I read your post on school uniforms. I want to contribute my thoughts on the subject, as I think it’s an important issue in the country right now.
I’ll be vague with my recollections because it would be easy for somebody to put a couple of details together and know where I went to school. That’s not the point and I don’t talk out of school, so to speak.
I attended a prep school in New England. I left a group of friends, many that I’d gone to school with since primary school. It was a decision that was made for me. If it was left to me, I would have stayed where I was, going to the local schools, and hanging out with the people I’d grown up with.
I was dropped off by my parents at the front doors of the main hall at the age of 16 with two suitcases and a very privileged upbringing. I’d never cleaned my room, I’d never done any real work outside school. I made good grades, but I’d never been really pushed. All this changed.
I was welcomed warmly by the faculty and introduced to my new classmates. Some of the upperclassmen introduced themselves. Some just looked at us. Orientation was friendly on the surface, then I started to sense the hard core of something that lay somewhere just underneath.
Accommodations were comfortable, but small. The day started early, with breakfast, then classes, then lunch, then more classes, then physical activities, then dinner, then homework and bonding, if you want to call it that (complaining about the hazing by upperclassmen and the demands of the teachers), then lights out and start it all over the next day.
The school has a history. It has traditions. There’s a program. I had to get with the program. I never had a moment to think about if I liked something or didn’t like it. I didn’t, 99% of the time. Nobody cared what I thought or felt. I wore a uniform every day. I attended class every day. I did the work put in front of me every day. I took the crap from the other students every day. Any idea that I was special just because my family had money was completely destroyed. I cried a lot the first two months.
The classes were tough and the exams were brutal. I had two upperclassmen who’d come around and walk me through things I didn’t understand, and help me prep for tests. I was nervous about everything. I lost ten pounds. I couldn’t sleep at night. After a round of exams, I got sick. It all caught up with me. I wanted to go home. I did okay on the exams. The two guys that tutored me came around and congratulated me. I felt better, not just physically. Two years later, when it was my turn to tutor, I stepped up.
We had team activities (physical, outdoors) to build leadership skills and confidence. I did things I didn’t think I was capable of doing just because I didn’t want to let me classmates down. If somebody caused trouble, they were put on notice. Three notices and you’re out. If they didn’t make the grades, they were out. A few whose families had been there before and donated big money could get a pass on a few things, but the resentment would be so strong with everybody else, those guys bucked up double time just to show they could make their own way.
Long story short: I’m a completely different person because I attended private school (boarding school). I’m completely different from the people I was going to school with before I left for boarding school. They graduated from high school and some went on to college. They didn’t get what I got, though. College wasn’t easy, but it was easier. Life hasn’t been easy, but after prep school, I don’t feel like there’s anything I can’t handle. I don’t make excuses for myself.
I resented my parents the first year I was there. I thought it was pretentious. Some of the people there were pretentious, some weren’t. I must say, however, that the experience has made me, and it’s made a lot of other young people. All the things that were so important when I was teenager were stripped away while I attended school. My emotional dependence on your parents was severed. It was me, the books, the teachers, and my classmates.
It shaped me, for better or worse. I do have much more confidence that my friends who went to pubic school. I learned much more. I don’t think that’s fair, and I’d like to see everybody have a chance to get what I got, education wise.
The real value, I think, in the end is the relationships and the work ethic I now have. People I went to school with have done well. I can call them. I can sit down and dig in on a task without considering if I actually like the work. It has to be done. That discipline is invaluable.
Thanks for the opportunity. – Lloyd