As far as I can tell this is mom’s valedictorian speech when she graduated from high school in Florida. Personally, I found it really interesting to hear her perspective on private schools since, as I’ve mentioned, I always thought I was sent to one because they just didn’t want me around. One thing I found extremely stressful about that school was the fact that we were divided into “sets” – it was either 1-4 or 1-5 I can’t remember which. Set 1 was the “smart kids” and we got progressively stupider as the sets went down. This wasn’t something that was hidden or suspected – it was just a fact. Then all of our grades were publicly posted outside the classroom. So it would be Melissa, Math 10, set 2 (I actually was in set 2 for math it stressed the hell out of me- pretty sure I belonged in set 4), grade 62 or whatever. And I would be there ranked in order along with the rest of the class so we all knew each others’ business. That said I got a remarkably impressive education that year that I was there – it’s only been recent years that I’ve really appreciated that and sometimes wondered what my life would have been like had I completed school there. Either way – it makes me very happy to read and remember how much Mom loved her time in Florida.
Faculty, fellow students, friends, needless to say tonight is full of expectations for the future and , yet, we cannot help looking back over our past school days. As we do we are grateful for the many advantages that we have received. We have been a little more fortunate than others perhaps, in that we have had the extra benefits available in a private school.
Our opportunity for this additional education dates back to the early schools in America. These schools were based on the English Grammar School, using their textbooks, teachers, and methods. “Dame schools” were established and small children were sent to the homes of the village women to learn their alphabet and a few words. Since the government, at that time, was reluctant to undertake the education of the masses, all these schools were independent. In later years, the sure place of private schools was established by Supreme Court decisions which stated that everyone has the right to go on and try to obtain a higher education, if it is possible.
The growth of the private school since the early days has been phenomenal. Today, in the continental United States 13.9% of the total school population attend independent schools. Most of these schools strive to avoid becoming overcrowded, but at the time of the report they are filled to capacity.
We feel there will always be a continued need for independent schools as they are particularly suited for the rigours instruction of the ablest students and have the opportunity to find, guide, and educate adequately these students. This overcomes one of the serious drawbacks in mass education – the fact that since the average high school is geared for the overall student, there is no real program for the advanced student. By tradition, equality in education has been used to develop the rising generations, but contrary to general practice, the private schools do not equalize their students. They do not limit their exceptional students to the requirements of the average. Each is given work according to his abilities and those who can go on ahead are not kept back. Students are developed to the full extent of their capacities because each is considered as an individual – not merely the member of a group. It has been truthfully said that a student goes through a large school, but a small school goes through the student.
As some 92% of private school graduates enter college, emphasis is placed on the scholastic side of the curriculum. the student spends more time on his studies which are not the “snap” elective courses, but the heavier courses essential for success in college. The University of Kansas reported that of a survey made of 300 freshmen, two-thirds had not taken the necessary literature courses required for college. Private schools try to overcome this defect by giving the student as much preparation as ossicle for their freshman term. Because of the small classes instructors can give the prospective college students the work and advice required more easily.
We have found an independent school can better fulfill the needs of the student. It is free from political control, hence it is in an advantageous position in that it can carry out methods that cannot be tried in the larger, more complex systems until proven. This means that it is able to adapt its curriculum to the changing needs of today. A well balanced program can be planned to fit the total personality of the student, developing him to be independent intellectually and socially. He is not only guided in his classes, but is taught how to appreciate his leisure time. He is encouraged to do extra reading, attend dramatic performances, and be active in his community. We feel, that under the present pressure in education today that the private school is preparing its student more for society and his obligation to society.
The fourteen of us who have stepped across another threshold of our lives here tonight maintain that we are here for two purposes. One, to be honoured: honoured by you, our parents, our instructors, our friends, upon the completion of a task begun 12 years ago. But, more important, is the second reason we are here- to proclaim to you our belief in the future and our promise to take our places in that future. Being now a part of the young adult world, we are aware of the uncertainty of the future but with the guidance you have given us during our formative years, we strive forward with the strength and faith you have nurtured in us. For this we are grateful.
There is a beautiful Ingenious saying which said “A man once said to a lump of clay ‘What art thou?’ The reply was ‘I am a lump of clay, but I was placed beside a rose and I caught its fragrance.’ We have been placed in your hands for these years and we have caught your strength and faith – your fragrance. With your continuing guidance the future is bright in an age of uncertainty.