You’d need a heart of stone not to root for the plucky, fresh-faced kids in Walkout, a new HBO film about Mexican-American teenagers who in 1968 organized classroom walkouts to protest conditions at their East Los Angeles high schools. The movie, which premieres March 18, is directed by actor and activist Edward James Olmos, and depicts Latino students locked out of school bathrooms at lunch, discouraged from applying to college, and paddled for speaking Spanish in class. Their peaceful demonstration got them in trouble with school officials and beaten by police, while the teacher who inspired them was arrested and faced with a possible prison sentence of 66 years (the charges were later dropped). But in the end, by golly, the school board was forced to pay attention. Real life, though, has a sad habit of not playing out the way it should according to Hollywood. The students’ list of 39 demands included not only access to school bathrooms (which of course never should have been denied in the first place) but compulsory bilingual education and an end to janitorial duties as discipline. But since the argument for keeping all kids out of the bathrooms was that some kids trashed them, it’s hard to see how forcing a few miscreants to push a broom now and then was cruel and unusual punishment.
More problematic is the enduring policy issue of bilingual education begun by these protests. The walkouts ushered in three decades of herding native Spanish-speaking students into a patronizing ethnic and linguistic ghetto, broken only when California’s Prop. 227 severely scaled back bilingual education here in 1998.
Cathy also notes that a lack of historical information targeted to one's ethnic group doesn't seem to be holding back non-Latino students.
The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the would-be valedictorians are tossing fits - it must be Spring.
...All is not perfect in the lives of Pawel and Joanna Keblinski and their daughter Julia, 17, a Shenendehowa High School senior. She's ranked second in her graduating class at Shenendehowa; they think she should be first.
"There are no words that can express our pain over the fact that our daughter was refused her due right to an honor that she has worked for for four years," the family wrote to district officials.
The Keblinskis believe Julia should be named valedictorian at the area's largest suburban school for scoring a 99.33 cumulative grade point average while completing six Advanced Placement classes, plus honors courses.
But the district recognizes Julia, the treasurer of the math team, as salutatorian of her 640-student class. Her average fell just below that of Ben Plog, a running back on the football team and aspiring physician, who she says didn't take as many accelerated courses.
Shades of Blair Hornstine! The New Yorker has a delightful article detailing the fits, the lawsuits, and the overreactions that transpire each year as graduation nears:
Some schools, responding to the critique that competition has got too bruising, have decided that naming a single valedictorian is part of the reason that today’s students have become so anxious. (Many small private schools came to this conclusion long ago, and never adopted the valedictorian tradition.) An organization called Stressed Out Students, which is headed by Denise Clark Pope, a Stanford education professor, has a list of about twenty-five schools, mostly in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, that have pledged to try to make students and their parents less driven...
A number of schools now call everyone who gets a 4.0 or higher a valedictorian. At Cleveland High School, in the San Fernando Valley, there will be thirty-two valedictorians this year. At Mission San Jose, in Northern California, there will be twenty-three...
The single-valedictorian tradition is also being endangered by lawsuits. In 2003, Brian Delekta, who narrowly missed having the highest G.P.A. in his class, sued his school district, near Port Huron, Michigan, asking that he be credited with an A-plus, instead of an A, for a work-study class that he took at his mother’s law firm. (In addition, Delekta asked for a restraining order on the publication of class rankings.)
Restraining orders! Good grief! Little Brian sure picked up some interesting legal ideas around that firm.
Other valedictorians in the news as of late are Miriam Cattanach, whose school wanted to honor her as top-scoring student but didn't trust her to speak properly about religion, and Abraham Stoklasa, who allegedly threatened his principal and insisted on telling bad jokes in his speech.
Joanne Jacobs notes that controversy isn't avoided even when schools don't have valedictorians. Some people, it seems, can't stand to see any reward/prize/opportunity go to only one worthwhile student.
