Yes, Schools Like Payton's In 'The Politician' Are Really That Intense
The entire premise of Netflix's new series from Ryan Murphy, The Politician, is that Payton Hobart wants to one day become the President of the United States Of America — but first, he has to fight tooth and nail to win the election for class president at his preppy high school. And this is a serious race, given that Saint Sebastian, the school in the Politician, is a very expensive school, made for very expensive teenagers. Saint Sebastian from the series isn't based on a real school — it's fictional — but it is inspired by the many prep schools littered across the country.
While it may seem like Payton, the titular figure in Netflix's new Ryan Murphy-produced series The Politician, is blowing the importance of the school presidency out of proportion, history has shown that the right person from a prestigious school can make it to the Oval Office. If anything, being a student at a place like Saint Sebastian means that Payton is already on his way to greatness. Those kinds of schools, which often funnel into Ivy League (or at least the very top) universities, really are the breeding grounds for future American presidents and politicians from both sides of the aisle.
There is a real Saint Sebastian high school, of course, but it's an all-male Catholic High School of about 375 students based in Needham, Massachusetts — far, far away from the Politician's setting of Santa Barbara California. If there was a school that was most similar, geography-wise, to the fictional Saint Sebastian's High School, it'd likely be Santa Barbara's own Laguna Blanca School. The private school boasts a 100% college placement rate, 58 faculty members for a total of 355 students between kindergarten and 12th grade, and a yearly tuition of $33,250 for grades 7-12.
While both of those school are prestigious in their own right, if Payton really wants to end up in the Oval Office, he'd get a time machine and ensure that his parents enroll him in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Phillips Academy has 1,147 students currently admitted, a yearly tuition of $44,800, and has not just one but two alumni who have held the title of President of the United States — George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Of course, fellow Phillips alum Jeb Bush's failed 2016 presidential run is proof that going to the "right" school and having the "right" last name doesn't guarantee the presidency. However, Business Insider's declaration that Phillips Academy is still the best private high school in America — with second place being taken by its sister school, Phillips Exeter Academy. It's this type of school that Saint Sebastian is likely modeled after, given that all of Payton's classmates are loaded and all of them assume that they're getting into Ivy League universities.
So, while Saint Sebastian might not be real, high-stakes private schools are very much a fact of life. In fact, there's probably someone just like Payton sitting in a private school dorm room somewhere, plotting to take over D.C. one day, too.