I’m not much into sports, so arguments about long-standing high school rivalries hold no allure for me. But Bob Plain’s been engaging in some Twitter banter about public schools versus private schools, particularly in relation to sports, and it raises an important point.
Private school teams, he claims, “are essentially all-star teams,” elaborating that they “drain away the talent – sometimes they just buy it!” The subsequent exchanges focus on whether private schools give athletic scholarships, but doesn’t that kind of miss the point?
Really, what’s the argument here? That private schools might give a discount to students who play competitive sports? You know who gives a really big discount for education — as in just about free? Public schools.
The important question is why private schools’ core product of education is considered to be so superior to public schools’ that offering a discount can blithely be declared to be “buying” students. I’m not bashing public schools, here. Bob Plain is a big advocate for public schools, as well as an avid class warrior, and even he takes it as given that a private school that charges no tuition is essentially engaging in an unfair competitive practice against public schools.
That’s a very common assumption, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. And it’s an indication of a problem.
Public schools have massive revenue advantages over most private schools. In some cases — notably, the schools directly controlled by the Providence Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church — the income brackets of private school students aren’t as different from the general public as one might think.
If public schools can’t compete for student talent, it’s an indication that educating students is not their core mission. And if Bob’s right, athletic teams clearly aren’t their core mission, either.