What I Gained from an Independent School Education

By Ari Pinkus posted 05-20-2013 09:31 AM


By Ari Pinkus

As a graduate of an independent school, I take issue with Chester E. Finn Jr.’s piece “Why Private Schools are Dying Out” because his approach is unconstructive toward a solution.  I feel compelled to respond to his piece based on my own experience and those with whom I’ve come in contact currently and in the past.

While I was a student at George School, a Quaker boarding and day high school in Newtown, Pa., my classmates were of different races, classes, and world regions. Over meals and in the locker room, I learned about cultures, traditions, and struggles that I hadn’t been exposed to before. Such diversity opened my thought and piqued my curiosity to go beyond the headlines. It has been shaping my views ever since.

I developed grit while part of a small group of students in the International Baccalaureate program. It has now become more widely accepted in public schools, and is a model for global learning. My IB diploma stands as a proud academic achievement.

My understanding of service grew with such learning embedded into my school’s curriculum. We were required to do co-ops to assist with tasks around campus; I was an assistant in the advancement office. To graduate, everyone had to undertake a service project in our community or abroad. I completed mine at a nursing home near my home in Pennsylvania. Through my experience, I came to understand and express compassion at a deeper level. The school instilled a spirit of community service, which I am still engaged in to this day.

Near graduation, one of my IB teachers wished me to have meaningful work – he made no mention of attaining a certain salary, position, or lifestyle.

And I do. Other alumni and former classmates at George School have found work that is meaningful to them. Many are change agents, innovators, social entrepreneurs, educators, public servants, all working for the public good.

Most important, graduates of independent schools become lifelong learners and compassionate, global citizens. We have learned how to think critically and communicate skillfully. We then carry these characteristics and abilities into endeavors throughout our lives. In a range of circles, such uplifted thinking and activity will continue to touch others around us, even leading to social change. This kind of education cannot be measured in dollars but is seen in changed lives, a measure that holds even greater value and lasts far longer.

The most crucial value I learned at George School and have cultivated in my career is the search for solutions. In fact, the problems that Finn points out in the education sector underscore its importance. However, today many sectors are searching for answers to the financial sustainability question, including many world governments. The bottom line is just part of the equation. Values are our guide to a sustainable future, and independent schools are fully equipped to lead here.

The views expressed on this post are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of NAIS.