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Public school is not inferior to private school

Reevaluating the private school bias is crucial, but can be hard without an eye into the unknown.

by Lily Hart, Writer

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A common thing to witness in a crowded room during activity is a loud, animated Académie Lafayette alum, surrounded by her peers, retelling (with no less than a full reenactment and a chorus) an outrageous moment from her years at the school.

Despite Académie Lafayette stories being wildly amusing, and my story telling being wildly captivating, what is more wild for some of the girls who have asked me for this kind of story is the idea of a schooling so unlike their own.

Académie Lafayette is a French immersion charter school (publicly funded yet independent from the school district), kindergarten through 8th grade, with three campuses throughout Kansas City. I attended school there for nine years, and though I didn’t appreciate it then, I do now. It is a bubble in itself, but a bubble encompassing people from Kansas City to West Africa, from below the poverty line to wealthy, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to atheists, from black to white.

Disclaimer: My experience with public school has been limited to charter school. They are public, since there are no tuition fees, but I personally have not experienced a traditional public school.

Along with the fascination with public school that I have noticed in girls at St. Teresa’s, I have found equal amounts of fear.

At Académie Lafayette, in 8th grade, when we were all having to decide where we would go to high school, there were all the schools to choose from. The large majority of students go on to attend Lincoln Preparatory High School, a public magnet school in KCMO, ranked number one in Missouri.

It was not until I came to STA that I encountered people who thought less of public school than private. I had always assumed that private and public schools were equal in quality of education but differed in cost and religious affiliation.

I have had conversations with multiple people where I would mention a friend to went to Lincoln, and their faces would turn to ones of pity. They nodded understandably with a look that said, “poor them, they were forced to go to public school.”

Contrary to popular belief, that is not always the case. The universal goal is not to attend private school. It is narrow-minded to think that public school students are all there by necessity and that they would rather be in private school. It is beyond condescending.

A public education is not automatically worse than a private one, and yet this is often the assumption among people who have never had the public school experience. Public school kids are not lesser than private school kids.

My experience is more than it is made out to be in the meme accounts, and even in my own well-rehearsed historical dramas.

It is more than the dust storms on the rocky soccer field, it is the magic of different cultures, ages, and languages bonding over a common sport. It is more than the outings to Quiktrip, it is the 6th grade trip to France. It is more than the outlandish anecdotes told by alums, it is the mixture of cultures, and the broadening of worldviews that can’t be found anywhere else.

The fear of public school cannot be the fear of public school itself because the people who say they are afraid of it have never experienced it. No, the fear of public school is the fear of the things associated with it. Those things being diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, and wealth.

It is the fear of a bubble being popped, leaving you exposed to things outside of your comfort zone. It is simply the fear of the unknown, a thing we all have, but played out in ignorant misconceptions and assumptions.

Public school is not to be feared, ignorance and prejudice are to be feared.

It is not enough to enjoy Académie Lafayette stories. You can never truly know a thing until you experience it firsthand, but once you have, being shoved into a bubble (like I was when I started STA) is as much culture shock as a private school kid even hearing stories of public school.

I am always happy to tell an Académie Lafayette story, not only because they make me question if my whole experience there was some alternate dimension, and make me feel nostalgic, but because I think sharing my experience with people who have never heard of a school with no cafeteria is genuinely important.

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Public school is not inferior to private school