Public School vs. Private School
By Maria Ashby '19
I’ve always attended private school (and plan to continue), so the only things I really knew about public schools before writing this article were that they were really large and always seemed to have a lot snow days. According, I decided to do some investigative research. I interviewed four girls who came from public middle schools in Montgomery County, Fairfax County, and DC. Despite coming from three different school districts, the girls had a general consensus about the size, the teaching style, and the social environment of public school. Compared to the cozy 80-90 person grade size, public schools could have upwards to a 1000 people in a graduating class. For scale that’s roughly all of NCS and STA combined into one class. Across the districts, the girls felt that size limited their teachers ability to connect with them on deeper level. Honestly, I’m not surprised by this sentiment because it’s extremely difficult to have discussion based classes with thirty students and one teacher. One interviewee remarked that a larger class size also increased the number of distractions. But larger classes can have some unseen benefits. The student from MCPS stated that bigger classes taught her how to advocate for herself and the importance of talking to teachers after class. Those two skills coincide with the core value, courage.
When talking to girls about their experiences at their previous public schools, it would be a crime not ask about the differences between a co-ed education vs single-sex education. And brace yourself readers, the answer may surprise you. Three of four girls I interviewed, said either that the co-ed environment didn’t make much of difference or that they preferred the integrated class setting. This revelation unraveled almost five years of instruction on the importance of an all girls learning environment. Since the 6th grade, numerous learning specialists, administrators, and teachers advertised the value of a single-sex education. They created the image that only all girls schools could create strong, confident, and talented women. But, now I know that that isn’t the complete truth. The new perspectives from the interviews I received have helped me re-envision my previous images of a public school. The interviews also helped to rethink the ideals that I previously held as truth. All girls schools aren’t factories that make powerful women. I think it’s the girls themselves that make these schools so special. It’s gathering of supportive teachers and faculty that provide the space for students to grow and transform themselves into women for the world. I believe that strong women come from environments that allow them to challenge themselves and their own ideas and this can happen at a public school or private school, as long as they have a support system to guide them.
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