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Purpose of elite schools?

24

Replies to: Purpose of elite schools?

  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 18,219 Senior Member
    Can't you do both? It isn't an either/or. That's what these school mottos and missions ascribe to as does the Trinity head's letter.

    "For of those to whom much is given, much is required"
  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 Registered User Posts: 862 Member
    In response to some of the comments upthread, I wonder: what do you think John Allman should be saying/doing? He runs one of the best private schools in the country. It prepares students academically and in many other ways to get into and excel at top-tier universities, and thereafter achieve different kinds of success. It seems to me he's doing his job pretty well.

    Many, maybe most (but definitely far from from all) of the students are children of wealthy/influential residents of one of the wealthiest, most influential cities in the world, and those parents are very results-oriented customers, who pay for performance. Their kids are ambitious, but not necessarily to be rich. Sure, plenty are "excellent sheep", but a lot of them want to be influential or meaningful in other ways; not everyone who graduates from Trinity becomes an investment banker. Katrina vanden Heuvel, John McEnroe, Eric Schneiderman and Colson Whitehead, for example, are alumni, and I'm sure Trinity helped them get to where they eventually got. You could say similar things about Trinity's peer schools, as well as the top-tier universities many of their graduates go on to attend.

    I give the guy credit for speaking a little bit of truth to power. Meanwhile, here's another way for one of the finest - and, in certain respects, most meritocratic - high schools in New York and the country to be run - I'm not sure I'd prefer it: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-10-05/welcome-to-stuyvesant-high-school-hostile-takeover-high
  • NYCMomof3NYCMomof3 Registered User Posts: 490 Member
    @SatchelSF do you live in NYC and have first hand knowledge of the independent private schools? Because I do and I take issue with you're comment about Trinity being perhaps the only school in Manhattan with very smart kids.

  • CenterCenter Registered User Posts: 1,881 Senior Member
    @NYCMomof3 I did and do....I agree with @SatchelSF. The largely wealthy kids that populate most of the private schools are not even close to the caliber of students in NYC G&T schools as well as Regis. Whenever ability to pay who you know, and who your parents are is part of the equation it is not a pool of the best/smartest.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 650 Member
    edited January 12
    @NYCMomof3 - Not now, but I grew up in NYC and know all the schools decently well. Again, it depends on your definition of very smart, as I acknowledged. I'm sure we can all agree that whatever one's definition, Trinity is right near or at the top in the NYC private world, no? (At least among the coed and boys' schools - I can't say that I know the girls' schools all that well.) Who else would you put up there? Maybe Collegiate? Maybe Dalton? Obviously, Horace Mann is also a top place; I was specifically limiting my comment to Manhattan.

    Not trying to step on people's toes unnecessarily here, but as I have often said on here, most private schools are selecting students on many attributes, and intelligence is only one, probably not the primary one once an applicant is past some base level of competence.
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 8,075 Senior Member
    By inference, Trinity's ethos could extend to the colleges at which their graduates are most highly represented (Minimum 5 TS matriculants, 2011-2015):

    1. Hamilton
    2. Harvard
    3. Colgate
    4. Columbia
    5. Brown
    6. Yale
    7. Kenyon
    8. Amherst
    9. Dartmouth
    10. Penn
    11. Wesleyan
    12. Bowdoin
    13. Chicago
    14. Pomona
    15. Middlebury
    16. Williams
    17. Duke
    18. Princeton
    19. Emory
    20. Cornell