The artist who misspelled the names of famous people in world history on a large ceramic mosaic outside Livermore's new library can spell one word with ease: N-O. That's Maria Alquilar's new position on fixing the typos.
She had planned to fly to California and put the missing "n" back in Einstein and remove the extra "a" in Michelangelo, among other fixes. But after receiving a barrage of what she called "vile hate mail," Alquilar said Livermore is off her travel itinerary and there'll be no changes by her artistic hand.
"No, I will not return to Livermore for any reason," Alquilar, of Miami, told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "There seems to be so much hatred within certain people. They continuously look for a scapegoat. I guess I am the sacrificial goat."
Why am I not surprised that, in addition to her inflated self-esteem and self-assessment of artistic talent, she is good at playing the victim hand as well? And by "victim," I mean not just of the town, but of the ineffable artistic impulse as well:
When asked whether she chose the words and names for the work or whether the city provided her with a list, Alquilar took an artistic stance in response.
"The art chose the words," she said.
Hear that, naysayers? Einstein's image told her to misspell his name. The muse of Michaelangelo insisted that spelling was irrelevant. Ignorance is now excusable if one is in the throes of artistic fever, which should please the nation's touchy-feely "educators" no end.
Devoted Reader Frank Admissions (who now has a permalink on my front page) sends along the links to Mark Edmonson and continuing fight for truth, justice, and admission to UNC despite his extreme senioritis and extremely shady rationalizations.
In the Charlotte Observer:
Edmonson's mother, Barbara Edmonson, said that after discussing the case with their attorney the family has decided to go ahead with the breach of contract lawsuit. "We will continue to pursue it because his acceptance was wrongly and untimely rescinded by the university," Edmonson's attorney, Marshall Hurley, said Wednesday...
Edmonson is doing volunteer work and working on his own business, a Web site-hosting company, his mother said.
"He needs to be in school," she said. "He wanted to be in school."
Really? Based on his wretched senior GPA, I never would have guessed.
Barbara Edmonson, his mother, said she and her son are going forward with the breach of contract lawsuit and are appealing his admission decision.
"I really can't believe that he's not in college at this point," she said.
You know, for a mother who sounds this concerned now, concerned enough to be quoted in every frickin' article about Mark, you have to wonder - where WAS she all last year? You know, when Mark was completely tanking in his high school classes and writing evasive letters to UNC? When he was allegedly having huge problems with medication, yet managed to pass AP exams? She can't believe he's not in college right now? Why wasn't she this incredulous when she saw his grades last April?
A high-school senior who scored a perfect 1,600 on his SAT won't start his freshman year next week at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after a judge denied an injunction that would have forced the school to admit him.
Mark Edmonson was admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill in April, but he lost his spot in the freshman class in July after finishing the school year with a failing grade in one class and earning several C's and at least one D in other courses.
Edmonson, 19, of Greensboro, sued the university last week in Orange County Superior Court for a spot in the freshman class, claiming breach of contract.
What Mark wanted was a temporary injunction so that he could be a proud Tar Heel while his lawsuit against UNC was proceeded. No go, said the judge. This article provides us with more insight as to Mark's senior year woes:
After the first meeting, Mark Edmonson sent an e-mail to Herb Davis, associate director of undergraduate admissions, that described his senior grades as "abysmal."
He said he performed poorly because he had become "disillusioned with the high-school experience."
Edmonson's mother said her son struggled with calculus and had a difficult time adjusting to a change in medications.
Her son did better by the end of his senior year, she said.
Uh-huh. "Disillusioned," you say? Why? Why would a perfect 1600-SATer, early-admitted to the college of his choice, get depressed during senior year? Coasting, I can understand, but "disillusioned" is for the kid who worked hard, yet didn't get what he wanted. That doesn't apply in this case. Mark should have been psyched to get the senior year work done and get the hell out of high school. Instead, it sounds like he barely went to class.
