Thursday, December 08, 2005

Aaron vs. Private Schools

First off, if it is possible to be without bias on a subject . . . I don't have that restraint. I hate the concept of a private school. And second, so far as research or experience goes to back that statement up: I have none. I went to a public elementary school, a public middle school, a public high school, and a public college. Never mind that the middle school was M.S. 54, a specialized program (Delta) for the more scholastically apt (N.B. and ignore that I was not initially accepted), and forget that my high school was the academically elite and studiously sterilized Stuyvesant (N.B. and again, excuse that I passed the entrance exam by only three points). The fact of the matter is; I never paid for a higher (or even lower) education, and I know nothing about private schools, let alone Catholic schools (save the stories our parents tell us to help them sleep better at night). I know of people who have attended these once-removed-from-reality edifices (facades, really) of education. That’s about the extent of my knowledge.

Of course, having a basis for an argument is irrelevant (or so many Catholic schools, not to mention our Ultimate Administration of governance), so let loose the gripes of wrath. A friend of mine (Sharon) recently informed me that her hometown (Sparta) had gained a moment of infamous popularity thanks to an MTV headline. Well, let me be the first to congratulate her and then to tell her that there is such a thing as bad press. So far as I know, Sparta was a country in ancient Greece (a place far removed in time and place), and the current one, located somewhere in the ambiguous smog of New Jersey, should be the next Afghanistan on our list. I just don’t see the point in having a second Sparta, especially one that’s going to have such inept policies.

As for the policy itself: Pope John XXIII Regional High School’s principal, the Reverend Kieran McHugh has mandated that students can no longer have websites (including web-logs or Facebook-type pages) . . . for their own protection. “If this protects one child from being near-abducted or harassed or preyed upon,” says McHugh, “I make no apologies for this stance.” However, should a child be far-abducted or wholly snatched, that’s apparently not only their own problem, but part of the “unspoken” policy. The real reason, obvious to the rest of the world (a group whose brains are not stifled by the unbearable rigidity of mitres), is that students were bashing their terrible school (well, d’uh), over the Internet. That, in itself, is against school policy: now students will face expulsion for simply posting mundane chatter on the Web. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for clearing up the worthless chat and chattel, but this is a First Amendment violation.

Not so, apparently. You see, this is Private School. Normal laws don’t apply there. It’s all bendy. Because students sign a charter for the right to pay money to attend such a luxuriant home of learning, they constrict themselves to special rules. To rules which could eventually (and legally) include other restrictions or requirements, such as an inability to question religious faith and the necessity of theological workshops (brainwashing). Fantastic, no? That we can send our students to places that could make it a requirement for their pupils to learn fanaticism, the MacGyver way to make bombs from anything, and the strict training of suicide bombing. Yes, I’m taking the extreme here, but aren’t we just sanctioning the right of religious (or even just private/exclusive) schools to mandate their own policies, ones that they see fit to preserve a better tomorrow? We cannot let such one-dimensional stupidity exist. Where would the Intelligent Design be in that?

Meanwhile, Pope John H.S. insists that their policies are not only just, but for the safety of the students. If you’re going to ban the Internet because of the potential for stalkers, why not ban the Street? Or those suspicious black SUVs? Or how about just banning crime? I mean, what’s one blanket statement compared to another? In any case, the whole problem with private school is that each is essentially a country onto itself, one that is adjunct but separate to our government. One that creates a specialized kind of thinking, a disjoined type of student: one separate and possibly more than equal. Private schools, to put it bluntly, scare me.

I’d like to imagine that parents would be wise enough not to send their students to a school that teaches farther and farther from the norm. But parents are easily frightened, and would rather authoritatively clamp down than risk their fragile students in a “danger” school. And I understand that there are some very real problems with safety in certain public schools. But the more we restrict our young, the more resentful we make them, and the more likely they are to be incapable of tolerance or understanding of other social situations, even. Schools are a paradigm of the world’s social makeup: if a student makes it through school only because they’ve avoided danger, or because they’ve been surrounded by the comfortable ideology of the like-minded, how will they ever deal with the angry voices of the rest of the country? The answer: they won’t. They’ll continue to clamp down, and the whole cycle will continue.

Private schools enable the minority to pretend they’re the majority; they allow the suppression of normal student development; they bleed parents as a preface to the gouging of college; and they don’t really—in my opinion­—make the least bit of difference on how smart your child will be. After all, I’m a public school baby, and look how I turned out. Bitter, resentful and full of trenchant barbs: a model citizen. So get behind me, the poster child for public schools, and run from all that is wholly unholy: private (especially religiously private) schools.

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