Friday, March 27, 2009

The high school horror

This is going to be a boring post for anyone who does not have kids, but highly interesting to those of us who do. 

Our Max is 12, but already we have to start looking for high schools to apply to.  Dalton, in NYC is 34,000 a year. (ha, ha, ha.) we cannot apply to Hunter because although we are in NYC's unofficial 6th borough, we are not in the city.  There's a great gifted school down the block, but we have to set up an appointment and beg for money.  We love this fabulous high school in the area where 98 percent go on to Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and it's FREE, but it is so competitive that we cannot count on Max getting in. (I think they take 4 from Hoboken.) We went to look at another prep school, which we all hated, and the deal was sealed when I asked the principal, "Where do kids go on to college?" and she didn't know.  Couldn't remember. Hello? 

So today we went to the local high school which has an IB program (college level courses, you can graduate in three years), tons of advanced placement, too. The problem is, all this is fairly new stuff (just a year and a half in the making, with a new principal) and before, the school still has vestiges of its crummy past.  Only 70 percent go on to college (WARNING), a lot of the equipment in the school is outmoded.  Not our first choice, but it is a choice, I guess.

Sigh.  High school for me was horrific.  I went to a working class school outside of Boston where only 15% went on to college and I had to hide my report cards because of the threats of being beaten up because I got As.  I, and my small pack of friends, were shouted at, bullied, and there was the great Leavitt/Grail fight when the toughest girl in my school threatened to beat me up because "I looked like a goddamned hippie."  She snarled at me and pointedly said, "Three o'clock.  Parking lot."  Lucky for me, she called in a bomb scare first and was caught and hauled off to juvie hall.  My classes were horrible.  An english teacher gave us Rod McKuen for our poetry unit, the sociology teacher spent all class talking about what a bitch his sister was, and I hid out in the art room for most of the time.

I want so desperately for Max to go to a great school with great people in it! Anyone want to give us $120,000 so he can? 


Clea Simon said...

The saving grace of my high school was one English teacher who really cared and our school jazz band – in retrospect, probably frustrated musicians who taught so they could send their own kids to school! But otherwise, it was all muscle cars, drugs, and vandalism. Plus, the photog on my yearbook turned out to be a serial killer! But it's all fodder for books now. I know you want the best for Max, but he'll do fine anywhere he goes! I believe that!

Gina Sorell said...

No kids and I still find this terrifying! Friends of ours moved back to Canada with their two kids for this very reason. Sigh. It seems all the really good schools here were too expensive and the kids now go to great free public schools.

I went to a performing arts school for High School, you had to audition to get in...but it was great and it totally saved me from normal high school angst...anything like that for Max?

Caroline said...

Well, I keep telling myself that even at my horrific high school, two kids went to Harvard, I went to Brandeis, and one went to Middlebury and another to Tufts. Not bad for a failing high school. And it did make me who I am! Clea, who the serial killer?!!! Oh my God, I probably would have dated him!

Gina, there is the high school of the performing arts in NYC, but it is so, so competitive and Max is not sure that is what he wants to do for his life's work (he's big in theater and a very talented guitar player)--which I think you really have to know to go to a school like that.

Katharine Weber said...

There could be a tremendous advantage to being in the IB program at that school. He will have a better shot at colleges coming from that school, for sure, than from a private school -- lotsa less competition, and his applications will stand out -- and if you really make the most of resources and stay alert and focused, an IB program can be a fabulous education. I wouldn't be so worried about the crumminess of the facilities. It only has to be good enough. I know far too many shiny, fancy schools that are actually really deeply mediocre. They've introduced the IB, it's new, they want it to succeed, it's a good match. Can you talk to some parents of kids in the program?

Candace Walsh said...

I went to that high school, too (before I transferred to a better one in 10th grade...) I hope you find something wonderful and do-able for Max.

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