Today we heard the news that private schools are getting even more expensive, thus closing their gates to ever more poor, downtrodden upper-middle-classers. But you know what? Who cares! Private school is for jerks. So says one commenter, anyway.
I went to a fancy private high school in Manhattan (on a partial scholarship). Then I went to a fancy private college in upstate New York (again on scholarship). At both places, my rich, spoiled classmates had virtually no interest in education or in what they were going to "do" after graduation, but a lot of interest in shopping with their limitless credit cards, in the fancy European cars their parent bought them, and in discussing their family vacations to Switzerland and the Caribbean. Our days were not spent studying, but rather in a kind of ongoing contest to see who could strike the most world-weary and jaded pose. They had a degree of sophistication, I suppose — they were familiar with major names and movements in art and literature, they could discuss world-class cities like Paris and Berlin with first-hand experience, but for the most part they were bored and boring. I got sick of it after 2 years and dropped out.
Now, many years later, I'm finishing my degree at a certain highly ranked CUNY college on the Upper East Side, with kids who are mostly fresh out of the NYC public school system. The difference is unmistakable. My new, poor classmates lack that degree of polish and sophistication — they know nothing about art or politics and a lot about TV and videogames — but they're smart, motivated, interested, respectful of one another and of the teachers, and love to sit around talking about books, movies, politics, etc. etc., and are filled with ambition and enthusiasm for their careers in a way that is noncompetitive and highly supportive of one another. I could not be happier with the academic environment. My tuition is approximately 5% of what it was at my old school, and I'm getting ten times the education, because not only are the teachers fantastic but there's an amazing value placed on learning by the students themselves, and to me that has made all the difference in the world.