Boarding Schools and Pop Culture

For centuries boarding schools have been portrayed in the media as institutions full of both order and chaos. Major motion pictures and popular literature,...

Boarding Schools and Pop Culture
15December

Boarding Schools and Pop Culture

Written by Craig Rogersin Section Boarding School News

For centuries boarding schools have been portrayed in the media as institutions full of both order and chaos. Major motion pictures and popular literature, such as Harry Potter have stories that are based within the walls of a boarding school facility.

This has become such as popular setting, that it has its own genre in British literature and North American fiction. Boarding schools and their surroundings have been the setting for classics such as Jane Eyre, The Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Files. While the type of boarding school being discussed may differ; each story contains an element of mischief from the characters.

Boarding Schools in the Movies

Boarding schools have hit the big screen in a long list of popular films. This has included X-Men, The Notebook, The Sound of Music, and Dead Poets Society. These coming of age stories often tell a story of a character breaking the rules and dealing with the consequences.

This top storyline line shows the audience that while the main focus of these institutions is academics and success; the students are normal children and teens that experience rebelling.

It’s impossible to accurately compare boarding schools in fictitious stories to that of real life. However, the extra attention in pop culture has sparked an increase in interest in boarding school institutions. Both parents and students are intrigued by the safety, organization, and expectations of academic, military, therapeutic gender-specific schools. This is due to the mass amount of focus placed upon boarding facilities in pop culture.

Boarding schools have been portrayed in media and literature since before J.K. Rowling introduced us to the magical land of Hogwarts. Many believe that these establishments are only for the wealthy or troubled. However, when looking back throughout American history, boarding schools have existed for centuries.

During the colonial era there was little or no structure to the education system. Children were often taught by their parents, the church, or other members of the community. Daughters were sent to live with unmarried women where they would learn arts, etiquette, and literature. Before independence this was only common in wealthy New England cities. While the subjects and values were drastically different than in today’s society, it was the start of an established academic structure.

In 1763, the oldest American boarding school had opened in Massachusetts. For the first time students were accepted from both near and far cities. This specific institution was founded two years after the death Massachusetts governor William Dummer, who had left the funds in his will. Soon after, a variety of boarding schools were established around single-sex and co-ed students. This became a solution for parents to keep their children away from dangerous cities and eliminate the long walks to a local schoolhouse.

Throughout the industrial revolution wealth and transportation had become more abundant. This resulted in a boom of boarding schools that were accessible to the middle class. The majority of these new institutions were based around a specific religious belief system and taught the values of that community. Many of these historical boarding schools are still open today and have become well-respected academic institutions.

Specialty boarding schools were created in the 1990’s, when several institutions opened their doors to struggling teens. These boarding schools specialized in helping teenagers who had issues academically, socially, and within a family dynamic. This had offered a great alternative to the parents of troubled teens.

Today boarding schools have branched off into categories such as military, college prep, religious, behavioral, and therapeutic; however the same premise still exists. This is to provide a structured environment that will enhance the academic and social success of an individual. Boarding schools have made valuable contributions to the history of American education, and they continue to adapt to modern culture.