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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crashing Through Knowledge

I don't remember his name, but he was a senior and the best player in the Chess team. However, he had just been beaten by my best friend, a freshman, which had garnered my friend considerable respect. So our upper classman was confiding in us, telling his tale of woe. He had just been rejected from Harvard University and was so frustrated. He wanted to know what more they wanted from him, because as far as he could see, he had delivered it all. He was first in his class. He had perfect SAT scores (1600). He had won everything winnable.

But we were extraordinarily naive and none of us were prepared. We were bumbling, fumbling and stumbling. If you read my story Jungle Lovers, you will get a sense of the poor preparation and guidance we really had.

In my junior English class, I could not find the word bourgeois when our teacher asked us to go that place in our text because I had never heard the word before and did not know how it was spelled or pronounced. A friend and I were researching schools. I called out the Worcester Polytechnic Institute - he could not find it in a guide because I mispronounced Worcester. It's hard to find or get into a school if you can't pronounce its name and you are not going to benefit from a prep school if you don't know they exist. That is correct. I did not know what a prep school was or of their existence until well after University admission.

In mathematics and computer programming we speak of elegance in a proof or in computer code, as contrasted with brute force, such as the approach computers take to chess, where all possibilities are considered. Those of us made it to college were lucky and appreciative - this was done not through any elegant or efficient process, but strictly by brute force. We were crashing through knowledge recklessly like a runaway train. We loved learning, reading and academics but had no real guides.

The prep school is certainly a more elegant solution to preparation for college. The emphasis is on a more well-rounded individual. Classes are smaller, instructors much better qualified with advanced degrees. And I am sure there is much better preparation and guidance, not just a bunch of kids bumbling, fumbling, stumbling, wishing, hoping and just crashing through knowledge ...

Photo Note: This is Notre Dame, an all-girl preparatory Roman Catholic high school, founded in 1912 and currently located at 327 West 13th Street in the West Village. There are 300 students with a student-faculty ratio of 13:1. You can read more about it here or at their official website here.


Karen said...

13:1, that's a great ratio. I wish there had been a prep school to choose when I was that age. I grew up on a farm outside of a small town with only one public high school. Thankfully I had very strong internal motivation growing up... and of course a cup of steaming hot guilt from my grandparents to top me up whenever my drive started to slip. I never wanted to let them down. I'm also lucky we have well funded public schools in Canada. One of my prize possessions to this day is my public library card. I still remember the first day I got it. Magic!

shutterbug363kp said...

when did you take this image!? i work right across the street at 320 west 13th street and there are alot of girls taht do attend the school! but its a great neighborhood and great location.

Claremont Alum said...

Sorry Brian, but your whole post just reeks of elitism. I'm sure you didn't mean for your post to harm, but all I saw from that post is "prep schools are way better than barbaric public schools." I went to prep schools my whole entire life, and that "well-rounded individual" is bs. Any student can become a well-rounded individual, public or private. I've witnessed so many burnouts at prep schools it's ridiculous. The only difference is that they will never understand the repercussions of being a burnout because they have their parents' trust funds to rely on.
Students in public schools are taught, why college is important and what it can do for your life.
While prep schools tell you to go to ivy-leagues, that way you can be around people who are in the same economical class as you are, and together you guys can practice your inferiority-complexes. Kids in prep schools, only care about getting into a college that has a prestigious name, and that's it. End of story. And who are you to say that public schools don't prepare students for college? You're telling me you've never heard of Advanced Placement classes? I don't want you to think that I'm attacking you, but I'm sorry I just don't get what the point of your post was. My brother didn't go to private school, and now he's an underclassmen at my current university, Stanford.

- Claremont Prep, Alumni