Hope Mark saved the receipts for all those Carolina-blue sweatshirts. His mom can return them all and get her money back, while he "ponders" his future:
...Edmonson, a National Merit finalist who recently incorporated his own Internet computer services firm, has no college plans this fall, his mother Barbara said Friday.
"He can work part-time on his business, he can get a part-time job doing something else, but he will not be starting college as we thought he would," Barbara Edmonson said. "There's no place to go."
Um, other colleges? Surely, there's someplace; even a community college would be better than just sitting around, and he can bring up his GPA.
Edmonson's mother worries the media attention has hurt her son's chances of finding another college choice.
"He's been, honestly, just crucified. The general feeling is just so negative that I'm not sure what he can do or where he can go," she said. "I can't imagine any admissions person in the area, at N.C. State or Duke or anywhere, even looking at him."
Suing a university for refusing to admit you after your grades tank, when you've earned the top score on the SAT, tends to draw media attention, Mom, and that's not what the problem is here, anyway. The other schools aren't going to look at Mark until he (a) buckles down in a less-prestigious educational environment (I'd give up on NC State or Duke, at least for a while) and shakes this "disillusionment," and (b) drops his lawsuit against UNC.
Why would a university want to admit a student who is going to massively underperform AND get litigious on them?
The good news? Mark Edmonson, a Guilford County (NC) high school senior, made a perfect score of 1600 on his SATs. Fewer than 1% of students do so each year, so it's an impressive achievement.
The bad news? UNC-Chapel Hill, which is his intended destination, temporarily suspended his admission because his grades dropped precipitously during his senior year. That year, he had C's, D's, and F's on his report card, and his overall GPA dropped from 3.8 to 3.5. Despite allegations of a letter from UNC that listed graduation as the only condition necessary for Mark's acceptance, it seems the university has changed its mind about his academic preparedness.
The worst news? He's suing.
A Guilford County high school graduate who recorded a perfect SAT score is suing UNC Chapel Hill, alleging the school refused to admit him after his grade point average dropped. Mark Edmonson, a National Merit Scholarship finalist, scored a perfect 1,600 on his SAT last year, but his grade point average fell from 3.8 to 3.5 in his senior year at Northwest Guilford High School. He wants a judge to force UNC to admit him as a freshman this year.Edmonson said in an affidavit filed in Orange County that university officials backed out of an April letter promising that as long as Edmonson graduated from Northwest, he would be admitted.
But a follow-up letter from UNC said Edmonson's admission had been temporarily suspended because his grades dropped during his senior year. Thomas Ziko, a special deputy attorney general, said Edmonson's SAT scores are only part of what UNC takes into account in deciding who should be admitted. Other factors, Ziko said, include declining grades. "His senior year grades are C's, D's and F's," Ziko said.
Begging to Differ is there with the smackdown on this senioritis sufferer:
Sigh. Though I feel a twinge of pity for the kid, if I met him I would have no choice but to do my best Sam Kinison impression and scream, "You dumbass! You blew off senior year! You have no one to blame but yourself! Since you aced the SAT, you must know the meaning of HUBRIS!!"
If you believe this article, Edmonson is probably screwed. According to a representative of the Center for Individual Rights, "The Supreme Court has recognized the principal of academic freedom, and one element of that is deciding who gets into the university."
Tough luck, bro, but this could be the best thing that ever happens to you. You're unlikely ever again to pull such a bonehead move as long as you live, and anyway, there's always N.C. State.
Yeah, I'd say Mark's Standard English vocabulary is pretty well developed, but I have the feeling his legal vocabulary is getting ready to expand as well. Did UNC indeed send him a letter stating that the only obstacle standing in the way of admission was graduation? Was there any mention in that letter of his GPA or his senior year grades? If Mark had no idea that those grades would count, well, I don't agree with slackerdom, but who's to say Mark didn't blow off class to work at the Gap to raise money for school?
