When discussing education, one debate seems to present itself over and over again with a differing conclusion each time: whether public school or private school is better. The biggest difference between the two are their environments. Variations in socioeconomic factors, religious affiliations, levels of competition in sports, and student body size all contribute to these different atmospheres. Class rigor and college preparatory aspects also play a role in the major differences between the two types of schools.
An advantage to private education is the possibility of a religious education. As a private school, Benilde-St. Margaret’s prides itself in having a welcoming atmosphere with its values and principles rooted in Catholic teaching. Many students find comfort in being able to freely express their Christian faith. “The biggest difference is having God [be] a part of your day during school hours and being around people with the same beliefs as you,” junior Carson Haefele, who previously attended Wayzata High School, said.
Because of the religious emphasis, many students and faculty find BSM to be a comforting environment in which students feel safe professing their faith. “Because I’m in a Catholic school, I don’t have to hide my faith. [My faith] is just part of who I am, and I don’t have to think about what I’m saying during the day,” Mrs. Cherie Vroman, a history teacher who previously taught at Minnetonka High School, said.
Because of the warm and supportive atmosphere, people feel at home while at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. “I think that the dynamics between people [at public and private school] are relatively similar, but I actually think that people in private school might be more welcoming,” junior Morgan Bettin-Coleman, who attended Patterson Mill High School in ninth grade, said.
Students develop close relationships at BSM, and look out not only for their closest friends, but for all their classmates. “I get the sense that the students at BSM seem to really look after other students, and I really like that in an environment,” Vroman said.
Despite the inviting feel of a Catholic community, former public school students and teachers have also noticed a more privileged ambience.“Socioeconomics can make a big difference in the school, through no one’s fault,” Vroman said.
“I think with a public school, there’s so much more diversity within the school and you can be friends with so many more people with different backgrounds,” senior Sisay Shannon-Tamrat, and previous Hopkins student, said.
Though the lack of diversity in private schools can have a negative impact on the overall community of the school, oftentimes it fuels a greater systematic focus on inclusion and diversity. With classes like Discipleship in Society and Faith in Action, and clubs like the BSM Justice Club, students are always reminded of the world around them and encouraged to serve and promote social justice in their community.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s is a college prepatory school, which means the school work is often more challenging than that of a public school. “I think that private school offers more opportunities for students to be challenged, but I think that any school can be challenging to anyone, and it is important to do the work and get help, [whether] you go to public or private school,” Bettin-Coleman said.
Teachers at private schools expect greatness from each of their students. “There are different expectations here. There’s, more of a need to actually get my homework done. At public school, I didn’t really have to do my homework. Coming to Benilde, there was a requirement and consequences of late work. For me, private schools are way harder,” Shannon-Tamrat said.
Though the coursework at BSM may be more rigorous than other schools, students find that their classmates and teachers are more than willing to help. “From different aspects it’s more challenging, but the environment that you are surrounded by makes it easier to get your work done and succeed,” Haefele said.
Another dynamic of a private school that differs from that of a public one is that the class sizes are so much smaller.
“The biggest difference I think between the two are the class sizes and just the general size of the student body. My class sizes (at Minnetonka) were around 32, here I max out at 26 (students in a class)… I can walk down the halls and I see my students, whereas I could walk in the hall at Minnetonka and not spot a single one,” Vroman said.
Because of these smaller class sizes, students and teachers are able to establish close relationships with each other, which is very beneficial in and out of the classroom. The teachers and staff at BSM genuinely care about their students succeeding and are always willing to help any of their students who might be struggling. “The teachers are actually here for you and want you to do well instead of (students) just being another number in the system,” Haefele said.
Overall, Benilde-St. Margaret’s differs in many ways from public schools. The students care about not only each other but succeeding in their classes. BSM offers students the opportunity to challenge themselves in the classroom and develop lifelong relationships with their peers and teachers. “I don’t think private schools are a better option for everyone. It depends what kind of student you are, but I like having one-on-one relationships with my teacher and a smaller community,” Shannon-Tamrat said.