When Minority Students Attend Elite Private Schools



Back in 2013, The Atlantic published an article that explored the placement of minority and lower-income students into elite private schools and the impact this has on the psychological and emotional development of the students.

I found this article while researching the discourse of reparations in present-day America. One of the arguments in support of reparations advocated for reparations in the form of school grants that would be given to black students in order to give them exceptional educational opportunities. While this article doesn’t discuss reparations, it does discuss the misconception around the “ticket to upward mobility” elite institutions supposedly grant.

Despite the educational opportunities, private schools simply don’t provide a healthy and psychologically sound environment for minority and lower-income students, who are met with an overwhelming sense of discomfort. This discomfort stems from an environment that stereotypes, degrades, and alienates minority students, who are often the only students of color in their classes. And while private schools, like The Dalton School, are making the effort to diversify their student bodies, more consideration needs to be placed on making the transition for these students an easier one.

In class, we’ve explored not only what counts as a living laboratory, but also the relationships and workings of each living lab. In this case, elite private schools serve as living laboratories that harbor an oppressive environment, impacting the health of the minority students who attend these institutions. The negative relationship between the students’ health and academic environment is one that reflects a history of degrading and belittling people of colors’ appearances and intelligence.

3 thoughts on “When Minority Students Attend Elite Private Schools”

  1. 👏Yes! 👏False 👏up 👏ward 👏mo 👏bi 👏li 👏ty!
    👏One 👏more 👏time 👏for 👏the 👏peo 👏ple 👏in 👏the 👏back!

    I connect strongly with this article and your response. Growing up, I was in ESOL classes during elementary school and switched through various schools to find a “good education” within Miami Dade county. I did not know what Princeton was until I was applying to a college prep scholarship through Questbridge during my Junior year. Even after starting my first semester at Princeton, I was blown away by how “not-broke people” lived. In other words, I was not told that health insurance, home security, $11 dollar pay (at the minimum), three meals a day, and so many more things would be a part of “college life.” As a low-income, first generation student of color, I get a sense that I should be grateful and be seen but not heard. I think there is a way to be simultaneously grateful and critical of the institutions we are a part of. For example, grateful for health insurance but critical of a false “loan-free” policy.

  2. I also found your article very interesting and a very important topic of discussion. However- statistically speaking- most minority students do not attend elite private schools like Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford. With that being said do you think there should be more of an attempt to address these social and psychological issues at more local and state schools which are more accessible to minority students. This question is not to say that we should ignore the minorities that manage to make it to the elite PWI. However, what way can we reach more people.

  3. Super great post and article! And Nemo, I think the point that you bring up in your comment is super important as well in ensuring that we try to expel any notions of elitism in this conversation around the psychological and emotional state of students of color in institutions of higher education. However, in terms of students of color at elite institutions, especially when we take into consideration the intersection of class, as you point out in your post and Arlene in their comment, the tension between attending an institution that is supposed to offer this “upward mobility” and the fact these very institutions have been historically constructed to exclude such individuals is super, super important. The continued the idea that these students should be grateful for attending these institutions and that they should stop “complaining” about the forms of oppression that they experience at these very institutions shows the ways in which living laboratories are meant to further marginalize, silence, and oppress certain individuals under the guise of “doing them a favor.”

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