Thursday, March 13, 2014

oddly the same

Recently we were at a friend's home at the same time he was working on his application for disability benefits.  "I hate writing," he complained.  Additionally, he has limited use of his hands (the primary reason for needing disability), which made typing hard.  "Does anyone like writing?"

I couldn't resist.  I pulled up a chair and studied what he'd written.  "You need to really emphasize the pathetic parts," I said.  "You're leaving out so much.  And you've got to lead with the worst parts."  I sat down and rewrote the short essay, emphasizing the truly horrific facts in my friend's case.

On the way home, I noted to the Sober Husband, "It was just like applying to Lowell!"

San Francisco has one -- and only one-- academic magnet high school.  (There is also a magnet school for the arts).  Dreaming of a high-quality and free education, we had Iris uber Alles apply.  The process was not quite what we'd expected.  First, the application required a couple of essays -- and they were all explicitly aimed at establishing just how much Iris had suffered in life.  The application specified that essays should address issues the applicant had experienced such as homelessness, poverty, immigration, parents being jailed, etc..   Then later in the process, Iris was required to write an essay at her present school, while being proctored --- and once again the topic was what challenges she'd faced in life, aimed at drawing out stories of great socioeconomic suffering.

I think it's appropriate that kids who have had a rough start in life be given an advantage in getting into the special public school.  Bright kids who've faced so much adversity in life but managed to cope nonetheless deserve the very finest in life.  But yet it's sad that San Francisco has only the one magnet school for academic high-fliers and that the process is so one-note.   There seems to be something amiss if applying for an academic magnet school is eerily like applying for SSI.


Carroll said...

Wow. That is really disappointing. So, your tax dollars are supporting an academically rich option for disadvantaged kids (fine) while no such option is being made available for your own? (Not fine at all!) I know the SF public school system is kind of whacko to begin with (hence your flight down the peninsula) but still. Very not good :-(

Anonymous said...

well, yes and no, i can assure you that the handful of 8th graders i know going to lowell, from one of the wealthiest public k-8 in the city, are not particularly disadvantaged, nor have they suffered much...

the Drunken Housewife said...

The actual breakdown is 70% of the places at Lowell are for proven academic achievers (kids who score highly on the Lowell entrance test & have high grades), 15% is for kids who don't qualify academically but have a hard luck story which will be taken into consideration, and 15% is for kids who don't qualify academically and who come from an "underrepresented middle school." Bizarrely the list of underrepresented middle schools is primarily composed of expensive private schools, as well as some public middle schools which are not the more sought after. So if you have a highly privileged kid at Hamlin, Town, SF Day, Waldorf or the like who doesn't have good grades and didn't do well enough on the Lowell test to get in as an academic achiever, that child could be offered a spot because few of the kids from those ultra-tony schools go to Lowell. The SFUSD works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform. Iris is coming in as one of the 70% who qualifies for straightforward admission. Her middle school is no doubt "underrepresented" (she's the only kid from there this year going to Lowell) but it's not in SF so doesn't count.

I think it's great that kids with harsh life experience at an early age get a chance, but I feel more bemused about the Town, Hamlin, etc... kids who didn't do well at their expensive, elite school getting spots. That seems odd to me.