Private School – first thing to go in a downturn?

Have you seen Queen of Versailles? ****SPOILER ALERT****

Pride comes before a black hole into which your idea of yourself is pulled and utterly destroyed.

Pride comes before a black hole into which your idea of yourself is pulled and utterly destroyed.

It is what it looks like – overweening, tacky idiots spending money like there’s no tomorrow (who wouldn’t?), embarking on building their own  Xanadu until they get hit by the economic downturn and disintegrate before our very eyes.

Many aspects of this car-crash special were interesting but especially when David A. Spiegel, the wealthy timeshare magnate with 8 kids under 18 hits the financial skids, the FIRST thing he does is yank them out of private school and send them to public school – in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce of course.

It’s a mere footnote as the gilded walls of his life come crashing down one after another but I was surprised. I mean, I’d rather have the best education money can buy for my kids than a Rolls Royce.  Fancy school vs fancy skin (wife was still botoxing), education wins every time!  Why would Spiegel not ringfence his kids’ education if he valued private school in the first place?

It’s a lesson. It makes private school seem like just another consumerist object of envy like a Chanel bag rather than a real necessity. It was sad.

On the other hand when you read stories about families bankrupting themselves so their children can have a private school education it’s even more tragic, just as tragic as Nigeria where a  mediocre education costs up to $25,000 per year. What is it about this private school phenomenon? What is education for?  When private school becomes so expensive that it ceases to liberate people, just entraps them with debt or is just another way of showing off, that’s not in the interest of children.

In many cases private school doesn’t live up to the expectations of the parents. In 2010/2011 86 per cent of pupils from English independent schools progressed on to any university course compared with 70 per cent of those from the state education system.  Note that  the stats say ‘any’, not the best.  An estate agent this year confessed to me about  ‘crying my eyes out’ when both her sons after years and years of paying for private school failed to ace A-levels, failed to get into a good university, failed to show any aptitude for anything other than um maybe being an estate agent. ‘They talk well’, she said. 

I feel like that’s what private education has become, a ponzi scheme where many are lured in with dreams of academic excellence then falling back on the cachet of a really expensive social club when it doesn’t pan out.  If my homeschooling journey’s taught me anything, its to really pay attention to how MY children learn and what’s best for MY children not statistics or a media controlled by vested interests.

When push came to shove,  Siegal’s first response was  to stop wasting money pursuing elitist aspirations because he knew  it was money down the drain. Firstly his kids weren’t going to any great college, he knew that already – they didn’t have the inclination for hard graft.  Secondly he didn’t need contacts from the school, he was the contact (he claimed to have gotten George Bush elected)!  Thirdly they were all already high off their sense of entitlement which is how they got trouble in the first place. Ach maybe he’s not such an idiot after all.

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