invited to participate in a music festival in Paris that was going to occur during our sophmore year. A fight erupted amoung parents about this. Many parents were enthusiastic about the opportunity to have their kids play in Paris but other parents were worried about disruptions to schooling and how it would effect SATs and everything else. Money was not an issue. Ultimately, the school decided not to allow the trip based on some made up safety issues.

        I think that in an elite private school, having theit student music groups participate in a music festival in Europe would have been a no-brainer. The opportuniy and experience are simply too good to be missed even though it might cause some disruption to normal schooling or standardized test taking. In an elite public high school, such concerns were able to veto a trip.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        at least you’ll always not have paris.Report

  2. Patrick says:

    I used to work for a private high school in Los Angeles (anybody who wants to figure out which one can do so pretty easily).

    You’ve got a point, Kaz, in that “Dean for the Day” or “President and Principal serve a pasta dinner for 20” are both items that typically went to the generational families who were well-to-do.

    At the same time, their kids paid full tuition, those parents typically gave other gifts to the school, and all of that filthy lucre went a long, long way to giving the ~75% of the kids on some sort of scholarship the financial boost to get in the door.

    Sure, “Dean for the Day” is an experience Entitled Rich Kid will probably get that some Non-Entitled Rich Kid doesn’t get. On the other hand, the rather large percentage of the student body who got a free ride who were otherwise looking at inner-city failing local high school as their alternative… eh, I’d say the net benefit in that exchange definitely skews to the poor kid, not the rich one.

    A lot of that, of course, is dependent upon how the school administration decides to spend the money.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

      Damnit, @patrick , you just said what I was trying to say in both a clearer and more succinct manner. Kudos. The “Dean for the Day” thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, even if the net benefit skews to the poor kid. Ideally, those wealthy families would give that money to the school without needing to indulge in such a thing. But that isn’t particularly reasonable or necessarily fair to expect. Of course, my own biases are coming through as well; I am not a wholly objective observer in the matter. At this point, things I used to rail against are now things I begrudgingly accept because they do offer more benefits that was immediately apparent, are suboptimal, but better than the most obvious alternative (i.e., ceasing the practices altogether).Report

    • Trumwill in reply to Patrick says:

      I’ll be honest here, the Dean for a Day (or Head for a Day or whatnot) is the thing that really jumps out at me at a visceral level. I have a really difficult time articulating the distinction between that and the things where I say “Well, if it raises money, why not?” But my gut response is entirely different.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Trumwill says:

        It is the one I have the hardest time with and why I am very happy we’ve at least struck a better balance with the raffle and the auction item. It may come to pass that the item is only a raffle item going forward. I don’t know all the mechanics of it — it’s possible wealthier families can still game the system by buying multiple tickets — but that is still an improvement over the, “And now we’ve reached the big spender portion of the evening.”Report

      • Patrick in reply to Trumwill says:

        Basically, Dean for the Day meant you could sit in his desk and skip class and if someone was busted for a minor infraction, you could let them off instead of giving them JUG (major infractions, your “dean for the day” chair got yanked in a hurry).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Trumwill says:

        I don’t think it is the power that the child is imbued with — which as you point out is really non-existent. It is the fact that one student or a small subset of children are given access to something solely because of the financial standing of their parents.

        On the one hand, well, that is the way the world works in many areas so make that a teachable moment. “Why is Jimmy Head for the Day? Well, his parents donated more money and that was our way of saying thank you. Hey! Who taught you ‘bullshit’?” On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the school needs to go out of its way to create that situation since there will be plenty of other naturally occurring occasions where it will happen.

        It’s tough, no doubt. Like I said, necessary uneasiness abounds.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Trumwill says:

        “How come Jimmy gets to go to a different private school and this one is closing down?”

        “We decided that we wanted to be fair. Now nobody gets to go to this one.”Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Trumwill says:


        Many schools — explicitly or otherwise — hold fast to the idea that once the students walk through the door, they will be treated without regard for their financial circumstances. Or, more precisely, they take seriously the notion that one’s financial circumstances will not determine how fully they can avail themselves of the school’s offerings — again, once they have already walked through the door.

        It is almost like national citizenship in a way. We strive to treat all our citizens in line with the Constitution and other values. But we don’t necessarily extent that to people elsewhere.

        I don’t know if I’m really addressing what you’re saying.

        And I’d be less bothered by some of the things I’m bothered by if there wasn’t a disconnect between what we say we do and what we actually do. If we said, “Hey, you can buy a better experience for your child here,” then at least we’re being consistent. But if we say financial circumstances don’t matter but then do many of the things we do, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. EVEN IF the end result ultimately is a net positive for everyone.Report

      • Concerning “dean for a day,” I also feel ambivalent for how it affects the favored child. I wouldn’t want to be the kid whose parents flaunted their money to give me a special privilege. Oh sure, I might act like I enjoy it because that’s what’s expected of me, and maybe I would enjoy it. But there’s something about the special treatment that seems wrong for the one receiving it.

