The case for closing elite schools


At New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High, 71 percent of students come from Asian families, while 2.9 percent are black or Latino. Does it matter?

Elite exam schools like New York City’s Stuyvesant High should be closed, argues Reihan Salam, a Stuyvesant alum, on Slate. “Mayor Bill de Blasio, state lawmakers in Albany, and the United Federation of Teachers have called for scrapping Stuyvesant’s current admissions formula,” which relies on an entrance exam.

Seventy-one percent of students who made the cut-off in 2014 were Asian, often from immigrant families. Only 2.9 percent were black or Latino.

Some want to admit the top-testing students at each public middle school, ensuring that more blacks and Latinos — and fewer Asians — qualify.

Others would emulate the college admissions process, adding teacher recommendations, grades and portfolios of students’ work.

The politicians and the education experts who are so fixated on the racial balance at Stuyvesant neglect the fact that Stuyvesant is not built to support and nurture students who need care and attention to excel academically and socially. It is a school that allows ambitious students who know how to navigate their way around a maddening, complex bureaucracy to connect with other students with the same skill sets.

Hyper-competitive students thrive in the sink-or-swim environment. Others struggle to stay afloat. Salam wants to “spread gifted and talented kids across a wide range of schools offering different instructional models.” No school will be considered the best.

What’s wrong with letting very smart, very competitive students go to school together? Those who want a smaller, more supportive school have other choices.

Gifted kids are neglected, argues Checker Finn.

$100,000 in debt for a dream college?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, writes a graduating senior at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High. After earning top grades, test scores, etc., the well-rounded student got into three dream universities — but the financial-aid offers were meager. She’d have to borrow $100,000 over four years or ask her near-retirement-aged parents to drain their life savings.

. . .  I could either take on the debt for a brand-name school and pray to the deities of the job market that I’d get a job lucrative enough to pay it off (which is what many of my peers are doing, I learned), or I could graduate debt-free from a less prestigious school and hope that I’d get hired despite my not-nearly-as-impressive-but-decent undergraduate credentials.

She’s heading for a state university, where she plans to graduate at the top of her class with minimal debt, get a good job and start saving so her kids can go where ever they want.

She’s bitter about having to say no to her dream schools, but she’ll enjoy the freedom to do the work she wants. It’s no fun being a debt slave.

If your parents can’t afford private-college tuition, but are paying your state university bills, don’t whine about it, advises Ann Althouse. “The culture has truly tipped, with everyone feeling entitled to things they can’t pay for and assuming somebody else over there will pay somehow, some time.”

Teaching the death of Bin Laden

At Stuyvesant High, a few blocks from ground zero in Manhattan, AP Government teacher Matt Polazzo set aside a lesson on Nigerian politics to talk with his students about the death of Osama Bin Laden in a U.S. raid, reports the New York Times.

Mr. Polazzo, 35, was teaching at the school on Sept. 11, 2001, just a few blocks from ground zero. He witnessed the collapse of the first tower from a footbridge next to the school, and watched people leap from the second tower while waiting for the signal to evacuate from the school’s lobby.

His seniors had been in third grade at the time.

Sam Furnival, 17, had stayed up all night watching Al Jazeera English. He argued that the significance of the killing should not be underestimated. “After expending a trillion dollars and thousands of lives and 10 years, we were unable to catch one fighter of God who they said was protected by God from the imperial war machine,” he said, explaining the jihadist mindset. “The fact that Bin Laden is now dead debunks some of these claims.”

Mr. Polazzo asked another question. Do they think it would have been better to capture Bin Laden alive?

“That is what we should have strived to do,” said Chester Dubov, 18. “If nothing else, it would have been an excellent opportunity to give him due process of the law, and it would have been an opportunity to regain some of our moral standing.”

Most students disapproved of the wild celebrations of Bin Laden’s death.  But one boy argued that Americans shouldn’t worry about provoking the terrorists.

Besides, he added, “a lot of drunken George Washington University students shouting U.S.A.” — referring to one scene on Sunday night outside the White House — “is not going to inspire global jihad any more than there is currently.”

. . . Sam continued, “There are occasions on which it is appropriate to celebrate in the street, holding a Bud and waving an American flag, and presumably many of these occasions involve victory in battle.”

Killing a chief terrorist may be the closest we get to victory in a murky war on terror, the teacher suggested.

The New York Times has teaching tips, which include asking students to analyze why the Times told staffers not to write “Mr. Bin Laden” in stories on the terror leader’s death. Historic figures lose their “Mr.” when they die, according to the newspaper’s style guide. But this may set a speed record.

California students also were disturbed by the celebration of Bin Laden’s death, reports the San Jose Mercury News.