Monday, December 27, 2004

Campaign for an anti-finishing-school

A friend from high school sent me this Stuyvesant fundraising video and dared me to count how many times the word "special" is used. Click on the link to see footage from Stuy from what was, I believe, my junior year, so 1999-2000. Watching this, I am suddenly reminded of why the place, though wonderful in many ways, was so weird. The video begins with several kids who've just taken the entrance exam being asked what they want to be when they grow up and what they like to study. "I like math" and "I want to be a doctor" are the appropriate answers. And yes, they will be graded accordingly.*

The video is part of the Campaign for Stuyvesant, which is needed, it appears, because the school gets less in the way of public funding per student than does any other high school in the city. I agree with the general point the video is making, which is that Stuy kids are, well, special, and that as a place that is both serving a unique and valuable purpose and underfunded, it is a worthy cause. But, while it's understandable that Stuy kids are seen basically as potential successful adults, it's a shame that so many of my friends look back on the four years as a miserable time, one that may have led to them pursue greater things (i.e. to get into a good college) but one that was quite dreadful at the time.

The problem with having a school which is filled with socially inept nerds, and which has its students compete for college admissions with kids coming from private schools whose students may be smart but are not necessarily all that nerdy, is that something about kids from Stuy ends up seeming not-fully-formed. Stuy is almost like an anti-finishing-school, leaving graduating students with fewer social graces than they had when they entered. It's a place where it's socially acceptable to begin every conversation with a classmate with, "What'd you get [on the test]?" A place where it's perfectly normal for a large segment of the student body to storm out of the school and run straight home the second the final bell rings without so much as nodding goodbye to any classmates, not to mention a place where "free period" means, "Yay, I can sit by myself and play games on my calculator."

It would be a shame if Stuy decided to put the same emphasis on well-roundedness and social skills as do certain private schools. But maybe a little emphasis wouldn't hurt. Because now, people make friends at Stuy despite the school, with all socializing treated like something that will indirectly count against you on your transcript. If Stuyvesant needs money, it might want to consider seeing how it could make students' memories of the place itself, and not just where the place led them, a bit more positive.

*Not really. Then again, anything's possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a weird idea that a school should be a place to socialize - you go there to study! The best thing about graduating from Highschool was that I wouldn't have to see all these dumb idiots any more, day by day. Never again! That was a relief.