New York City Public Schools and The Crisis of Opportunity By. Raimondo Graziano
It’s evident that in our society we have a number of gross inequalities and inequities that hamper our political and financial systems, the means for attaining a degree of security are disproportionate across socioeconomic and racial lines. But perhaps most appallingly is within our Public Schools. The United States prides itself as being the greatest nation, however the facts and the evidence say otherwise. Perhaps in the ideals that we strive for, that we try to exemplify we truly are great. But in reality, across a number of means of evaluating our standing on numerous issues we fall short compared to other Western nations. We spend a great deal of capital on our public schools, yet we lag far beyond in literacy, graduation rates and other standards across the world. This in and of itself is a crisis in our society, but the disparity of access to opportunity is even more alarming. Set aside the issue of the failure of our public schools and the failure of state, federal and local municipalities to provide excellence in schooling, the fact of the matter is a disproportionate number of African American and minority students are not even afforded the opportunity to be considered for the greatest public schools that our cities can offer. One such case cannot be clearer than in the case of New York City’s Public Schools, specifically the city’s specialized schools.
New York City’s specialized public schools have been for a long period of time an avenue to move out of the rungs of poverty. At its start it was a means for immigrants to reach a similar height as more well to do or middle-class Americans, if you could pass the test and showed the aptitude, you’d be guaranteed a spot. Today the same holds true, however in a city where near half of the students are minorities the fact that only a handful of them where admitted into these schools is a glaring testament to inequality in our public-school system. It is not that these students don’t measure up to their peers, it’s that in many cases they simply aren’t aware of them. The test itself has, the entry alone, has become a burgeoning industry of prep and courses, and academies and classes dedicated to the prep of simply getting in. It’s not about your character, or your potential or even your intelligence – it is about the entry. This is not to disparage the students that attend, this is simply a reality. Some students have spent years preparing for these examinations while others, of a similar working ethic and aptitude, find out a month prior.
There is a silence of dissemination of information to students in schools that underperform as a whole, leaving out the importance of the individual. The opportunity is there, but for many they aren’t even aware of it. This speaks to something in our society as well – lack of awareness has led to a great deal of issues in every aspect of our reality. It has led to repression, oppression and systematic institutional iniquities that chip away at the cohesion and general productivity as society. In so few words, lack of awareness of the issues is ruining societies fundamental ability to function.
The recent proposal by the mayor of the city, and a number of other advocates to end the test requirement for entry and rather provide an application to every single high performing student in the public-school system has been met with cheers and condemnation. Those for argue that it will advantageously support the minorities of the city by evening the field and accounting for the number of minorities present in public schools. Those against argue that it will erode the ethic and rigor of the schools by ridding the coveted entry exam. The issue is that the information regarding the program is not decimated enough to the public – there are those that cannot afford rigorous prep and courses for the entry. This will allow for the high performing students of the public schools a chance, a fair and equitable chance, at achieving an education at a highly lauded school.
This is not an initiative to turn Stuyvesant, or the Brooklyn Latin School into the same schools as say Midwood Highschool or Maxwell Highschool – the benchmark to gain entry is still there – scholastic aptitude and will. The issue is that there is a requirement present now that disadvantages a number of bright minds in New York City. The issue is a crisis of opportunity. The opportunity is there, but the people lack the means. This is simply one example of many of the same issue that plagues our society. Fundamental inequities that erode the public’s will. Perhaps we can take a step forward in New York City, to end this crisis of opportunity.