What isn't mentioned in this article is that, at least in the 1990's, UNC would offer the chance to apply only to students in the certain top n% of their class, at least for certain high-performing public high schools (such as Chapel Hill High). While a 3.5 GPA isn't sucky, it also isn't valedictorian level, and dropping from 3.8 to 3.5 might have seriously affected Mark's class rank. Is this rule still in force, and is it what's driving UNC's decision?
I believe that UNC should have the right to admit whomever they decide is academically prepared, but I think the issue in this lawsuit is going to be whether Mark was misled to believe that his late senior-year grades, or his total GPA, didn't count once he was tentatively accepted. UNC can make the rules, but they can't conceal the rules from applicants, nor can they change them mid-stream.
Of course, as a UNC alumna, I can understand why Mark would want to be a Tarheel rather than part of the Wolfpack, but that's a whole 'nother story.
By all accounts, Edmonson was a good prospect for college. A National Merit finalist who recently incorporated his own Internet computer company, the Northwest High School graduate received the highest possible score on the SAT...In an April letter offering Edmonson admission, a UNC official wrote that competition was "keen" and that the scholar was chosen from a "remarkable group of students." But the same letter warned Edmonson not to slack off at all during his senior year[Emphasis mine].
"Because we want you to finish strongly and come to Carolina ready to excel, your enrollment will depend upon your successful completion of your current academic year," wrote Jerry Lucido, UNC's director of undergraduate admissions. "We expect you to continue to achieve at the same level that enabled us to provide this offer of admission; we also expect you to graduate on time." [Again, emphasis mine]
So what's going on? Why did he slack off after being warned? Well, Mark and his family claim that UNC rescinded their offer after a disastrous meeting in July, at which Mark was (allegedly) not given the opportunity to explain his failing grades or his health problems, which related to medication taken for attention-deficit disorder. The family's lawyer claims that Mark's perfect score was "held against him," as though the school wanted to take him down a notch or two.
Let's see: Brilliant student, disability, request for special treatment, complaints of school discrimination, wildly-varying accounts of private meetings, lawsuit, family attorney mouthing off, student unavailable for comment. The parallels are striking, folks.
At UNC, officials are also being tight-lipped, citing pending litigation. Speaking generally, Lucido, the admissions official, said his office, on a regular, if not frequent basis, recalls applicants to review their cases if their grades have dropped during their senior year.
"This sort of thing is a standard and accepted practice among selective colleges and universities," Lucido said Tuesday. "We always tell students that their enrollment will be contingent on their achieving, in their senior year, on the same level that enabled us to admit them."
So, will the lawsuit continue? Do we have "Blair II: The Deep South Version" on our hands? Remains to be seen, folks; remains to be seen.
Update: Commenter Frank Admissions found another news article on this, which makes me wonder about the claim that mistreated ADD was the cause of the bad grades:
...a lawyer from the state attorney general's office argued that forcing the university to admit a student would pose a threat to academic freedom. Thomas Ziko, a special deputy attorney general, said Edmonson's SAT scores are only part of what UNC-CH takes into account in deciding who should be admitted. Other factors, Zwiko said, include declining grades.
"His senior year grades are Cs, Ds and Fs," Ziko said. If his grade point average was based solely on his senior year, Edmonson would have had a grade point average of 1.3, Ziko said.
When asked to explain the drop in grades, Edmonson wrote a letter to UNC-CH admitting his grades were "abysmal" and fell short of what UNC-CH wanted, Ziko said...
Edmonson failed a computer science class and received a D in an American government class. But at Monday's hearing, Edmonson's attorney Marshall Hurley said his client went on to pass advanced placement, or college level, tests in those courses...
Edmonson said his grades suffered during his senior year in part because of an adjustment in medication he was taking for a mild form of attention deficit disorder.
He said he didn't mention that in the letter to UNC-CH explaining his decline in grades because Davis wanted assurances he was sorry it happened, not excuses.