        I was kind of a teacher’s pet, especially in elementary school, but also later, and I remember the conflicting attitudes and emotions (and loneliness) that accompanied my (mostly freely chosen) actions. I don’t want to get all Freudian, but, well, Freud!Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Patrick says:

      “Dean for the Day” blurs, even if only for play and temporarily, lines of authority which ought always be clear. That the line gets blurred in favor of the well-off kids exacerbates the problem. But the core of the issue is that a student is vested with the trappings of actual authority.Report

  3. Creon Critic says:

    I think much of how this manifests itself must depend on the culture of the school. In the private school scene I’m familiar with (handful of schools near NYC), there are schools where money is worn on sleeves more readily – imagine parking lots of students’ jaguars. And schools where money on your sleeve would be frowned upon – more of a “to give means to give anonymously (or at least discreetly)” type culture.

    I also think how much inequality shows up in interactions among students plays a major role in whether or not I’d consider the culture healthy or not – an arms race of cars, handbags, and accessories, not so healthy (see, for example, Lauren Greenfield’s documentary Kids + Money, a NYT excerpt )Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Creon Critic says:

      Spot on. The previous schools I’ve worked — which were progressive in philosophy and skewed more liberal socially/politically – made greater efforts to be more equitable, both in terms of culture and with events like like the benefit. My current school is far more traditional — more old money and the like. I felt more at ease at the other schools, to say the least.Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Creon Critic says:


      I am also familiar with the NYC private school scene more than anything else. In NYC everything depends on the school and each school tends to have their own scene/stereotype. Trinity is known for being rather academically hardcore. DWIGHT jokingly stood for “Dumb White Into Getting High Together.” St. Ann’s is were artsy and vaguely bohemian parents sent their kids (as bohemian as one can be while spending a ton on private school tuition.) Dalton, Horace Mann, Riverdale were academically tough but also okay with more blatant expressions of wealth.

      The issue with many NYC private school kids is that they grow up with immense wealth and sometimes questionable degrees of supervision. New York magazine used to like running articles on rich kids with absentee parents when I was in high school. While most high schoolers hope their parents go away for the weekend, these kids had parents who would go away for weeks at a time, etc.

      I think the same scene exists in San Francisco but on a much smaller scale. When I was still in New York, I would see kids by themselves in restaurants and these restaurants were things I couldn’t dream of eating in without my parents until I was a working adult. What is interesting about the west coast is that it is perfectly acceptable to send a kid to private school for K-12 and then have the kid attend a public university like Cal, UCLA, Oregon, Washington. I think it would be see as a bit of a failure on the East Coast if your kid went from Exeter or Dalton or St. Anne’s to Rutgers, SUNY-Binghamton, UMass-Amherst, etc.Report

  4. gingergene says:

    You present two options here: tuition raises for everyone or special privileges for those who can afford it. Is there not a third way: implementing a (or adding to the top end of the already-existing) sliding scale? It sounds like there are enough families at the school who can afford to make up the difference – will they only do so if they are publically acknowledged?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to gingergene says:

      I debated including a footnote discussing this very approach. I only know of one school that has successfully implemented a sliding scale tuition model and it has social justice work at the core of its mission. There are a lot of parents who simply aren’t going to sign on for that type of thing. Fair or not, that is the reality. But you’re absolutely right, which is why I mention the false dilemma.Report

      • gingergene in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, I guess that’s an education of sorts- “Kids, this is how the world is. If it’s going to change, you’ll have to be the ones to do it.” But it does make me sad that people will publically spend gobs of money on pizza parties and parking spaces, but would balk at spending it privately, even to accomplish the exact same thing.

        Could you convince them on a “technicality”? Not a Sliding Scale, but need-based scholarships of varying amounts to most of the students? What if their children got to wear special uniforms to identify that they were full-priced? (Ok, that last bit was just snark.)Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        wouldn’t enrollment already work on a semi-defacto sliding scale, outside of academic awards?

        e.g. if they’re serious about recruiting from a wide variety of backgrounds, non-traditional students would generally require greater award amounts, while legacy students would be self-payers. and everyone else falls in between, and so on and so forth and whatnot.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yes, the reality is, there is a de facto sliding scale. The tuition is set higher than it actually needs to be and then people receive financial aid accordingly. So maybe tuition is set at $30K but we really need to average $27K per head to make ends meet (which factors in all the other revenue streams). A full pay family pays the full $30K and then we can accept a family who can only pay $24K. However, a true sliding scale — such as the one that Manhattan Country School uses — is much more complicated and a MUCH harder sell. More info here:

