-I'm not alone in protesting YPIS. I skimmed this on the train, but will need to investigate further.
One of the misconceptions that skinny privilege relies on is that life is better when you’re thinner. It sustains itself on the belief that even the most incremental differences in size and shape will have a profound effect on how we are received; whether we will be rejected and passed over, or embraced and revered.I couldn't agree with that more!
My only quibble is that while Chung is right that women should be judged more for brains and less for looks than is currently the case, this is a woman who is, among other things, a model. I don't think beautiful women are under any moral obligation to artificially experience life as the plain-looking do, as if this were even possible. But - barring human-trafficking-type situations - one makes a choice to be paid for one's looks. Models are certainly not directing societal beauty standards, but each woman who might have that job has decided that she will be the person with said features to do that job. Sure, if it hadn't been you, it would have been some other woman who looked just like you, but if it's you, it's you. It's wrong to judge a woman for being startlingly thin, but something else entirely to judge her for selling thin. This holds regardless of how she came to have that physique, regardless of how much effort or lack thereof went into it for her personally.
-NYC private schools, even more of a mess, diversity-wise, than the public magnets. Jenny Anderson's piece on what it's like to be a minority student at a Manhattan prep school is spot-on, or at least appears to be to me, as one of the not-as-rich white kids who attended one of those pre-high-school.
Anderson effectively conflates scholarship-kid with minority, which makes sense both from the stats she provides and in the context of these schools: there are special programs (such as Prep for Prep) that specifically recruit underprivileged, brilliant students of color. The way the admissions process works - how I remember it, and how the article portrays it - these schools have only rich and poor kids, with the handful of middle-class (lower- and upper-) effectively lumped in as "poor." The aloofness in question manifests itself as this overall sense that "we" are "normal" and anyone who has to god forbid attend a public school or take the subway might as well be featured on "Save the Children." This was mildly irritating for those of us who were merely upper-middle class, but often disastrous - as this article well shows - for kids whose families were actual-poor, as opposed to merely private-school poor. I allude to my own example not to summon tiny violins, but to explain what a weird atmosphere these schools create.
Anyway, it was obvious to all who were the scholarship students (even though some of the "rich" white kids received financial aid) because of the Prep for Prep influx in certain grades (7th and 9th). A new, smarter, darker-skinned kid in the class who didn't live in Manhattan-below-96th was readily identifiable. All of this culminated memorably one year when, apparently due to self-selection, one 10th-grade yearbook photo had only white kids, the other only students of color. This was NYC, in the 1990s. I was pleased to see Anderson pointing out that these schools are somewhat optimistic, deceptive, you choose, with their depiction of diversity in their promotional materials.
That American schools tend to remain de facto segregated is nothing specific to NYC's fanciest schools. Several factors make this case different (PG, take note), most obviously the near-absence of white people who aren't wealthy, and of students of color who aren't super-serious. The latter arguably promotes a positive stereotype - there's no broader stereotype in the U.S. that black and Latino kids, at least, are particularly studious, so if one emerges from this program, so it goes. But the former is more problematic. Yes, there's such a thing as "white privilege," but it doesn't generally come with, say, a Manhattan townhouse with its own elevator. The social gulf between (to simplify) blacks and whites is typically not what it is at a school where things are so extreme. Because private schools hand-pick their classes to contain only rich white kids and ridiculously impressive, bootstraps-story students of color, they manage to avoid having any kids who are, well, ordinary. That's just about the worst. But the absence of any kind of averageness makes for a screwy environment. As for what the stakes are of this arrangement, I suppose the problem with it is that if the goal is creating a diverse, integrated elite, it doesn't appear to be succeeding.
But what first jumped out at me was this:
There is no doubt that New York City’s most prestigious private schools have made great strides in diversifying their student bodies. In classrooms where, years ago, there might have been one or two brown faces, today close to one-third of the students are of a minority. During the 2011-12 school year, 29.8 percent of children at the city’s private schools were minority students, including African-American, Hispanic and Asian children [....]Interesting, I think, that when we're discussing the city's private schools, Asians are considered a "minority" and perhaps even "brown," whereas the article about Stuyvesant from the very same NYT series mentions that the place is 72.5% Asian as a way of saying what a rich-and-fancy place it is. Which... seems kind of fair, considering this anecdote:
[Minority students] describe a racism that materializes not in insults, but more often in polite indifference, silence and segregation. Albert, an Asian-American boy in “Allowed to Attend,” says: “You can do a lot of psychological damage to people by ignoring them for an extended period of time. For, like, four years.”It's striking, then, that Prep for Prep considers Asians "of color" - striking insofar as it tells us just how 1950s that world remains.
What's missing from this entire conversation is something like context. Not to keep harping on this, but harp I must: we're talking about how exclusive schools like Stuyvesant are because there exists a prep course that some take to get in, and it costs $750. A year - one year - at a private school is $40,000, which isn't counting the myriad official and unofficial activities fees. I get that in this country, we allow private educational institutions a great deal of leeway, homeschooling and all that, but I'm not convinced that as social-justice issues go, the public magnet schools' unrepresentativeness comes close to that of private schools' arrangement.
I'm still not convinced either private schools or public magnets are beneficial to society or to the individual students who attend, that the benefits aren't basically about which family you came from, which factors got you to that school in the first place. But what Stuyvesant manages and few other city schools do is socioeconomic diversity. Not "diversity" as in a handful of poorer kids to make up for the super-rich majority, and not "diversity" as a euphemism for everyone's really poor. "Diversity" as in you get the whole range. This is helpful in terms of having a sense of where you yourself stand, privilege-wise, and also in terms of not feeling like it's you against the world. It's far from perfect, but it's something.