Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stuyvesant High School

There's an article online with the New York Times about being black in Stuyvesant High School. If you're not familiar, Stuyvesant High School - Stuy High - is one of the top high schools in New York City and, I'd venture, the country. It's a public school. You take a test to get in. Lucy Liu graduated from it. If you're a mystery reader then so did Rebecca Pawel. And myself.

The focus is on math and science. Sorry I can't say I was any great shakes in either field. Lots of great scientists graduated from Stuyvesant including Nobel Laureates. One of them, Joshua Lederberg, spoke at my graduation. Anywhoo...

It turns out that the current crop of Stuy students has a demographic skew that's really pronounced - more than 70% of students are of Asian descent. Less than 5% are black or Latino. 20+% are white. NYC is more than 50% black and Latino, so why isn't this reflected in admissions and attendance at Stuyvesant?

I'm not sure. Best guess, however, is that it is not Stuyvesant's fault. Though the place is a little bit of a pressure cooker - some students see high school as a competition - at other schools that translates into making the football team, wearing the best clothes, running for office, binge drinking. At Stuyvesant it was about grades, chalking things up for your resume, test prep, getting grants, getting internships, getting into the college of everyone's dreams. And then all the rest.

It seems to me that the problem (and there is a problem) is the NYC school system. A system that has always been sub-par. Not to say there aren't great teachers. There are. Not enough of them, but that's every system's complaint. It just seems to me that enough isn't expected of students (the low end of the totem pole) and administrators (the tippie-top of the totem pole) and everyone in between. "Aim low, and you'll achieve your goal" seems to be the motto, no?

When I was in junior high school, my home room teacher took time out to explain the terrors that awaited us if we took the exam to get into Stuyvesant and actually were to be admitted. "It'll eat you alive!" she said though perhaps without the exclamation mark.

The solution? I don't have one except to aim higher. Easier said than done.


Blogger Graham Powell said...

"Aim low, and you'll achieve your goal" pretty much sums up why we moved across towm (from one suburb of Fort Worth to another) last summer. Our old school district was growing rapidly, and building lots of beautiful new buildings, but they barely required you to do any work.

Now my kids get their butts kicked by homework every week, and I couldn't be happier.

February 27, 2012 4:50 PM  
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