The D.C. Board of Education has decided to reconsider setting up a model academic high school with a more exacting curriculum than that of any other high school in the city. There is a need for such a high school for the serious student who is ready to apply himself diligently.
By the time students reach high school, there is a wide range of development, a diversity of interests and various levels of potential. It is difficult to challenge all of these students through one type of curriculum. This city has provided alternative schools for all areas of interest but not for the academically talented.
Education sometimes becomes overshadowed by the emotional and political ramifications that can be projected or imposed on a clearly stated proposal, such as the model academic high school. Academic excellence should not be curtailed, for instance, because of the fear of adults who find racial change a reason to deny their children an opportunity to reach their potential. c
The aim of public education in this democracy has not always been clear. The public schools, in their most broad sense, were created to teach everyone how to think, read and write so that each can join in the democratic process and exercise his right to vote in an intelligent way. The schools were also created to erase signs of caste and class. Each child would receive an education among his peers so that he would be able to rise to his potential.
In a narrower sense, other roles have been thrust upon public schools. Some people want public schools to equip everyone with a marketable skill so they can enter the job market upon graduation. Some want a youth to develop himself to his potential intellectually and academically through public school attendance. And others place a priority on a very wide range of activities that will allow a youth a diversity of choices so that he can shop and seek the kind of education that suits his style of life or attitude.
In our city, we do not have schools that offer youth the intellectual and academic stimulation necessary for them to reach a high degree of their potential. Thus, the model academic or college preparatory high school was recommended to fill that void.
There are youth in our city who have learned to respect learning, to admire good teaching, to revere books and their contents, and who have developed an ardent desire to partake of the knowledge of the past and present. These students are worthy of a place to pursue their studies with dignity and without disturbance from those who have not reached such a goal. The youth described can be found in a cottage, in an apartment or in a mansion; in Northeast, Northwest, Southeast or Southwest; in Deanwood, Brookland or Anacostia. There is no segregation of this talent, attitude, acumen or mentality in any one segment of this city or in any one economic stratum. These students need nurturing, rigorous subjects and an environment conducive to their growth. Otherwise, they will suffer, and when they suffer, when these potentially superior students remain undiscovered or undereducated, we all suffer for future leaders and able followers in every endeavor of our nation.
It would seem unlikely that such a school would be challenged or that the recommendation of such a school would fail to be adopted by a board of education. The arguments against a model college preparatory high school are varied, but the most popular ones are that such a school is "elitist" and that the education of these students in one such school would remove all of the good students from the other high schools.
Recently, citizens disposed of the "elitist" argument as of no worth. But the removal-of-the-bright-students argument brings a kind of fear into the discussion. This same argument was given when the Duke Ellington School for the Arts was under consideration. It was proven to be specious. Today, expert bands, choruses and artists are found at most high schools. Each time an alternative program has been established, students in other high schools feel a competition with the specific area of the alternative school or program.
Some of our citizens fear that the model high school will be filled with the children who now go to the private schools. Those parents have the right to participate by sending their children to public school, and to this particular public school, if their children fit the criteria. For too long we have not cared about the child whose parents are affluent or the child whose parents sacrifice in other areas to pay for his education. We have not yet been ordered by the courts to provide an education to fit the bright, hard-working, diligent, academically talented child.
This does not mean that such children do not deserve a public education. We defeat the purpose of a democracy when we segregate people because of differences. With the absence of a school or program to fit the diligent student, we eliminate him from the democratic process of education. He has no curriculum that will allow him to meet his peers from all walks of life on an equal academic basis and to learn the similarity in his difference. This absence of a place may be the beginning of a caste and class system that most Americans abhor.
Sometimes it takes a long time for citizens to understand a problem. But the education of our youth requires the elimination of fears, machinations and vested personal interests. The youth of this city have only the adults as the responsible agents for their education. We must establish the model academic high school in the very near future. It is the solution to one problem.