The Myth of Prestige

Earlier this year someone told me the following:

“We need to have the best public school system we can in order to help those families who cannot afford a private education.”

The underlying belief she revealed with this statement is that private education is better than public education.

That is not true in many, if not most, cases.

I used to work at a private university. It was a good school – I liked it there. But I don’t think it was as good as they wanted others to think it was. I recall one of my colleagues saying: “Do you want a Chevy or a Cadillac? That’s the difference between our school and others – and that’s why you pay more here..” That’s not what I told prospective students – I told them that they would “get a good education here, but if they went to a public university elsewhere, they would get a good education there as well.”

I had to tell the truth. I think the truth is much more attractive to someone who is open-minded and seeking someone to trust. But, for others, the truth is to be avoided at all costs. This is especially true if you’re paying for something that is rooted in a lie.

Prestige is a very subjective sort of thing. But let’s look at this objectively …

Many private educational institutions depend on the allure of prestige to attract their customers. This happens at the university level – but also at the elementary and secondary level. Public institutions at the elementary and secondary level generally pay better – and boast a more qualified, steady stable of faculty as a result. Public institutions have a rich, diverse student body – private institutions do not as they generally attract white, middle-upper class students. Of course, the latter might be what’s really behind this myth of prestige. But, such prestige runs counter to a democratic way of life.

It is not my intent to bash private institutions. It is my intent, however, to stop the unwarranted bashing of public institutions.

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