Socialization: Elite Education Essay

Submitted By mkkaur93
Words: 1597
Pages: 7

The American way of life in reference to parenting, priorities and educational systems are very different when compared with that of other countries. Education is looked highly upon and is very significant in almost every culture. The educated people in society are looked at as wise and intellectual individuals. Therefore, how and what is taught in schools is of special interest to many people. Parenting and priorities also contribute to the overall individuals sense of self and social characteristics. For example, the authors of Privilege and the Importance of Elite Education, Peter W. Cookson and Caroline H. Persell shed light on the American educational system in that elite boarding schools do not simply reinforce economic and academic advantages, but create an entire and all-absorbing culture where privilege is assumed and accepted and hierarchical power is valued and trusted. These authors explain how education in elite boarding schools in America contributes to the overall social and individual aspect in children. On the other hand, the article Bebe Au Lait by Pamela Druckerman, goes through the life of an American woman trying to raise her child in Paris, France - a completely different cultural system from what the American woman herself was used to. Through this woman’s daily hurdles, it was apparent how different of a cultural system other countries have as it pertains to the development of the individual and social self.
In the Privilege and the Importance of Elite Education, Cooksen and Persell suggest that for a child to go to boarding school means that child enters into a culture. The prep school curriculum is based upon a classical, humanities tradition with little emphasis on modern, much less multicultural aspects. The child is ‘molded’ from the start in terms of what good and bad habits are and how to engage the “correct” way socially. Competitive sports reinforce the idea that healthy competition is good, particularly in the name of a team or school with like-minded individuals of the same social class. Teachers and headmasters show benign but unquestioned discipline. The teacher stresses the need to intellectually challenge the student and question student assumptions in a way that ‘shapes’ those assumptions towards a single, desired answer. “Impersonal regulation” from above “becomes a substitute for personal decision making, ensuring that the troops will stand firm in a crisis” (Cookson & Persell, 25). According to this metaphor, the elite are an army in a cultural war, and prep schools are basic training for that same war.
At prep schools, like the military, there is also a strong service ethic that the students attending are members of a unique class of people and because of this, they need to give back to the less fortunate. This can be thought of in terms of the military or even high-paying professions such as doctors and lawyers who do help those “in need.” Although this service ethic is a positive aspect in terms of society, it doesn’t surpass the value of the need to remain “on top” for the elite. For example, high social-class families that send their children to these schools are anxious that their children must succeed no matter what. The elite desire to perpetuate themselves and their values, which will enable them to stay in power from generation to generation. These boarding schools enable the children of the elite to become entirely engulfed in these values, from a young age, with little exposure to other ways of life. Due to this conformity imposed upon them since a young age, students often feel stifled, and the authors write about the many students that seek refuge from the pressures of school, competition and parental expectations in alcohol, drugs and even suicide. Accepting pressure is part of the atmosphere of “paying what you owe” for the privilege you receive; in the form of obeying teachers and losing privacy - is a way of making students feel better about accepting the