In 1918, Sylvia Pankhurst stated openly that “You cannot educate the mass.” In many ways, I feel her pain. Boarding schools have a lingering stigma. Convincing the public that people cannot actually “send their children away” to Brentwood College School is a never-ending task for my Admissions team.
“Where do you work?” I am often asked. “I work at a boarding school” I reply proudly (albeit awaiting the inevitable judgment). The looks, smirks, comments and asides are tedious by now, but I’m used to it. I understand; I was one of them. I was a public school guy who thought that since desperate parents were unable to control their wicked children, they had no choice but to send them off packing to some private boarding school hell. Poor sods!
Then I discovered Brentwood.
Consider this: at Brentwood we only accept student who choose to be there. Think about it: every student, all 471 of them, chooses to come to our school. Any families attempting to send their non-complicit child is quickly convinced to look for other schools. It is not happening at Brentwood.
Hard to believe, perhaps, but true.
In many ways, because of this modern philosophy, students have helped design our school. Since Brentwood only accepts those who want to be a part of something special, it is inevitable that they become the keepers and builders of this amazing community of young people, the proud protectors of the Brentwood community. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While educating the masses is still tough, nowhere is it harder to break down the historical prejudice about boarding schools than in many parts of our southern neighbor, the United States of America. There still exists a stigma deeply engrained that anyone with a child at a boarding school must be a horrible parent of an equally horrible child. On top of this, Brentwood’s brave and visionary American families (currently 7% of our student population is American) must continually convince their neighbors that their children did, in fact, choose to leave home for 8 months a year to enhance their education. Even harder is convincing their neighbors that Canada was their destination of choice!
Education is, in many ways, about breaking down stereotypes and unfettering clarity. It is also about destroying stigma. The more people learn about our special school on the Pacific Ocean here in Canada, the more obvious it becomes that students want to be a part of it – regardless of what their neighbors may say.
I invite you to come visit us and see for yourself.