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In judging America's leading preparatory schools as failures because they have not contributed heavily to the governing class of this country. Fortune seems to have lost all perspective of what the political system of the United States really is. The article in this month's issue handles the prep schools roughly in several places, as it is well it should, but in gloomily comparing them to the English institutions of their class Fortune wilfully ignores the wide gulf between the characters of the two countries.
Statistics are assuredly not flattering in surveying the contribution made by the selected schools to the government, either past or present. The sum total of twenty-seven United States Senators, one Supreme Court Justice, and one President (out of twelve selected school's) should cause a blush to come to the face of every loyal Grotonian were it not for the inescapable fact that the American government, by its fundamental structure and development, has much more to do with the situation than any failure on the schools themselves. A government of forty-eight particularistic and jealously provincial states is hardly likely to be made up of men from a select and urbane governing caste as in the England to which Fortune so respectfully points.
Besides the extreme decentralization of the American system, the general disreputable manner in which polities are carried on throughout a large part of this country has much to do with the reluctance of the more highly educated classes to enter the maelstrom of machine-ridden government. It is no idle quip when political observes say time and again that American politics is no place for a gentleman.
It is far more just to measure the training given by the prep schools by observing the records made by their graduates in the universities. Here there are no geographical or social bars to their competing with men from every type of school all over the country. Even Fortune admits, however grudgingly, that here students from the leading prep schools stand out more prominently than their comparative numbers warrant.
The problem of the class of citizens attending the prep schools is the problem of the United States itself. A victim of a grotesque system of government cannot by any manner of reasoning be named as its cause. America must realize, as England has long done, that members of the socially privileged classes have as much to offer the government as any other group of the population. Provincialism and gas-house polities have left their sears on this country, and until such failings are overcome, it is both futile and unfair to compare this country's schools with Eton and Harrow according to the number of leaders they have contributed to government.
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