Ok, let me get this straight. A kid smart enough to have a 1600 SAT and a 3.8 GPA gets admitted to UNC. His grades then plummet to a 1.3 GPA, but he passes AP exams in courses that he failed. He writes a letter to UNC omitting ADD as a reason for the decline, but then brings it up in the July appeals meeting. Something's not adding up.
I've tutored college students with ADD. When they're not on their medication, they don't read to the ends of sentences and items, so they miss stuff. They miss it in class, they miss it in textbooks, they miss it (especially) on exams. If Edmonson's ADD was not being correctly treated, to the point that he was bombing class tests despite effort, he would have bombed the AP exams as well.
Senioritis, though, would explain this. The kid is smart. He could have slacked off in class and crammed for the AP exams because he thought that his high school grades didn't count anymore, but he knew he'd get college credit for passing AP tests, so those did count. Tests that counted for college credit, he did well on; tests that were related to high school that he thought UNC wouldn't care about, he didn't.
He gets called on it and apologizes, but doesn't provide a reason. Then he realizes he better produce a reason, and that's when the claim of medications and ADD comes in.
I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm saying that's one explanation for the facts above.
Five graduate school students have been accused of paying other people to take standardized tests for them in the hopes of getting higher scores, authorities said.
The students, who were arrested on charges of forgery and criminal impersonation, were admitted to schools including New York University's Stern School of Business and the MBA program at Baruch College.
Authorities said they responded to ads in a Chinese-language newspaper offering tutoring for the tests but then paid $2,500 each or more to have someone else take the TOEFL, GRE and GMAT exams in their places.
The adds were allegedly placed by Ping Shen, 47, of Queens, who was arrested last month, authorities said.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office said Shen gave stand-ins fake passports to pose as the students. Another man, Lu Xu, of Manhattan, is accused of taking 150 tests...
Lu is obviously a masochist. If he got a substantial cut of that $2500 to take each test, he's a rich masochist, but still a masochist.
It looks like Blair Hornstine won't be getting her $2.7 million after all, although she does get to retain her valedictorian status. Oh, well, $15K wouldn't have paid for even one year at Harvard, and, as usual, the real winners here are the lawyers:
Blair Hornstine, whose court battle to be her high school's sole valedictorian ended with her life in turmoil, settled her differences with the Moorestown School District today to the tune of $60,000 - all but $15,000 to pay her lawyers...
In agreeing to the out-of-court settlement, the Moorestown Board of Education admitted no wrongdoing and said it accepted the agreement in part to limit its legal costs.
So, she gets very little money in the settlement, her classmates are looking forward to moving on and forgetting about her, and it's too late for her to be accepted to the schools she rejected for Harvard, including Princeton, Duke, and Stanford. Her future, as she no doubt envisioned it, has been shattered - but I have a feeling that she won't be held back for long.
Her lawyer claims that this was never about money, but about how high schools treat disabled students. Well, she got her wish, but it may not turn out like she expected. Moorestown High will certainly be treating disabled, special education, and home study students differently in the future:
Today, [district superintendent Paul] Kadri said: "I think it's important for everyone to move on now so I don't think it's appropriate to comment on her personally. I do, however, think it's a good thing for both sides."
Kadri added that day to day, the lawsuit had not been on his radar. Instead, he said, the district has been gearing up for the forthcoming school year. That includes making some changes to home instruction for special-education students. The changes were somewhat influenced by the suit, but Kadri said he would have made them regardless of the outcome.
To keep closer tabs on students who do some of their schoolwork at home, the district plans to expand the duties of the director of special education. A new hire was being considered at the board's meeting last night. The director will coordinate services for special education and guidance - two areas that normally handle home-schooled students independent of each other.
"We are working on a system that allows us to monitor the kids every step of the way," Kadri said.
This could be read two ways, which should satisfy both Blair and people who thought she worked the system.
