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at fourteen I learned the truth ...

I've been meaning to write about my high school, seeing as this is the 30th anniversary of my first semester freshman year. I actually had something planned for the 30th anniversary of my first day at Stuy, but I found a job, so that took higher priority. There's a lot I could write; possibly I will as time goes on. Overall, I liked going to Stuy; it was probably my favorite school. But there's one thing I find it hard to imagine – that I regularly got up at 5:30 am to make it to zero-period (either Madrigals/Renaissance Choir or gym). I had a really long commute from southeast Queens to Stuy's old location (345 E. 15th St. in Manhattan). If I was lucky, it took an hour; most of the time, I was not. But the implication here is that I functioned quite regularly on less than six hours of sleep. I can't imagine doing that now; it is after 11pm as I type, and I am ready for bed. But throughout high school, I don't remember feeling really tired.

There's a longish review of Stuy at insideschools.org. Unfortunately, I don't have time to comment on specifics. I agree with many, perhaps most things in the article, at least as they pertain to Stuy of the mid-to-late 1970s. One thing that struck me as rather interesting was one alumna's comment that some Stuy students burn out in college and miss out on some of its joys. Seeing as I had a mixed (and disappointing) academic track record post-Stuy, and less fun at the 'tute than I would have liked, perhaps I shot my wad academically at Stuy and there wasn't much left for what came next. (Although regarding fun in college, I made up for it, partially, by singing in two choral groups while at UCLA.) I certainly remember putting a lot of time and effort into my classes, but a lot of that was because I really liked what I was doing (particularly in math, music, and Spanish).

Anyway, I'll close with a flashback to the top hits on NYC's highest Arbitron-rated music station 30 years ago today. If you wanna talk about stuff not played on the radio anymore, when's the last time you heard any Dickie Goodman?


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 13th, 2005 02:14 pm (UTC)
I'd agree with a fair amount of that review, too. I didn't find the environment terribly competitive at all (though there were some overachieving grinds who looked like they didn't sleep more than three or four hours per night). I was impressed with how good the music program was, and was grateful for the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall three times with the concert band. I was very impressed with the math and physics departments, too.

Sadly, I also must agree that the students outshone the faculty rather dramatically. There were a few gems among the teaching staff, but the disparity between the staff and the students was quite stark.
Oct. 17th, 2005 03:57 am (UTC)
Interesting. When I brought up the topic of Stuy teachers sometime back, 39orangestreet seemed to think the teachers were stronger than the students. I suppose he saw a fair amount of Stuy students in his classes.
Oct. 17th, 2005 12:27 pm (UTC)
A lot depends, I suppose, on one's perspective. Perhaps his was broader than mine. There were about 680 students in my graduating class. I may have been on a first name basis with perhaps a quarter of those, and also with another few dozen in the classes graduating above and behind me.

In a large majority of my classes, I remember very few truly poor teachers, a slightly greater number of genuine academic and pedagogical stars, but mostly fair to middling (though usually quite professional and prepared) educators. In short, a much less right-skewed distribution than I found among the student body.
Oct. 13th, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC)
I found the same review for Hunter, my school.

I remember being incredibly competitive in high school. But I felt like MIT was one of the least competitive places I've been. Everyone was always willing to help. And help "de-frosh" the underclassmen of any ego/overacheiving streaks.

Even though I worked so much at MIT (and never got any sleep), I think the place really helped me "un"-burn out from High School.
Oct. 14th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC)
I used to have a lot more energy back then, too. LOL!

Although I can still get by on 5-6 hours of sleep, I don't really like it.
Jan. 10th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link to the review. The comments about diversity were particularly interesting. Like you, I was there 30 years ago, so maybe things are very different now. There were not many Black students there in my day, but we were wholly integrated (in the best sense of that word) into the student body. Some people isolated themselves socially, but that was by choice, not because you "had to" sit at the Black lunch table or whatever. I could socialize with White, Hispanic or Asian friends without suffering. Definitely not the case at university!

I consider Stuyvesant one of the only level playing fields on which I've ever stood. Because of competitive admissions, no one ever questioned my right to be there or suggested I got in through some unfair advantage. I didn't have to spend every day in every class being asked to prove myself, the way I did in college. It was a good experience to have at that age.
Jan. 11th, 2006 06:44 am (UTC)
This actually deserves its own post. Perhaps I'll go into it more someday.

I recall once another student asking me why I didn't spend time around more Black students. Even though I did have several Black friends (including those I knew from junior high) I sort of felt guilty about it. So I participated in the Black Students' League sometimes during senior year. It met after school, and sometimes ran until 4:30pm, which put me smack in the middle of rush hour going home. You rarely were able to get a seat on either the E or the F trains heading into Queens. There were occasional delays due to subway trains getting stalled in stations or tunnels. Plus, you were also rarely able to get a seat on the #5 bus which I took to get from the 169th St station to Laurelton. All that extra commute time made me tired.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )