Services for Schools, Educators, and Families

Another Invisible Knapsack: Independent School Privilege (My Take)

  1. Thank you, Peter, for this urgent invitation to reflect on the many freedoms granted to independent schools, and the privilege and power entrenched by the remove at which independent schools are allowed to hold themselves from law and public policy. Drawing on McIntosh seems not only an effective framework, comparison, or ‘model’ for understanding independent school privilege — but also a reminder of the many explicit historical correlations between the privileges of independent schools, and the history of white privilege and white supremacy in the United States.

    If self-definition, self-direction, and self-assessment are among the many the entitlements that have been granted to independent schools, then perhaps a greater awareness of privilege might inspire more clearly delineated commitments to our public purpose. With each of these privileges comes a moral and ethical obligation to the society that has afforded them (or, perhaps more fittingly, from the society from which these freedoms have been appropriated).

    As you begin to suggest towards the end — and as was very much a part of our dialogue at PSPP — an ‘understanding’ of these privileges is necessary but insufficient. Drawing on your allusion to white privilege, we know that with a developing awareness of one’s privilege comes a moral and ethical obligation to position oneself in fundamentally different ways in dialogue with other individuals and communities, and to *act* in fundamentally different ways in solidarity with the broader society — even or especially when such actions may be defined differently by other communities, when such actions seem in conflict with one’s privileged assumptions, and when such actions risk imperiling one’s privileged self-interests. This, in my opinion, is exactly why the dialogue on ‘partnership’ is such an appropriate and urgent space for examination of these concepts and commitments: so that we can not only think differently, but act transformatively, for the public rather than the private good.



    • Thanks for that excellent gloss on the post. I especially appreciate your highlighting (and giving better language to) the need to “position oneself…and to *act* in fundamentally different ways” in both dialogue and in being/living in solidarity with the rest of the actual and potential partners in this work–the work of creating a true community of educators. I can only come up with this rather clumsy formulation, but it seems to me that if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a people working in solidarity with a shared dedication to community and to the future to make that village.