Excerpt from an interesting opinion on NYC specialized high schools. Do we need them? Why do we have them?…

The very obvious solution to the specialized high schools’ diversity conundrum is here: get rid of the specialized high schools. They’re an ugly, embarrassing testament to America’s insistence upon inserting hierarchy into all things, including public services for children. What is the point of them? What, exactly, are we trying to accomplish here?

For the New York City Department of Education, the covert purpose of the specialized high schools is to buy the acquiescence of ambitious families in underserved areas: these parents believe that huge swaths of the outer boroughs have no decent facilities for their kids, but the inadequacy of the school in their own neighborhood doesn’t trouble them so much because they’re focused on getting their child into Stuyvesant instead. For New Yorkers on the whole, the existence of Stuyvesant makes the perceived mediocrity of the zoned high schools conscionable: as long as every student has a fair chance to earn an escape, we can allow those who don’t to languish.

Those who do escape receive the privilege of joining a hothouse of frantic academic competition, with its concomitant mental health crises. There’s little room for creativity or joy in learning. When students enter, they already tend to suffer from an undue focus on grades and test scores and the need to succeed at all costs (that’s how they got in), and thenceforth their universally like-minded peer group compounds the problem in an atmosphere of nonstop stress.

There are other ways of looking at the world, other ways of perceiving life’s meaning, but Stuyvesant and Bronx Science are designed to ensure that their students are unlikely to encounter them. Proponents of diversity at the specialized high schools will never acknowledge that the specialized high schools inherently constitute a form of segregation, regardless of their racial demographics.

For the ruling class, the racial diversity of the specialized high schools matters for reasons of public relations. The schools operate in the fashion of scholarship programs at top universities. Their function is to isolate and retrain the (supposedly) most talented kids from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in order to make them eligible for high-level positions within America’s fake meritocracy, which uses the “diversity” generated by their compliant presence to make a case for its own legitimacy.

What if we let the “smart” kids actually spend some time around the “normal” kids, even around the “dumb” kids? What if they learned to value solidarity instead of individual advancement? What if they came to understand that their entire communities matter, not just themselves?

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