The conversation starts like this:
New person I just met: “Wait, you’re from Charlotte too?”
Me: “I am!”
New person: “Where did you go to high school?”
The more I meet young professionals from Charlotte who have also moved back to this area, the more I catch myself hesitating when this question comes up. It’s a logical default introductory — like asking where you’re from or where you work.
But I catch myself hesitating. Not because I don’t like where I went — Charlotte Latin School in south Charlotte was where I essentially spent most waking hours of my life from kindergarten through 12th grade.
I hesitate because of comments I heard in high school and comments I’ve heard recently, about how crazy expensive private schools can be. And about how private school students who grew up in luxurious lifestyles expect that same luxurious lifestyle for themselves in adulthood.
According to Private School Review, there are 98 private schools in Mecklenburg County, enrolling 23,118 students. Of that total, 79 private schools are in Charlotte. Meanwhile, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools enrolls more than 146,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 168 schools in Mecklenburg County.
A friend who went to Providence High School said she was aware of stereotypes like private school students “had a leg up because many of the schools didn’t give class rank,” and because they had access to better guidance counseling.
A friend who went to Ashbrook High School said his view of private school students is that they generally come from wealth, means and privilege.
All of which plays into my hesitation about saying where I went — I’m afraid I might be pigeonholed as pompous or unfairly privileged, or get slapped with the “rich white girl” stereotype. Especially at a time when I make my own living, and it’s nothing glamorous.
When I was in school, the private school triumvirate per se, at least in terms of sports and local attention, was Charlotte Latin, Providence Day School and Charlotte Country Day School. All of which are known for being expensive.
Let’s take a gander:
Charlotte Latin’s 2015-16 tuition
Grades 9-12: $21,280
Providence Day’s 2015-16 tuition
Grades 9-12: $23,395
Country Day’s 2015–16 tuition
Grades 9–12: $22,085
I’m not the only private school alum who’s self-conscious about these numbers. A friend and fellow Latin alum told me she’s uncomfortable talking about her alma mater around adults who didn’t send their children to private school. She told me, “It causes an immediate bias that everything was given to me.”
A friend and Country Day alum said he stopped worrying about what people might think. But he previously encountered judgment about being seen as wealthy and “snotty.”
Ultimately, it’s kind of ridiculous for any of us to care if there are stereotypes floating around out there. They might not even be that ubiquitous. Which I realized when a friend who went to North Mecklenburg High School said she never formed an opinion about the matter.
“I have a ton of friends who went to private school and public school and they’re all pretty much the same now,” she said.
After exploring the topic a bit, I have to agree with her. The social circles I intersect with in Charlotte’s young professional bubble come from a variety of means and grew up with a variety of opportunity levels. None of us chose how we were raised — or at which types of schools.
I’m grateful for the education my parents set me up with.
But aren’t we all responsible for earning what comes next? For earning our jobs? For creating our own futures?