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Reaction Paper Sociology

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the author found from the first sociological survey of its’ kind, that “small private schools are not emotional havens for teens” as stated by his article title. He reports that Toni Watt, a sociology professor at Texas State University, analyzed data gathered by the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, a database of 13,000 students in grades 7-12.

After controlling for socioeconomic status, family structure/background and other potentially confounding factors, Watt found that n small private schools, males are much more likely to attempt suicide than their peers at larger public schools, and much less likely to form supportive friendships. Both genders were also much more likely to be prone to weapon use. Finally, he found that marginalized students, for example from minorities, athletic underachievers or students who did not fit into a niche were at least as much at risk of emotional and developmental problems than similar students at public schools.

While there is strong evidence to support the assumption that academic achievement is higher at private schools, this does not extend to emotional development because the homogeneity of private schools could be a deterrent to adolescents’ mental health. Although conventional wisdom suggests that small private schools would foster community involvement and close friendships, those who have trouble fitting in will be even more marginalized because they can’t find a niche group that would more likely be available in a large public school.

The author concludes his article by reporting there has been a push recently for more attention to the emotional needs to be coupled with the academic achievements of students in various settings such as small private schools and small sub-schools within large public schools. I have had some experience as a student in a small private school, in fact in a boarding school in a country somewhat foreign to me at the time. I would therefore classify myself as a marginal student there, who did not immediately fit into the prevailing cliques in this school of about 100 students, all boys.

My father was in the Canadian military and was posted to various bases in England over a 2 year period. When I arrived I was 12 years old, and my father decided that because of his mobility, day school education was not a viable option, and therefore looked for a private boarding school to enroll me in. This proved difficult at first, because most schools did not hide their disdain for ‘inferior” Canadian education. Finally, a newer school agreed to accept me on a trial basis because they were still trying to build up their student population.

When I arrived I was not only the only Canadian student, but the only non English one as well, and while I was not treated with hostility, I was not greeted with open arms either, more like a curiosity. While we spoke the same language, sort of, there were and still are cultural differences, and I did initially feel some sense of isolation as a marginalized student in a sense. This was back in the relatively innocent period of the 1950s, so there were no issues of suicides and weapons.

However there were some emotional problems even among the native lads, that held potential for escalation. For example a few of them cried at night because of the separation from their families. In my case the sense of isolation was compounded because not only was I separated from my family but also from my country. How did I avoid becoming severely depressed, perhaps even suicidal? I had only modest athletic ability and I was totally unfamiliar with traditional English sports such as soccer and cricket.

Academically, while it was true I was behind my English counterparts in some subjects, I had a good academic record in Canada, and I chafed at the English put down of my achievements. I therefore angrily decided I could not let my Canadian pride be insulted. After a shaky start I finally achieved good results for my age level. I then found that the attitude of both students and staff toward me drastically changed. No longer was I merely tolerated but fully accepted.

While I did not experience or was aware of any suicides or weapons issues at my former school, I realize that emotional issues could potentially lead to such problems in extreme cases. My former school with its’ now greatly expanded foreign population, some culturally and even linguistically very different from England has recently established an integration program to help them adapt and feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

I believe if all schools of whatever kind established similar programs, whether formal or informal, this would go a long way to reduce student emotional turmoil with their potential for suicide and weapons issues. I believe this is especially needed where a student can find no compatible niche group for emotional support. . Reference “Private Schools are Not Emotional Havens for Teens” http/www. asanet. org/media/prvschool. html7/17/2004

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