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Mommy Politic: Stuyvesant H.S. needs more black students — and their parents

BY THE MOMMY POLITIC | The Mommy Politic here again, from the intersection of politics and education. 

As uncertain as these times are, there’s one thing we can be sure of. Stuyvesant High School just offered admission to a new crop of rising ninth graders and very few of the 900-plus seats will go to African American students.

While I’m opposed to the schools chancellor’s divisive tone and radical admissions proposals, I am steadfast in my belief that Stuy needs African American families more than they need Stuy.

Stuy is a school in great need of change, with its unbearable workload and stressful atmosphere.  I would come home at 4 a.m. from a work shift and find my son’s school friends on Facebook, all doing homework like it was 4 in the afternoon! I asked one of them why he felt the need to be up all night, and he ticked off a long laundry list of to-dos.

“Well, after I outline my AP U.S. history notes, I have to do my Japanese essay,” he said, “and then there’s my AP math prep, just for starters. Guess I just have too many interests!”

Although this boy had resiliency and good cheer under the insane pressure that Stuy sometimes fosters, I’ve seen it go the other way. 

One student was so burned out after graduating Stuy, that the kid couldn’t focus during freshman college year and had to leave the hard-won university. 

Other Stuy kids have turned to substance abuse and wound up in a residential treatment program that Stuy uses for when overwhelmed students need rehab.

But when I tried to get other moms together to force a change in workload and atmosphere, there were few activist takers. They were worried about stepping on administrative toes.

Contrast this to my experience at another “high-stakes entrance exam” school where we started our public “gifted” education: Hunter elementary school. Starting there back in kindergarten, we also found a school in desperate need of change: The afterschool was run by an art teacher/dictator who refused all sports, even the classic elementary school soccer. An 89-year-old who hated math and canceled recess was teaching second grade. The math program was an unorganized, curriculum-free mess; parents in the P.T.A. were complaining that each succeeding teacher would assume the previous year had taught fractions and thus kids would get to fifth grade without learning them.

When I organized for change, the white professional parent majority turned me down.  Most were not from New York or had gone to private school. But the parents of the two African American families in my child’s class stood by my side and encouraged the other parents to join in for lasting changes that should have happened years ago.

African American parents have often attended New York City public schools themselves and know one great truth: Parents speaking out and advocating for change are crucial to the healthy environment of their kids’ school. The African American cultural history of civil rights means that parents of color do not shy away from the good fight when it is needed at a public school.

And, boy, is it needed at Stuy. 

Welcome, new African American Stuy parents. Please get involved and get it done.  

The Mommy Politic is a Stuyvesant High School parent.

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