From the Archive — From the September 2017 issue

School Survival Guide

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During the depressed years of the Thirties a good many private schools went out of business. Others cut their faculty salaries back to levels which confirmed teachers in their suspicion that of all professions they were the most vulnerable. Almost without exception the schools saw their backlog of applications and their ability to pick and choose submerged in a scramble to find enough students to meet the overhead.

These temporal matters are, however, less of a worry than the spiritual ones. The schools are soul-searching, and the headmasters and headmistresses are acutely aware that the only way to avert something close to a disaster is to convince the public that their schools are indispensable.

Public relations are a new concern to the private schools. The attacks from many quarters against anything that smacks of “special privilege,” the new emphasis on “democracy” and the rights of common men, the concern with race and religious prejudice — these constitute a threat to a kind of education which for the most part has been the special privilege of well-to-do, white, Protestant families. The private schools have been attacked in the press (as they were not long ago when a proposed bill for federal support of education included private as well as public schools); public school educators for the most part resent them or at least do not take them seriously; most newspapers seem to think they belong on the society page only. They realize they have a reputation — partly deserved, partly exaggerated — to live down. They were not prepared to face so articulate a change of sentiment as that which started during the Depression and grew in the war years. They are on the defensive, and their weapons are rather more theoretical than practical, or at least so they must seem to those who regard equality of educational opportunity as basic to the privileges of children in a democratic society.

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