I imagine there are quite a few school board members around the country who, at one time or another, get aggravated with the local governments. Perhaps the government wants to cut costs, or close schools, or wipe out jobs. It's understandable that perhaps a member of a school board might want to fire off a letter to a mayor or governor regarding a controversial decision.
However, it's doubtful that this approach would ever be productive. Entertaining for reporters, perhaps, but not productive.
And isn't "you are cursed with a curse" redundant? Who taught her to write?
I wish this entry were a joke, but it isn't. This whole mess began back in December but I'm just now finding out about it.
At the same time that the anti-semitic and dreadfully untalented NJ poet laureate Amiri Baraka was under attack from lobbying forces for his hateful "poems", he was appointed to another poet laureate position. Who would take him, given the scandal over his nasty September 11th poem? Given that New Jersey was trying to find some way to get rid of him? Who?
The Newark Public School system, that's who:
Baraka is a longtime resident of Newark, and was named the poet laureate of Newark Public Schools yesterday even as he was under attack in the capital of Trenton.
This decision brings to mind a few questions, the first one being - Does the Newark School system really need to be wasting money on a poet laureate? And why is that position acceptable for an anti-Semite?
The school system in Newark was so bad in the 1990's that one report showed that the longer a child remained in the Newark system, the lower his or her chances of achievement. By 2001, little improvement was seen; the city of Newark sued the school system over $70 million worth of misappropriated funds. The state now oversees the school board.
One reporter thinks the problem is pure racism - on Baraka's part, and the Newark school system's part as well. One group battled the state to save Baraka's position as poet laureate; their enthusiasm is admirable, but it's obvious they don't understand what free speech really means, and they obviously refuse to recognize anti-Semitism and racial hatred when they see it.
Ultimately, the NJ General Assembly passed a measure at the beginning of July, 69-to-2, to get rid of the position of poet laureate altogether. Obviously, if the state has to abolish the position of poet laureate to get rid of Baraka, that's what they're willing to do. But who will protect the schoolchildren of Newark from his "poetry"?
Baraka's already taking advantage of his new position; in June he spoke before a Newark high school audience. He's threatening to sue the state, and repeats the erroneous claim that the General Assembly's action constitute violation of his First Amendment rights. Here's a tip, Baraka - you're free to say what you want in your "poems." But no one is forced to give you a platform for them, and if the government decides to let you go, and you have to find another means to be heard, that isn't censorship. As long as you can publish and distribute your poems through some means, without government interference, you aren't being censored.
Obviously, for Baraka as well as his supporters, speech is only "free" if it's free from all criticism and judgment. May Newark's kids be able to see through his self-serving attitude.
(via Little Green Footballs)
The Jewish World Review has a fairly sympathetic description of Blair Hornstine, and the public's reaction to her exploits:
Growing up, most of us knew a Blair Hornstine — a girl or boy who seemed to do everything right, who was always at the top of the class in high school. You know the type — that someone who combines straight A's with relentless do-gooding on the road to Harvard, Yale or some other school most of us didn't get into.
We're all supposed to admire people like that, but the truth is, the vast majority of us can't stand them...
Nobody seems sorry for Blair or for her father, the Honorable Louis Hornstine, the New Jersey superior court judge many blame for the whole mess. Blair deserves to live her life in peace. Whatever her faults or those of her family, she hasn't murdered anyone that I'm aware of, and has already been punished far more severely for her transgressions than some other type-A overachievers who've done far worse...
Blair and her father have come to represent some of the worst aspects of our society — the desire for empty honors and meaningless school grades, along with a willingness to hurt anyone who comes in the way of such goals.
Blair is undoubtedly a brilliant girl whose charitable work does not merit our contempt. Her plagiarism was a serious offense. But this is a youthful indiscretion that ought not to hang around her head for the rest of her life (as it probably will)...
There are those who doubt her "brilliance" and the sincerity of her charitable work. But author Jonathan Tobin is correct in surmising that students like Blair may be better pitied than envied, thanks to the pressure-cooker environment in which she was most likely reared.