    But do these colleges universally suggest a shallow ethos? Or can the above schools be used to illustrate that at least some Trinity graduates choose their colleges with a sense of independent values (such as through, in particular, Kenyon, Wesleyan and some of the other LACs)?
  • CenterCenter Registered User Posts: 1,881 Senior Member
    edited January 12
    @ChoatieMom I agree with you and the words of the Trinity Head in theory but in reality its a fraud. These schools betray their mission statements over and over in ways both small and large. What it really comes down to is the individuals who truly walk the walk . Like you obviously. We are the same way with ours. But Trinity, Andover etc etc still let in all the scions of wealth to make the big donations and push the right kids into the right schools because what it all really comes down is money and perpetuating the ruling class. How come nearly every speaker at Exeter tells them that they are the cream of the crop, the next leaders of the universe.....what if they were told to be public school teachers because they should walk the walk of non sibi? Most of those crazy hyper competitive kids would roll their eyes and say yeah right!
  • LadyMeowMeowLadyMeowMeow Registered User Posts: 260 Junior Member
    @DeepBlue86 I don’t think anybody has anything critical to say about Trinity or Allman’s leadership. I at least am just tweaking him for high-minded sermonizing that, to my mind, strains credulity. His abstract rhetoric (ethos! community!) sounds less like speaking truth to power than a string of syrupy bromides or, as I suggested above (too) cynically, a kind of how-to primer in ‘how we must talk about ourselves now’ to maintain a powerful position. To me, the letter (pretends to) call for a revolution without seriously proposing to accomplish it. Allman (not me) sees a lot of major problems with Trinity -- rampant individualism, instrumental use of the education, etc. – but his way forward is an obstacle course of abstract nouns, not a new and difficult charge for his clientele.

    Was it an accident that you began your defense by recalling that Trinity’s “students are children of wealthy/influential residents of one of the wealthiest, most influential cities in the world, and those parents are very results-oriented customers, who pay for performance”?

    If Allman wanted to speak real truth, he’d start by quoting you and pledging never to do the slightest thing to jeopardize the wealth-influence-results-privilege equation. To the extent that the “ethos” mission serves the purpose of reinforcing that equation, why sure, he might try to fit it in.
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 4,036 Senior Member
    I saw this when it came out and appreciate that someone in his position came out and said this. It wasn't clear to me who exactly was the target audience, but there are a lot of people imho who might benefit from thinking about this.

    So much of the high school experience, and not just at Trinity, has become about "how do I get ahead?" I can see how being HOS for an institution in which many of the students, and perhaps even more of their parents, view it largely as a means to the next credential could become weary of it.

    After the release of ED results, I have heard more than one parent in the leafy suburb where I work talk about how at last, their kids don't have to worry about their grades anymore and can take their foot off the gas pedal. So yes, the writers of the checks are seeing high school (and again, I am not referring to Trinity) as "credentialing" experiences. And the kids who got into fabulous colleges ED are now wondering if they could have "done better" had they set their sights on Stanford rather than a "lesser Ivy". So to ask, "what are you going to do with all of this?" rather than "whatever the hierarchy, how do I get to the top?" seems to be a worthwhile query.

    Most schools would love to see their alums improving the world rather than figuring out how to exact more than their share from it. Especially if the alums are going to say that the seeds for their behavior were planted early in life.


  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 650 Member
    edited January 12
    Allman's all-in pay increased at least $125,000 to well over $1.1MM from 2014-2016. He has both qualified and non-qualified pension plans. Trinity also spent upwards of $45MM to renovate its buildings over that period. He knows on which side his bread is buttered.

    Someone above asked if people would prefer a place like Stuyvesant, which takes its kids on the basis of a single test, or a place like Trinity. Well, quite obviously it depends on who you are. If you are a very poor, but very smart student, you wish there were more places like Stuyvesant. And that's because the likelihood of your getting into a place like Trinity is low, and you are smart enough to realize that that is by design. No one is going to pay $50,000+ per year to have his kid outclassed regularly by the riffraff. The only thing that has really changed in this regard in at least a hundred years is the dollar figure.

    I agree with @ChoatieMom and @Center in that the proper place to teach values is at home. I guess I am hopelessly old fashioned, but I would rather not be lectured on morality from someone who earns more than $1MM per year from a tax exempt organization. Is it too much to just ask schools to focus on academics?
  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 18,219 Senior Member
    "But Trinity, Andover etc etc still let in all the scions of wealth to make the big donations and push the right kids into the right schools because what it all really comes down is money and perpetuating the ruling class. How come nearly every speaker at Exeter tells them that they are the cream of the crop, the next leaders of the universe.....what if they were told to be public school teachers because they should walk the walk of non sibi? Most of those crazy hyper competitive kids would roll their eyes and say yeah right!"

