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.