That seems like a stark headline, doesn't it? But it would have been a better title to a recent New York Times story called "Racial Imbalance Persists at Elite Public High Schools" than the one the headline writers dreamed up.
As we've been talking about in recent weeks on this blog, New York City has long had a commitment to serving gifted kids from all backgrounds. This is a city of immigrants, and tales are legion of children from all kinds of deprived backgrounds getting into the city's elite schools for the gifted and succeeding wildly. Stuyvesant and the Bronx High School of Science, for instance, have produced many Nobel Prize winners.
Unlike many of the city's private schools, it's no mystery how one gains admission to the elite public high schools. You have to sit for the annual exam. Anyone can take the test; indeed, the city offers a program to prepare you called the Specialized High Schools Institute. If you score high enough, you are offered admission. Connections don't help you.
Net result? Stuyvesant High School does not "look like America." In fact, it looks a little bit more like Beijing, or Delhi than like any city in the US. Though the city's four major racial groups represent roughly equal proportions of those who sit for the test (28 percent of last year’s were black, 23 percent Hispanic, 30 percent Asian and 19 percent white), a full two-thirds of Stuyvesant students are of Asian descent. In other words, Stuyvesant is majority minority. But apparently its students are not the correct minority, because all sorts of city critics are up in arms these days about the failure to "diversify" Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and the city's other gifted programs.
As Daniel Golden pointed out in his thought-provoking book, The Price of Admission a few years ago, when it comes to education, Asian children are "the new Jews." Once, elite colleges conspired to reduce the proportion of Jewish young people granted admission, even though these young people often had stellar credentials and had overcome amazing odds (poverty, immigration, discrimination, etc.). A similar mindset seems to have gripped the diversity proponents criticizing New York's gifted programs. As it is now, your father can be a cook working in Chinatown after leaving mainland China penniless, and your admission to Stuyvesant will not be looked upon as a cause for celebration. Something strikes me as very wrong about that picture. Indeed, any efforts to further "diversify" the city's elite schools will result in fewer Asian children being granted admission.