        I also understand that the school is — relative to its peers — modestly resourced and teacher salaries are on the lower end. Everyone is buying into a broader mission and purpose in a way that is quite unique. An amazing and lofty ideal, though not necessarily repeatable or scalable.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        man those guys need an online calc, like, yesterday. (or not, really, as they have maybe 200 students. so maybe 2-3k applications a year to process?)Report

    • From the school’s point of view, there is the fact of what the other schools in the area are charging. If the other schools are charging $30k, can I make my tuition $35k or $40k and not run into difficulties elsewhere. The “you’re the most expensive school in the neighborhood” can be used against you. Also a budget stability/fragility issue, like, what if a full freight family or two leaves, have they just opened up a hole in the ’14-’15 budget?Report

  5. dhex says:

    as a parent, the experience of private schools, whether pre-k, elementary, secondary or higher ed, are a continuous series of dings.


    pre-k: this week we’ve got teacher appreciation week. on the one hand i’m all for it. on the other hand i’m like man i appreciated you guys when i sent in my last tuition check. it’s a weird cultural shift to adjust to. i can’t imagine as you move up in this particular school that the dings go away, but rather shift to larger things like “comptroller for a day” or “punch your gym teacher in the junk” style auctions.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

      We’ve made a real effort in recent years to make tuition truly all inclusive. The feeling of being nickle-and-dimed after shelling out tens of thousands of dollars is off-putting to everyone. We’re not there yet, but we’re hearing more voices like yours and trying to be responsive.Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        oh we’re bailing to the public schools after he gets into kindergarten (or first grade, the profesora has some kinda plan that i don’t even begin to understand) so this will likely be not an issue unless i win the lottery. we moved specifically because of the schools in the neighboring county.

        and while still very good vis a vis nyc, for rural ‘murica 20k a year for 1st grade is too far up the flagpole for my taste in pedagogy.

        i bet part of the issue is that high rollers and highly invested parents (not always the same thing but probably lots of overlap) enjoy the rafflepocalypse and whatnot. and cultural inertia is really hard to get over e.g. “we’ve always done it this way”. add in the general 80/20 split on tuition v. endowment revenue and you’re stuck with self-payers pushing the wheelbarrow.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to dhex says:


      Hey, I learned something new today. 🙂Report

  6. notme says:

    Ok, Kazzy, it is true that rich areas can generate more for the schools through the benefits than poor ones, but so what? Why are liberal so obsessed with any kind of inequality. It is almost a fetish.Report

    • Chris in reply to notme says:

      Why can’t we have better trolls?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to notme says:

      You’re … serious, aren’t you? Why are liberal[s] so obsessed with any kind of inequality. It is almost a fetish.

      Because remediating inequality is is what contemporary liberalism is all about. One might as well ask “Why are conservatives so obsessed with building strong communities?” or “Why do libertarians fetishize individual freedom?”Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Burt Likko says:


        I will question whether conservatives are really into building into strong communities.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Saul, if it’s true that today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want, updated daily, then we may get a more accurate reconstruction of Burt’s phrasing.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If not that, @saul-degraw , then what do you suppose they’d say for themselves? Honestly, charitably, and intelligently, but most of all charitably,Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Burt Likko says:


        I suspect that conservatives in their hearts of hearts do really and sincerely believe that they are promoting policies that are pro-family, pro-community, etc.

        It is just that I see my liberalism as being pro-family, pro-community, pro-income equality and I see no agreement between me and conservatives on what it means to be pro-community.

        SF and NYC are having really tough housing markets right now. We all know this and have discussed it a million times. In my mind a city/area/community needs to be diverse. Teachers, cops, firefighters, government workers, cashiers in pharmacies need to live close(ish) to their places of employment for the community to be vibrant. Live and work. This is becoming next to impossible in today’s San Francisco and New York. Things also need to be done to help people in their old age especially those who were on the modest to lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.

        The above is a really in-depth and unbiased (in my mind) look at the San Francisco Housing Crisis.

        “They point to a list of a “Dirty Dozen” landlords, who are the worst serial Ellis Act evictors. One of them is Urban Green Investments, which is evicting 98-year-old Mary Elizabeth Phillips and Balboa High School teacher Sarah Brant, who live up my street. From the article:

        Phillips moved to the city in the late 1930s as a war bride and moved into this 1950s-era apartment building on Dolores Street, across the way from what is now a huge apartment complex containing a brand-new bottom-floor Whole Foods Market.

