The NY Times story would be better titled, “Black at Stuyvesant High — Is That Possible.” It should be an embarassment to African Americans across this city that fewer and fewer of our children qualify to attend the City’s elite high schools.
Fernanda Santos writes
Earning a spot at Stuyvesant is unquestionably a badge of honor, sort of a secret knock to an exclusive club. As high school admissions decisions are revealed across the city in the coming week, many people are concerned that it is a club that black students — and, to a similar extent, Latinos — have an increasingly hard time cracking.
I attended Bronx Science (1972-1976) and graduated in a class of 800 or so. At the time, the student body was predominantly white and Jewish — blacks comprised roughly 10% of the population. In the last 40 years that percentage has fallen there and at Stuyvesant.
I went to Science because my eldest cousin was attending Stuyvesant. Naturally, I wanted to best him, so I applied to Science. At the time, my middle school — the inspiringly named Albert Einstein School (IS 131) — offered a semester-long after-school test prep program for students wanting to take the specialized high school exam. I thought nothing of it when I told my parents of my plans. I remember going down to Barnes & Nobles to purchase the Barrons test prep book.
I made new friends in the prep class. I felt a bond with my classmates as we reinforced each other’s desire to go to high school with the “best of the best.” For me, it was a chance to rejoin elementary school classmates from my fifth and sixth grade IGC (intellectually gifted class). I had felt passed over for the SP program because I had a clash of personality with Mr. Fabrikant, my sixth grade teacher. (He probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that I’ve retained my headstrong ways.)
I remember my excitement when my Dad drove me to Bronx Community College to take the exam. In my mind, I knew that I was securing my academic future and assuring that I’d be attending college in a few years.
The day I received word that I had indeed gotten into Science was not as joyous as I had hoped. Of my fellow prep participants, I was the only one who’d be attending the hallowed halls of Bronx Science. I was also saddened upon learning that my best friend from elementary school, David Castro-Blanco, choose to attend Stuyvesant.
My Bronx elementary school IGC class while predominantly was so diverse that my Dad nicknamed it the “UN.” He was right because my classmates were Jewish, Catholic, Irish, Italian, Polish, Swedish, German, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Afro-Caribbean, and African American. My 30 student class was also 60% female and one-fifth black.
All but one of my black IGC classmates attended Bronx Science. Besides curious minds, my classmates and I had active, involved and engaged parents. Sadly, the same cannot be said of many parents today. Maybe our parents pushed the belief that we could not afford to be as good as our white peers; we had to exceed expectations. (They were the “tiger moms” of their day.)
Maybe that’s what plagues the present city school system (administrators, teachers, parents and students). The benign prejudice of low and no expectations. The fault does not lay with the entrance examination or access to private test prep services. I am opposed to doing away with the entrance exam or offering admission to the top students at every middle school.
I’ve never believed in exams being culturally biased against blacks. Math is universal. Whether you’ve lived on a farm or not, a cow is still a milk-producing mammal. Europe will always be in the Northern Hemisphere and Australia in the Southern Hemisphere.
Our middle schools are so uneven and miserable, I’d doubt the true abilities of the valedictory or salutatory students. An entrance examination is the only truly fair arbiter.
Today’s Times article makes plain that whatever the reason, it’s unacceptable. I urge you to read the comments section in the Times article. Some comments will enrage and others will offer hope.
Lastly, don’t blame the Asian and South Asian students and their parents for doing what has to be done to secure their academic futures. One Times reader suggested reading “We’re Not Even Allowed to Ask for Help” – Debunking the Model Minority Myth.
As always, there are lessons in adversity. We just need to implement a community-wide solution.
What lesson can parents draw in order to increase the enrollment of black students at specialized high schools?