14 Leadership Secrets Taught By Elite Private Schools


“Exeter Tree Halo” – Photo by James Garner Williams

A few years ago I heard a radio show host talk about her time in an elite private high school. Her tuition had been a gift, so at 14 she attended one of the schools you would recognize from background info on presidential candidates.

Previous to enrolling there, she had been a student in your standard public school, and was an excellent student. But when she had a chance to sit in the same classrooms as the future leaders of the country, she saw more than just who was in the seat next to her. She noticed how different the entire approach to the students was, how they were viewed and, consequently, what they were taught. Most significantly, they were already assumed to be smart enough to lead, so their training — although rigorous in academics — was interwoven constantly with the other vital aspects of life in that circle of rare air. They were being groomed, fully, to sit at state dinners, campaign, preside over a Fortune 500 board rooms and more.

So what are those characteristics that, say, a Bush child would have prioritized and developed in her that our children and grandchildren would not? Below is a paraphrased list of the 14 leadership secrets of private elite schools, as articulated by education guru John Taylor Gatto.  All are logical, but as you will note, some seem downright diabolical, if you are on the other side. How does it compare to your local government or religious school?

Specifically, at commencement, each graduate will:

  1. Have been taught a perspective on human nature that allows that future leader to get others to do what they want them to do. This includes being well-educated in human lore: history, philosophy, theology, literature and law.
  2. Have been given significant experience and will have developed strong skills in the “active literacies,” that is, writing and public speaking.
  3. Understand the major institutional forms, such as government and the military, including the ideas that drive them. This includes understanding the dynamics and tensions of the separation of powers.
  4. Be perpetually polite and extremely well-mannered. “Civility is the foundation of all future relationships and alliances,” says Gatto.
  5. Have the capability for working independently.
  6. Have been active in sport, “the only way to confer grace on the human presence.” Gatto says participation in sport translates into power and money, and teaches the student to handle physical pain.
  7. Have been taught how to access anyone in power.
  8. Have been rewarded for asking for more responsibility (as part of the curriculum).
  9. Have arrived at a personal standard of behavior and morality.
  10. Know the masters of the fine arts and humanitarians in order to transcend materiality.
  11. Have honed personal powers of observation and recording, i.e. being able to draw what they have seen in order to prove their presence at a place.
  12. Have faced significant difficulties, frequently, to learn how to handle great challenges. “Stand back up!”
  13. Have developed the habit of caution in reasoning before coming to conclusions.
  14. Have experience developing and testing their own ability to make judgments, discriminate value, evaluate predictions and more.



George Prescott Bush, Texas Land Commissioner

So now you know how your kids and grandchildren will differ from the elites long before they get their first big paychecks. You also see why these students are so far “ahead” and end up in all the desired positions. It isn’t just “who you  know,’ unless that’s part of your curriculum (as it is here).

What you may not know is that since 1913, when John D. Rockefeller established the General Education Board — a “philanthropy” developed specifically to influence public school curriculum and teaching — these concepts have not been allowed in most schools. The General Education Board specifically stated that the purpose of schools was to train workers for 20th century industrial jobs. A hundred years later we have the same thing happening in Common Core, where the entire purpose is to train children to become part of a “21st century workforce.” In other words, you are the worker bees.

There you are. Good luck getting these characteristics into any schools today, for “regular people,” though you might try with a private school.Certainly you can add them to your home life whenever possible, and take advantage of the resources you do have around you. Don’t give up. You never know what circumstances your children may find themselves in, and history loves the unknown stranger who arrives on the scene with all the requisite gifts. Someone who is a humble member of society.

One more thing: this is just high school …. college is where the real magic happens.