Blogger Susanna of Cut on the Bias came across an astounding scandal involving an eighth-grade sex party and school administrators whose invasive medical demands drew the attention of the New York Civil Liberties Union. As you'll see, even if the school administrators were well-intentioned, they went about it the wrong way:
School administrators in Washington Heights forced several eighth-graders to be tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases after they attended a "hooky party" last spring...The civil liberties union is representing two of approximately 11 girls who cut school on April 11 and attended a "hooky party" where there reportedly was sexual activity, [NYCLU executive director Donna] Lieberman said.
"The next school day when they went back to school they were summoned to the principal's office and effectively suspended," Lieberman said.
She said the girls were told they had to be tested for pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and could not return to school without a doctor's note that included the test results. One male student also attended the party, but he was not required to be tested for diseases...
It gets worse. When two students returned with doctor's notes indicating that the appropriate tests had been run, the school demanded additional notes indicating the test results, which can only mean they planned to take some action if the girls tested positive for pregnancy or an STD.
Susanna's outraged at the focus of the Newsday article, and thinks the school was probably trying to do the right thing:
That's right, folks, what's important about this situation is not that eighth graders are screwing around, but that their privacy is being compromised. There's not a comment even in passing from anyone in the article about how awful it is that the girls left school for a sex party, no one mentions the parents, no one talks about ways to educate the young people that sex at 13 is not the smartest thing you can do.
Now, I'm not saying that it's the school's business to send the girls off for those tests, especially since apparently they didn't make the same requirement of a boy from the same school at the same party. But it's a sad sad commentary on this society that the primary brouhaha is about a school indicating disapproval of underage sexual activity, albeit in an inappropriate way, rather than the girls behaving like little sluts (and the boys are no better, don't accuse me of sexism). What message is this sending? Not a good one. And where are the parents? Where's Child Services? I'm thinking some kids need to be taken away from their parents, or at least the parents should be fined for extremely poor parenting.
Schools are held responsible for teaching everything from reading to morals to anti-gun activism these days, but when they actually take a stand on something they're shot down by the ACLU. Lovely. Actually, I doubt the school was as concerned about morals as lawsuits, which makes the outcome of this story ironic, but still. They were trying, no matter the wrong intent.
In the olden days, wouldn't the school just have called the kids' parents? Did they think this was a better alternative? Or was the school so disheartened by past parental encounters over similar situation that they figured they had to step in and play nanny themselves?
Blair Hornstine is, of course, national news, but those of you outside the mid-Atlantic region might not have heard of Jasmine Karo. She's an 18-year-old New Jersey resident who made headlines last month when she stabbed her abusive father to death inside their Camden County home. Her home life had been so hellish, and her attempts at dealing with that life so awe-inspiring, that she's been treated gently, both by the media and the state, ever since the killing.
Her bail was paid by a NJ Assemblyman's office. A grand jury failed to indict her for the the killing, which is widely considered to have been in self-defense. Support from other abuse survivors has poured in, and an anonymous donor is going to pay for her college education. Her first public interview since the grand jury meeting, which summarizes much of the case, was featured yesterday in the Philly Inquirer.
So what does Jasmine have to do with Blair? Well, local reporters feel there's some yin/yang symbolism in their dissimilar yet simultaneous stories (including the fact that Jasmine felt compelled to skip her graduation ceremony too), and this Philadelphia Inquirer article by Monica Yant Kinney is actually the second article I've seen that compares and contrasts the Girl Who Had Everything with the Girl Who Had Nothing:
The gods must want Blair Hornstine and Jasmine Karo to meet. How else to explain why the teenage twosome keeps landing on the front page and TV at the same time?
In May, Gloucester City residents welcomed Jasmine home from jail with hugs and hot meals...At the same time, almost 20 miles away in Moorestown, someone egged Blair's house...Talk about crime and punishment. A month later, both young women wound up skipping their graduations.
