Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prep School Prejudice At Andover Historically

During the 20th century, the elite prep schools of the U.S. power elite--like Andover--apparently reflected the racial and religious sectarian prejudices of 20th-century U.S. society in general. As G. William Domhoff and Richard L. Zweigenhaft noted in their 1991 book Blacks in the White Establishment? A Study of Race and Class in America:

"Not surprisingly, there is considerable evidence that prep school administrators and students have demonstrated many of the same prejudices found in the larger society over the years. The experiences of Jews and blacks at Andover are instructive because that school has long prided itself on educating `youth from every quarter,' and it was one of the first boarding schools to accept black students. Frederick Allis's history of Andover, Youth from Every Quarter, is unlike any of the histories written about prep schools for it does not gloss over embarrassing or distasteful moments. Allis provides ample evidence that, for Jews and blacks at Andover, anti-Semitism and racism were likely to be part of their prep school experience. In the 1930s, when about 3 percent of the student body was Jewish, the headmaster wrote to a colleague: `We shall never have a larger percentage, and I am trying to reduce it just a little. On the other hand some of them make first class students and real leaders, although very few of them are permitted to hold important social positions.' Some Jewish students were given the `silent treatment' by the other students in their dormitory. And though Andover accepted black students relatively early, it did not accept very many, and they were not especially welcomed by the community. Prior to the 1950s, Allis writes, `the School had done little if anything for blacks.' For example, in 1944, in response to a request from an alumnus that Andover accept more black students, the headmaster responded that there were currently 2 black students at the school, and that accepting more might `cause trouble.'

Friday, October 17, 2014

Revisiting Lawrenceville School and Other Prep School Campuses and Endowments

In their 1991 book Blacks in the White Establishment?: A Study of Race and Class in America, Richard Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff wrote the following in reference to the tax-exempt and "non-profit" Lawrenceville School prep school:

"...With the exception of the specific geographic location, the following description of the Lawrenceville School could apply to many American boarding schools: `The school is located on 330 magnificently landscaped acres of New Jersey countryside just five miles south of Princeton. Its physical plant--including a nine-hole golf course, mammoth field house and covered hockey rink, library of some 23,000 volumes, science building, arts center with 900-seat auditorium and professionally equipped stage--would be the envy of most colleges.'

"Most colleges would be pleased to have Lawrenceville's endowment as well. In 1983, Lawrenceville and the other 15 prep schools that make up Baltzell's select 16 had a combined endowment of $381 million, and their physical plants were valued at about the same amount...`In effect,' Cookson and Persell claim, `the combined real estate holdings of American boarding schools represent a "Prep National Park," a preserve free from state and local taxes...' 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Are U.S. Prep Schools Still Excluding Working-Class Black Students?

In the 1980s, the percentage of Black students attending the U.S. power elite's prep schools whose family background was low-income and working-class apparently decreased. As G. William Domhoff and Richard Zweigenhaft's noted in their 1991 book Blacks in the White Establishment: A Study of Race and Class in America:

"The ABC [`A Better Chance'] program was founded in 1963 by 16 independent secondary schools, with assistance from Dartmouth College, the Merrill Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation...The changing role of ABC, and the increasing entry of middle-class blacks into private schools are reflected in the one survey we know of that provides a comprehensive look at the racial composition of elite prep schools in the 1980s. It indicates that the number of black students has leveled off and that more of them are from the middle class. In their study of 2,475 freshmen and senior students at twenty prep schools, Peter Cookson and Caroline Persell found that 106 were black (4 percent). Notably, the fathers of 70 percent of their black sample were professionals: 17 percent were doctors, 14 percent were lawyers, 6 percent were bankers, 8 percent were college teachers, and 25 percent were secondary school teachers. One-third of the black respondents indicated that their families earned more than $7,000 per year [in 1980s money]..."

Monday, October 13, 2014

St. George's School's Undemocratic Role In U.S. Society

In their 1991 book, Blacks in the White Establishment?: A Study of Race and Class in America, G. William Domhoff and Richard L. Zweigenhaft indicated the undemocratic role in U.S. society that the St. George's School prep school has historically played, in the following reference:

"...St. George's School in Rhode Island, one of the most exclusive prep schools in America...St. George's, a scenic New England prep school that caters primarily to the children of the American upper class. Indeed, St. George's is singled out by sociologist E. Digby Baltzell as among the 16 most exclusive of the many boarding schools that `serve the sociological function of differentiating the upper classes from the rest of the population.'...

"Before World War II the graduates of the country's most prestigious prep schools had a virtual guarantee that the Ivy League college of their choice would accept them. Some prep schools were known to have special relationships with specific colleges. The six boarding schools many consider the most socially exclusive, often collectively referred to as `St. Grottlesex' (Groton, St. Mark's, St. Paul's, St. George's, Kent and Middlesex) served as strong `feeders' to Harvard...'

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Prep School Racism and Sexism At St. Paul's School Historically

As late as the 1990s the prep school that the ultra-rich U.S. Secretary of State, John "Secretary of War" Kerry, attended--St. Paul's School--was apparently operating in an institutionally racist and institutionally sexist way. As Columbia University Professor of Sociology Shamus Rahman Khan--who was a student at St. Paul's School during the 1990s--recalled in his 2011 book Privilege: The Making of An Adolescent Elite At St. Paul's School:

"I am surrounded by black and Latino boys...It was September 1993...I quickly realized that St. Paul's was far from racially diverse. That sea of dark skin only existed because we all lived in the same place: the minority student dorm. There was one for girls and one for boys. The other 18 houses on campus were overwhelmingly filled with those whom you would expect to be at a school that educated families like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts...Why were there comparatively few Black or Latino students? Why did blacks and Latinos not do as well as the white and Asian students?  Why, though girls consistently did better than the boys, was the student body still half boys and half girls? If you believe that boys should not win more academic awards than girls, even though girls outperform them, then the school is not a meritocracy...It was in the 1950s...that St. Paul's hired its first black teacher, John T. Walker..."

And, coincidentally, the St. Paul's School administration apparently also required its women students "to cover their shoulders, resulting in that was called the `no bare shoulders rule,' until this rule was "challenged" in recent years by the women students at St. Paul's School, according to the same book. 

In her 1983 book The Good School, Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot also reported "that there were 45 black students at St. Paul's in 1969, but only 23 in 1980," according to Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff's 1991 book Blacks in the White Establishment?: A Study of Race and Class in America.