According to this article in The Atlantic, private schools are on their way out. I’m not tremendously surprised. Most people I know attended public primary school and had great experiences, and many people I know who, like me, attended private school for college deeply regret it — and believe they could have received the same education for half the cost at a state school.
The Atlantic reports:
Private K-12 enrollments are shrinking – by almost 13 percent from 2000 to 2010. Catholic schools are closing right and left. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for example, announced in January that 44 of its 156 elementary will cease operations next month. (A few later won reprieves.)
In addition, many independent schools (day schools and especially boarding schools) are having trouble filling their seats — at least, filling them with their customary clientele of tuition-paying American students. Traditional nonprofit private colleges are also challenged to fill their classroom seats and dorms, to which they’re responding by heavily discounting their tuitions and fees for more and more students.
Wow. Chester E. Finn Jr., the author of The Atlantic article, blames this on two things: the first is that private schools are outdated and may not really offer a superior education. But his other explanation is economics — with housing being so expensive and unemployment so high, people simply can’t afford to enroll their kids in private school anymore. I would sooner believe this than believe that people just don’t like the private school model, because there are actually quite a few aspects of private school that I believe are excellent.
My parents put me in secular private school for seventh grade, because the public school system in our California town was sub-par. As I remember it, the education was better, if even just for the fact that class sizes were smaller. We also wore uniforms and had one “Free Dress Day,” and although there were still cliques and fights (it was seventh grade, after all), I must admit the uniforms eliminated quite a bit of stress from my mornings.
As a parent, I’ve considered putting my daughter in Montessori school, because the one we have where I live seems like a wonderful place. However, it’s really hard for me to justify spending thousands on something we could get for free. I know looking at Montessori next to traditional public school is an apples-to-oranges comparison, but I think at the end of the day my daughter is going to be pretty much the same person regardless of where she attends. As long as I’m modeling a love for learning and a strong work ethic, I think she’ll succeed regardless of where she gets her formal education.