A (to me) fascinating article in the New York Times today, talking about “the privileged poor,” which in this case means poor students who were fortunate enough to attend elite high schools, and the advantages they have over other poor students when both groups went on to college. The article was fascinating to me because I was very much “privileged poor” — I attended a private boarding school in high school and was so well prepared for college because of it that it literally took me a year and a half at college before I was dealing with something I couldn’t just dip into my high school experience to deal with, and I went to the University of Chicago, not exactly a grunt school.
This is a topic I’ve addressed before, indeed very recently: The idea that my life had been manifestly changed because my high school let me in despite being poor; my upward trajectory in life started my freshman year in high school. It was, to be sure, an incredibly tough year, as I adjusted to the school and its expectations (the fact I was a willful little brat didn’t help any). I try to imagine that year of wrenching adjustment happening when I was eighteen rather than fourteen. I don’t know that it would have gone as well for me.
I don’t think you need to go to an elite high school to be reasonably prepared for college; lots of people don’t go to one and get along just fine. But the article does reinforce my belief that a good education leading up to college really is important. You can’t just chuck someone into the deep water of college– any college, not merely an “elite” one as noted in this article — and expect them to swim. If there’s one thing I would absolutely change about the US, it would be an immense overhaul of how we do schooling and how we prep our kids for the future. How it happens matters. It matters a lot.