$124 million for a model high school

Zack Munson’s dark, dingy, crumbling alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High in Washington, D.C.,  has been rebuilt at a cost of $124 million, he writes in High School Monumental. The new Wilson, envisioned as a model urban high school, is airy, pleasant and loaded with technology. But is that enough?

The energetic new principal let Munson tour the rebuilt Wilson High.

The classrooms have teleported from the 20th century to the 21st and beyond. Gone are the projectors and VCRs and LaserDisc players (yes, that cutting-edge technology that reigned supreme for a good year or two). The whole building has Wi-Fi. There is a cyber café and a media center, the latter a white, glowing sea of brand new Macs. There’s even a TV production studio! The whole place is really, really nice. Not just nicer than it used to be; nicer than the college I went to. . . . There is a robotics lab, and a robotics team that competes nationally . . .

Each class has a flat-screen TV, an LCD projector or a Promethean Board (interactive, touch-screen projection device). The bathroom stalls have doors.

Even better, there’s no trash or graffiti. The halls are quiet and empty during classes. Suspensions are down and attendance is up slightly.

Yet, Munson has doubts.

If the last 40 years have demonstrated anything, it’s that dumping money and technology onto faltering public institutions often does little but waste the money and create massive warehouses of rapidly obsolescing technology.

Shortly after he toured the school, a group of students set some of the bathrooms on fire, causing $150,000 in damage.

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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    How wonderful that we can provide all these amenities. Now, if we could only teach them to read, write a complete sentence, show up on times, and make change without a calculator.

  2. Only $124 million for a high school? Pikers. In L.A. they know how to spend money of edu-monuments. $500 million for a high school is what it takes to vault into the big leagues.

  3. Hopefully those kids, if found guilty, will be forced to pay off the damges. charge interest. if the debt stays on their record and they are paying it off way into their adult lives – hosue mortgage style- then maybe they will learn a very important lesson that keeps them out of even more serious problems in the future and teaches a valuable lesson to others students and teaches a valuable lesson to future students. That will hopefully keep something like this from happening again and stop future miscreants from committing crimes. In other words, exactly what laws and consequences are supposed to do…

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Jeez. Who on Earth would have expected that?

    Swede. Don’t think so. Among other things, it’s been said that ingesting lead from paint before age five permanently reduces impulse control. Deterrence is irrelevant in that case.

  5. Stacy,

    Most high school students 25+ years ago could do those things before they actually reached high school. Amazing how far the actual knowledge bar has fallen in a quarter century.