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What is a school?


I’ve set myself a little exercise lately, to come up with very short lists of things that independent schools need to get over and that they need to be doing in order to insure their own sustainability. It’s fun to think about (especially if you sort of ignore the stakes, but that’s another story).

An idea popped up early in my “get over” list that has me hooked for the moment. It’s simply this, that schools need to get over the idea that “a school is just a school.” While a kiss may be just a kiss, independent schools are a whole lot more than self-defined and self-contained systems of students, teachers, parents, and alums governed by self-perpetuating governing bodies. To be an independent school is to be many things to many people. (This is quite different from the temptation in admissions and marketing to be all things to all people.)

So, then, what is a school?

I’m planning to spend the next few weeks here answering this question. More importantly, I’m also hoping to suggest reasons that this rather banal question is important, and why developing a comprehensive “definition” of a school can suggest work that all independent schools can do to strengthen their operations and programs for the future.

I’d be delighted to see some response to this series, of course.

  1. Peter,

    The real problem may be that independent schools still ARE my father’s school.

  2. Peter,

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts. Maybe it will help me understand the nature of this beast I’m working within.


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