It’s impossible to miss the start of school in New York City: twice a day, the energy on the subway skyrockets as it fills with kids of all ages. This week, we’re bringing you pieces about schools—some nostalgic, others more urgent. In “Class Notes,” Jelani Cobb explores the history of his high school—Jamaica High, in Queens—and finds that it encapsulates that of the city as a whole; in “The School on the Links,” Muriel Spark revisits her time at James Gillespie’s High School for Girls, in Edinburgh, and explains how a teacher there inspired “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Mary McCarthy reflects on her divergent experiences in public and private schools, in “Getting an Education,” while Katherine Boo, in “Expectations,” chronicles the struggles of at-risk students at a Colorado school that has failed. Tasneem Raja reports from the city of Tyler, Texas, where citizens are divided over the question of whether to rename Robert E. Lee High School. Finally, in “Rikers High,” Adam Gopnik visits the Austin H. MacCormick Island Academy—“the best hope a sixteen-year-old kid who ends up on Rikers has not to end up someplace like Rikers again.” Schools shape our lives, and these pieces show how.
“After a hundred and twenty-two years, Jamaica High School, in Queens, was closing; the class of 2014, which had just twenty-four members, would be the last.” Read more.
“The School on the Links”
“Little did Miss Kay know, little did I know, that she bore within her the seeds of the future Miss Jean Brodie, the main character in my novel, in a play on the West End of London and on Broadway, in a film and a television series.” Read more.
“Last year, Manual High was one of the worst schools in Colorado. Nine out of ten students failed the state writing test; ninety-seven of a hundred failed the math test; one in five freshmen graduated. This wretched showing belied the fact that, for a decade, Manual High had been the object of aggressive and thoughtful reforms.” Read more.
“Getting an Education—I”
“It was in public high school that I became conscious for the first time of a type of person that we would now call an intellectual.” Read more.
“To Be Black at Robert E. Lee High School”
“In 1970, a statewide federal desegregation order, issued by a district judge in Tyler, Texas, forced Lee to admit black students.” Read more.
“Rikers Island contains, on average, fourteen thousand inmates, eight thousand officers, two boats, eleven kitchens, and one good school for boys.” Read more.