How Private Boarding Schools Evolved in the USA
There are a lot of “myths” and “legends” associated with boarding schools, and while some stories may have their start in the tradition, many of these ideas are perpetuated by an entertainment industry that stigmatizes private boarding schools as a place for kids no one wants or that need strict discipline. But what are the facts?
From as early as the 1400s, education was of vital importance in Europe. In Britain, from the age of six, children had a long and rigorous day of study. Some children, expected to ultimately work in the clergy, were sent to monasteries for education in Latin. During Shakespeare’s time, children had a full day of education in grammar, rhetoric, classic literature (the Ancient Greeks), and spent minimal daylight hours at home. As Britain began to expand its empire, families sent their children back home in an effort to secure this same level of education. These students were often far from their families in the growing empire, and they needed room and board as well as adult supervision—thus, the private boarding school was born.
Boarding schools have evolved significantly throughout the ages. In early American history, boarding schools were used as a way to assimilate the Native American culture with that of the culture pushing for westward expansion. Boarding schools remained popular in the U.S. due to the importance in family tradition, and military schools also garnered respect among the U.S. populace. In the 1950s, private boarding schools began to diversify significantly. There were African-American boarding schools due to segregation. While maintaining the current social constraints, they also allowed all Americans a path to education. In the 1950s and 60s, co-ed schools began to evolve due the rising interest of women to secure higher education. Despite the fact that few of these women could expect to work outside of the home, private boarding schools allowed them the opportunity to receive an education.
Currently, private boarding schools offer diverse curriculum and a variety of opportunities for students of all talents and abilities. These schools have assorted focuses depending on their traditions, such as college preparation, military, special needs or at-risk, art education, and classical education. Today, private boarding schools make it possible for every student to experience educational success.