Georgetown Prep is not just any private school. It is a private, predominantly white Jesuit high school for boys in a wealthy suburb just outside of Washington, D.C., founded in 1789. Today, its lush and sprawling campus features renovated Georgian-style brick buildings, a glass-roofed campus hub with a full-service café, and stunning athletic facilities including a 200-meter indoor track and an 18-acre golf course, among other amenities. It’s one of the country’s most expensive private schools, costing more than $60,000 per year for the students who board, and just over $37,000 for the students who don’t. That tuition often pays off: Each year, every single one of its 100-plus graduates enrolls in a four-year university, and the school boasts an ever-growing roster of renowned and highly accomplished alumni. In addition to Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, Jerome Powell, who was tapped late last year as chair of the Federal Reserve, attended Georgetown Prep, too.
It was clear from Kavanaugh’s acceptance speech last Monday, as well as others’ reflections, that his own educational experiences have had a significant impact on his life—that he’s someone who loves to learn and be in the classroom, whether as a pupil or a teacher, and that he has a profound appreciation for education’s role in society. He’s taught “hundreds of students, primarily at Harvard Law School” for the last decade or so, he noted, and continues to engage with the education world in his capacity as a father of two young girls, coaching their basketball teams and attending college-level games with them. And his mother, Martha, was an educator before she went on to enroll in law school and become a judge herself—she taught history, he explained in his speech, “at two largely African American public high schools in Washington, D.C.” in the 1960s and ‘70s. Her example, he stressed, “taught me the importance of equality for all Americans.”
Aside from Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, Thomas, Roberts, and Sotomayor also graduated from Catholic high schools. Respectively, they were: the since-closed St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, a boarding school in Savannah, Georgia; La Lumiere School, a college-prep boarding and day school in La Porte, Indiana, that today charges $47,500 annually for those who board; and Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx whose current annual tuition is $8,800. (Alito graduated from Steinert High in Trenton, New Jersey; Breyer, from Lowell High, an elite public magnet school in San Francisco; Ginsburg from James Madison High in Brooklyn; and Kagan, from Hunter College High, a publicly funded institution for gifted students in Manhattan’s Upper East Side that’s affiliated with the CUNY institution.)
There are few definitive takeaways to glean from the justices’ similar educational upbringing, however—other than the fact that all enjoyed tremendous success after graduating. Private-school attendance is not a predictor of any political persuasion, for example. Ample evidence suggests that public officials who graduated from the same educational institutions often leave their schooling with vastly different perspectives on the world and the law, and it’s difficult to find any research on whether there’s a correlation between one’s K-12 educational experience and his or her outlook on political and social issues. I’ve written before about the tendency of public officials, particularly those in Washington, D.C., to send their own kids to private schools, and about the “disconnect that often separates public-school classrooms from the people who decide what happens in them.” But even that phenomenon doesn’t mean officials are “in a private-school bubble.” (As an adolescent, I myself attended an expensive, elite private school in Hawaii—Punahou, the same institution that Obama graduated from in 1979.)