A coalition of educational and civil rights groups filed a federal complaint on Thursday saying that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from New York City’s most selective high schools because of a single-test admittance policy they say is racially discriminatory.
I have a problem with this. I am a graduate of Peter Stuyvesant High School (class of 1975), one of the "elite" schools named in the lawsuit. I went to one of the worst Junior High Schools in Queens, NY. My teachers saw that myself and a few other students had potential and asked us if we ever considered going to a specialized HS. At the time I didn't even know about Stuyvesant. They helped us prepare for the exam. Every day after school we spent hours studying for the exam. We read dictionaries and we took practice exams. Our teachers did everything that they could to make sure that we were ready. They were there for us as long as we put in the work.
I do not buy into the concept that an admissions test is racially biased. I will not buy into anything that would make an African-American youth feel that they are not as smart as anyone else. What message does this send to our youth? Are we telling them that an exam needs to be "dumbed down" so that they can pass it. I know the statistics are staggering. According to the article in the NY Times, At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.
Now if the topic was access to resources to prepare for the exam, I agree that there are issues. Maybe the focus should be on developing programs to get more African-American kids into these specialized schools instead of lawsuits.
By the way in my graduating Junior High School class of 1972, I went to Stuyvesant, 3 or 4 others went to Brooklyn Tech, and one went to Bronx HS of Science.
Editor's Note: After further research I have changed my position on this issue.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.