INDEPENDENT SCHOOL EDUCATION


Marymount Former Board of Trustees President, Hilary Doubleday,
on the Value of an Independent School Education

The advantages of attending an independent school like Marymount are beyond the obvious. The advantages my own independent school education gave me continue to serve me even today. Some of these advantages are subtle, others glaringly obvious.

Let’s start with the obvious– the macro view. It has been statistically proven that independent school graduates lead the nation in post secondary achievement. They express more satisfaction with their career choices. They are more skilled with technology. They exercise more and lead healthier lifestyles later in life. They place high value on community service and civic participation. They get involved. They accept leadership roles.

How does an independent school education like the one Marymount provides create these outcomes? These advantages? What does an independent school like Marymount do differently from other schools?

The first advantage of an independent school education is a small teacher-student ratio. I remember well the feeling that there was “nowhere to hide.” If I hadn’t done my homework (and it did happen once or twice, I’ll admit) my teacher knew it. I couldn’t blend into the background. Small classroom settings like Marymount’s, which divides the classes into even smaller groups, give students an academic advantage. Students learn that they are accountable. They become comfortable asking for help, stretching themselves without fear and sharing their work.  The younger they are when they start independent school, the more “normal” operating this way becomes. Marymount classes are strategically structured in size so that children not only have access to and time with their teachers, but social choices and ample opportunity to learn from peers.

Another advantage of independent schools is that they attract excellent teachers. I will never forget the eccentric and inspiring teachers I had in independent school. Though I struggled at the time and resented the amount of work they demanded of me, I now see how a teacher like Mr. Durham, an English teacher I had at Cate, shaped my view of literature and lit a spark that lead to my choice of majors in college. My major—a double major in English and Film at Scripps—lead me to a career in publishing. A recent National Association of Independent Schools study shows that independent school teachers are more satisfied than their peers in other schools. They are empowered by more flexibility in choosing curricula and learning materials that address the diverse needs of their students. Independent school teachers are more dedicated and passionate about what they do as a result. I can attest that their passion for their subjects is contagious and inspiring.

Independent schools attract parents who care about their children’s educations. Independent school parents seek involvement in their children’s school. The result is a community of extraordinary support and, again, advantages for all members of the community. I have watched my own children benefit from this support and these advantages while at Marymount. At the end of this week, my daughter will attend her 5th parent-organized Father Daughter Dance. I can say without a doubt that these dances with her dad are going to be among the highlight memories of her childhood. This year there was the possibility that her father might have to miss the dance. Let it suffice to say that my daughter made it clear that plane tickets needed to be changed and sleep given lower priority so that my husband, Ned, could attend this year’s dance! My own experience as a parent has been enriched by the supportive and involved parents around me in ways that are so much more than all the parent organized parties, bake sales and school events can show. It’s not just that I have made lifetime friends. It’s a difficult thing to communicate and the closest term I can think of is “collective caring,” but it is absolutely integral to the value added experience of having my children attend Marymount.

Independent schools encourage students to not only get good at, but master core subjects from an early age while also allowing them to take classes in art, music, drama, and foreign language. Independent schools offer opportunity. They are often more diverse than suburban schools and have inclusive environments that allow every student the chance to participate in a diverse range of offerings.

Independent schools foster healthy habits like exercising regularly and playing on team sports. They teach study skills and foster discipline.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, independent schools—and Marymount in particular– have the flexibility, some would say responsibility, to go a step further. Independent schools see the student as a “whole person” and develop curricula to address the needs of that person. Marymount’s commitment to fostering values in its students is not lip service. A Marymount education helps its students develop the skills and character to support the education they are getting not only while they are at Marymount, but beyond. The values learned at Marymount will stay with the students and help them with life decisions. When my husband and I were looking at the independent school choices available to us in Santa Barbara, Marymount was a clear stand out in this regard. There were other schools that claimed to focus on character. Some had a particular religious leaning. Others simply claimed that it was important to them. Marymount’s programs and traditions—Kaleidoscope, the Catholic Track and the Middle School Ethics course, as examples—showed commitment. Since being a parent at Marymount I have learned that the school’s commitment to fostering values in its students is not to be found in these courses exclusively. The school’s commitment is evident in every moment and in every interaction of the students’ days. The result is an extraordinary school. I have never seen children who are as supportive of one another, as polite, as welcoming and just plain happy to be at school as at Marymount.

Yes, when I look back on the independent school education that I received, I realize that I was given advantages that go beyond the obvious. An independent school education provides a different view of oneself and one’s place in the world. As I write this I feel a surge of gratitude for my parents’ financial sacrifices and decision to send me. My husband was also educated in independent schools and understands the value of the education he was given. For us, it was never a question that we would do everything we could to give our children the same advantage, maybe even a better one like the one at Marymount. It’s a gift we wanted to give our children—a gift that will serve them well and for which they too will be grateful.

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