        Her last day was supposed to be six days ago on April 8. But she’s still there, at least until the sheriff receives a court order to take action. At 98, she has nowhere to go.”

        In my mind, if we were really pro-community, we would be doing everything possible to help Mary find a place. She’s 98 years old for pete’s sake! Is she supposed to get a job? We might ever still the landlord to suck it for a while.

        The NY Times ran an article today about how older working-class New Yorkers are being priced out of the city. The conservative commentary was snide and called these older New Yorkers “entitled” for thinking they had a right to stay in New York. These are people who worked all their lives in a very hard and dignified manner and often not for great money. In my mind, a proper community would help them find a way to stay put or close enough to their neighborhoods.

        Maybe I think that SF and NYC are communities and conservatives do not. Maybe they have a hard time reconciling their free market beliefs with their beliefs for community.

        I don’t understand why free-market capitalism gets labeled a holy axiom and tautology that can never be questioned or challenged. In my mind free-market capitalism is a system and like all systems it is good for somethings and not good for others. When it comes to protecting people in their old age, it might not be the best system. You can let the landlord have his Ellis Actions or you can have community, you can’t have both.Report

      • @saul-degraw

        I think the discussion about “free market capitalism” being “a holy axiom and tautology that can never be questioned or challenged” is not really the charitable view of conservatives, although there are certainly conservatives who talk like that, just like there are liberals who talk as if any opposition to a policy deemed liberal is an attempt to impose “free market capitalism” as “a holy axiom and tautology that can never be questioned or challenged.” In other words, I’ll stipulate that some conservative commentary on the site you read really does denigrate, and unfairly so, the challenges of working-class peoples in the city. But no ism is sheerly the worst of the internet trolls who claim to speak for it. And the “free market as holy axiom” trope probably applies more to libertarian-leaning conservatives than it does to all conservatives.

        I personally believe that most conservatives really do believe that they are focused on building communities. And I do think that liberals and conservatives have someone different notions of what a community can and should be. A liberal would refuse–and rightly so–promoting a “community” that is hostile to an ethnic or racial group and that forbids, for example, blacks from buying a house in a “white” neighborhood. A conservative might prefer to empower local voluntary associations and churches to conduct social welfare.

        I can imagine a social conservative being very concerned about Phillips being evicted from her home. The so-cons might not support the rent control properties necessary to keep her there (or they might), and they might prefer policies that would empower local churches or other voluntary groups to help her stay there over more national level and systematic policies that Saul and I would prefer. But that’s a different in means, not the end. That means might be less effective and might have challenges of its own. In my view and speaking as a liberal-ish person, it empowers the community too much, or rather, it empowers the the people who already hold a lot of power to condition their charity on the observance of social norms (a local church might help Philips if she is a member of the congregation and a believe, not so much if she is an atheist or a Wiccan).Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Burt Likko says:


        I would argue that most conservatives think that NYC and SF are godless cesspools.Report

      • dand in reply to Burt Likko says:


        it is left wing policies that cause the housing crunch. do you have an example of a city with with a housing crunch that doesn’t have either rent control a regulations that make it very difficult to build new housing. in NYC and SF never had rent control they woudn’t have a housing problem todayReport

    • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

      My objection is not that inequality exists, but that there is some strangeness and possible-but-probably-really-not hypocrisy around how independent schools address inequality. We state quite fervently that students are not treated differently because of money. And while we know that simply isn’t the case behind the scenes (when is it ever?), we have events like the benefit that bring it to the forefront. But those events allow us to have the inequality that we do. So I’m not railing against the inequality. I’m discussing the strangeness of the whole kit-and-kaboodle.Report

  7. ScarletNumbers says:

    Well, you just bought her an experience none of her classmates will have.

    I am shocked, SHOCKED that money can be used to buy such things.

    Also, you have yet to comment on your favorite racist re-signing with the Eagles for 5 years and $25 million. This is the same team that ended up cutting DeSean Jackson for nebulous reasons.Report

    • @scarletnumbers Is there point to the DeShawn Jackson thing?

      I don’t mind people branching off on new topics in threads, but please don’t troll.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Just that @kazzy is an Eagles fan, and he has yet to weigh in on either the Cooper re-signing or the Jackson cutting.

        At the time when Cooper had his issues, @kazzy was very vocal, and his silence lately regarding Cooper has been deafening.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        I have no obligation — to you or anyone else — to address any particular issue. Your description of Riley Cooper as “my favorite racist” is inaccurate and I insist that you cease making such statements.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Of course you are under no obligation to address either Riley Cooper or DeSean Jackson.

        However, considering how worked up you were this past summer regarding Cooper, it is gutless of you to ignore it now.

        I concede you have every right to be gutless.Report