Education Opinion

Private-School Parent Hypocrisy

By Walt Gardner — February 23, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Efforts are underway at private schools in New York City to make students aware of the elitism they enjoy (“At New York Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside,” The New York Times, Feb. 22). Although minority students now constitute one third of the enrollment of New York City private schools, and 18.5 percent of them receive financial aid, white privilege still prevails.

As a result, parents at some of the most selective private schools are concerned that their children will be poorly prepared for the increasingly multicultural world they will enter after graduation. To help them, some schools have begun racial awareness workshops in the hope that this will make students better able to cope.

I understand what these private schools are trying to accomplish. But I think that parents who support these workshops are hypocrites. If they genuinely believed in exposing their children to those from different races and cultures, they should enroll them in public schools. The very fact that they have chosen to place their children in private schools is telling. It says that they want their children to understand their privileged status - but only up to a point.

I realize that parents choose private and religious schools for a variety of reasons. I support their right to choose. Nevertheless, I maintain that they can’t have it both ways. What they’re doing is racial awareness lite. Moreover, I question if even the best workshops can ever be a substitute for the experience that students in public schools receive from daily interaction with students from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

At the start of my teaching career, I was told by the head counselor that the son of a famous literary critic and TV personality would be in my speech class. When I asked why the student was enrolled in the school, she told me that his father wanted him to get a public-school experience for one year to counterbalance the private-school education he had enjoyed all of his life. I suggest that private school parents in New York City do the same thing.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.