What it’s like to be an Asian student in an elite public school
Like these other institutions, Brooklyn Tech, which sits in the tall brownstone neighborhood of Fort Greene, is considered a diamond in the city’s educational crown, along with Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School. The municipal authorities have recently established five more such schools.
School has many advantages as most students are well aware. However, almost all were hesitant to describe it as segregated, not least because the descriptor “Asian” encompasses disparate ethnicities, cultures, languages and skin colors.
Tausifa gazes at the multicolored sea of students streaming through the doors of Tech. She said she was surprised that a school where three-quarters of the students are non-white could be described as segregated. “I have classes with students of all demographics and skin colors, and friends who speak different languages,” she said. “Calling this segregation doesn’t make sense.”
To which Salma Mohamed, a child of immigrants from Alexandria, Egypt and a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, added: “It is very interesting to me that the word segregation is used in a predominantly Asian school. It evokes whiteness and class privilege. It’s not us.
The debate around an entrance exam
Critics of specialized high schools argue that these establishments are out of step with the times and educational practices. Better to discard standardized tests and look for heterogeneous classes in neighborhood high schools, they argue, than to cloister the best students. Some studies, they say, show that struggling students benefit from the presence of talented outliers. And the entrance exam, which has no written component, has fueled the growth of a private and inequitable tutoring industry.
What about the bright kid having a bad exam day? Or a teenager who lacks the money to take private lessons?
“Educationally, we don’t need these schools,” said David Bloomfield, a professor at CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College. “These students can’t be in a bubble, they need to be in a more diverse student body, where you could have advanced classes.”