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Lessons from Privilege

Lessons from Privilege

The American Prep School Tradition

Arthur G. Powell

ISBN 9780674525535

Publication date: 01/12/1998

Around 10,000 tax dollars will put a child through many public schools for a year. About 10,000 private dollars will put him through prep school. Why, then, is one system troubled and the other thriving, one vilified and the other celebrated? In this book, a renowned historian of education searches out the lessons that private schooling might offer public education as cries for school reform grow louder.

Lessons from Privilege explores a tradition shaped by experience and common sense, and guided by principles that encourage community, personal relationships, and high academic standards. These "basic" values make a profound difference in a time when popular culture, which mocks intellectual curiosity and celebrates mental passivity, competes so successfully for students' attention.

Arthur Powell uses the experience of private education to put the whole schooling enterprise in fresh perspective. He shows how the sense of schools as special communities can help instill passion and commitment in teachers, administrators, and students alike--and how passion and commitment are absolutely necessary for educational success. The power of economic resources, invested fully in schools, also becomes pointedly clear here, as does the value of incentives for teachers and students.

Though the concerns this book brings into focus--for decent character and academic literacy--may never be trendy or easily applied, Lessons from Privilege presents sensible, powerful, and profitable ideas for enhancing the humanity and dignity of education in America.


  • Powell explores the distinct traditions of independent schools that have made them so successful over the years. There are lessons here for independent schools, but the author hopes these lessons will also be useful in shaping public school reform. At the heart of the book is Powell's argument that the sense of community at independent schools instills passion and commitment in the students, faculty, and administration--and that this commitment is at the heart of a good education.

    —Independent School


  • Arthur G. Powell is author of The Search for Educational Authority and coauthor of The Shopping Mall High School.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press