    I find this not only overly cynical but also inaccurate, at least in the case of Andover and other top boarding schools. I don't know enough about Trinity and its students to have an opinion. The hyper competition is bred by parents not the schools.
  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 Registered User Posts: 862 Member
    edited January 12
    There's an awful lot of speculation about which New York school has the "smartest" kids. It's certainly true that the number of high-end college matriculations isn't a great yardstick, because of the number of connected kids at top private schools. There is one much more objective measure one can use, though, which is the number of National Merit Semifinalists last year, helpfully listed in this article by school: https://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2017/09/13/nationalmerit2018.html

    This is based on performance on the PSAT, which purports to "focus on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education". Anyone can prep for this using inexpensive materials or online resources, so it seems to me to be a reasonable and consistent measure. New York City schools accounted for 457 National Merit Semifinalists, and the top 10 schools by numbers (accounting for about 70% of the total) were as follows:

    Stuyvesant: 165
    Hunter: 53
    Bronx Science: 32
    Brooklyn Tech: 18
    Regis: 16
    Horace Mann: 15
    Dalton: 15
    Trinity: 15
    Brearley: 12
    Collegiate: 11

    Although the magnet schools appear to dominate, the thing to bear in mind is that the senior class at Stuy has over 800 kids, Hunter has about 200, Bronx Science has around 750 and Brooklyn Tech has something like 1,300. The big coed privates - Regis, Dalton, Horace Mann and Trinity - all have around 120-130, while Brearley and Collegiate (generally acknowledged to be academically the top girls and boys schools, respectively) have about 60 each. So, in fact, the school with the highest percentage of National Merit Semifinalists in its senior class is Hunter, with Stuy, Brearley and Collegiate bunched closely behind, the other big privates and Regis following and the rear brought up by Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. Glib statements to the effect that private school kids are just wealthy dumbasses should take this into account.
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 650 Member
    @DeepBlue86 - Regis has 26 NMSF in Class of 2017 (latest data available), I think Trinity has approximately the same. Regis is not coed BTW, so it does not seem like you are as familiar as you think you are. Horace Mann and Trinity are both larger than Regis as well.

    I like the measure of NMSF myself as a rough proxy for intelligence, as the correlation between SAT (and presumably PSAT) is quite high with IQ (at around r = 0.80 approx.). However, as a proxy for *average* intelligence, it is not so great. If you assume normality of the distribution of student intelligence, you can approximate the mean. This is (roughly) appropriate in threshold admissions systems - that is, schools that admit solely or at least primarily on a test (Regis would fall into this category, and of course so do the test-in specialized schools like Bronx Sci, Stuy and Brooklyn Tech). The privates are not like this at all, of course. When you are looking at most of them, they let in a number of very smart kids, and of course a number of not so smart (largely through connections). They must deemphasize standardized tests, of course, because when Valerie Jarrett or Leon Panetta calls and it's time for Malia or Chelsea to slide into their annointed places, of course you don't want to have to make an exception to the score cutoff.

    Average is one thing for a school. What about the outliers at the top? How do we proxy for that? Well, it's tough. I prefer looking at math competition results, mostly because my child is a very active and somewhat successful participant (though not at the "genius" level). You can look at scores for AMC10, AMC12 and USAMO qualification. I know these kids very well (my child will appear in a number of those lists), and the top scores from places like Trinity and Horace Mann would not be impressive for even middle schoolers.

    The other proxy one can look at is course availability. One thing about kids past the 145+ IQ level is that they are insatiably curious, and they have the horsepower to move quickly through whatever piques their curiosity. I took account of course availability when I said that Trinity is likely the only place to have a decent size group of these kinds of kids. Even so, my child - again who is not at the genius level in competition by any means but who in the 7th grade would have already outscored anyone at Trinity in the last 2 years (I haven't checked any further back), and that's Trinity kids through 12th grade - would have already exhausted the regular Trinity mathematics curriculum by 8th grade.

    So, I was not being "glib" - I actually do have some understanding of what I am saying :) Do you have any other rough proxies for figuring out how "smart" schools are? (You could look at Intel results as well, but they are biased towards larger schools for sure.)
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