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Then we put them in formal settings where they can learn to small talk and mingle with adults. We hold mentoring evenings. There is no reason why state and independent schools shouldn’t do that together. Yes, we have time on our side. We have longer school days and full-time boarders. Saturday is a full day of sport. But I do feel this emphasis could be transferred. One day I would love to see no independent schools because all schools offer a similar model of education. It isn’t fair that money should buy privileged access to facilities, time, attention. But from what I’ve seen at Bemrose, I don’t believe our teaching is any better. I think we’re a down to earth school and our parents work bloody hard to send their children here.
The sad product of this winner-take-all system is not just inequality, but often painful social conflict, as neighbors are forced to battle neighbors to get what they want from the schools. The Cato Institute’s Public Schooling Battle Map contains nearly 1,500 values and identity-based conflicts in districts around the country, and probably just captures a fraction — those that make headlines—of such battles. What keeps such conflagrations from being even more common? Either one side wins, perpetuating discrimination, or all sides agree to lowest-common-denominator — but inoffensive — content, such as biology courses free of human origins, or reading lists bereft of intellectually challenging literature.