Jasmine...worked her way through high school, supporting her unemployed, alcoholic parents. That she even made it to graduation, given the abuse and neglect she endured, showed plucky perseverance.
For Blair, graduation symbolized the end of a valiant, if misguided, fight to be the one and only Queen of the Quakers at Moorestown High...
The article then notes that both women have recently returned to the spotlight, and that the fathers in both cases have had a profound impact on the young women and on the public's perception of them. While Jasmine continues to defend her dysfunctional family, including the father she stabbed, Blair's been mum on the topic of her dad, who the article describes as a "scholastic Svengali," and perhaps the one truly to blame for Blair being tossed out of Harvard.
This fall, Jasmine Karo will begin studies at Camden County College.
Who knows? Given the way things are going, Blair Hornstine might wind up sitting next to her.
The reason is, allegedly, her plagiarism. In addition to the fact that she admitted to plagiarizing parts of her published newspaper articles, her previous academic work is now being examined for any uncited borrowing as well, according to Moorestown school board president Cyndy Wulfsberg. Her tutors are going to be interviewed as well, I see, and that could certainly turn up some interesting information.
Wow. So, not only does Harvard's decision go against my prediction, and the best hunches of people much more informed about the situation than myself, that Blair would suffer no redress due to her sticky-fingered writing, but her father is supposed to be starting an adjunct teaching position at Harvard this fall as well, according to journalist Jonathan Last. And now Blair can't attend?
If I were her, I'd be very worried about that investigation by the Moorestown school board. As I've pointed out before, plagiarism is specifically banned by Moorestown, so what will happen if the school board comes to the conclusion that Blair's schoolwork was not her own? Does this negate the ruling that she deserved to be sole valedictorian? Can high school diplomas be recalled? (PhD's certainly can be, and have been in the past, on these very same charges.) At the very least, this will probably result in her grades being retroactively adjusted, which will result in a lowered GPA and an invalidated claim to being #1 in the class. What's more, if Moorestown's findings cast a shadow on her high school academic career, won't that make it difficult for her to find any college to accept her, much less an Ivy League one?
A Hornstine without an Ivy League education? Whatever will she do?
Thanks to Randee, Adam, Nick, and Matt for the tips.
Update: I was thinking more about this whole Blair situation today, and I'm starting to feel sorry for her. (I've been watching chick flick sob stories on the Lifetime Channel all day while recuperating from jet lag, so I'm feeling sorry for the entire female population right now.)
I mean, one of the possible explanations for this mess is that Blair is not really smart enough for the Ivy Leagues (and that's no real insult; I'm not, either), but her family has convinced her that anything less than valedictorian and Harvard isn't good enough. I mean, why do kids plagiarize? Either they aren't smart enough to do the work, or they're lazy, or they want to break the rules and get away with it. Blair doesn't sound like a risk-taker or rule-breaker, and I don't think she's lazy. I think she may be smart, but I think she may have been even more desperate to live up to her family's high standards (Joanne Jacobs goes so far as to say that it seems Blair might be "taking the fall" for her demanding family).
Here's an ugly thought. If we accept that Blair is truly disabled, then what if, thanks to her disability, she just isn't capable of completing demanding schoolwork in the time available? (Again, I don't mean this as an insult.) One can imagine her parents encouraging her to accomplish a great deal, despite her disability - but I wonder if that turned into a refusal to lower their standards in a way that defies the reality of the situation. I mean, if I had a kid with an immune disorder, I'd encourage her to do her best, but I wouldn't expect her to get into Harvard, not if she couldn't get through her day at a public high school without having to come home to rest and be tutored. I'd be more worried about her health than her achievements.
Blair's brother is in law school at Harvard, and her dad's now on the faculty (assuming he keeps the adjunct position). I just have this feeling that Blair is going to feel like a failure if she ends up at another college, and if so, then that's a shame. In fact, it's starting to seem like it would make a good Lifetime movie...
Update #2: Reader S noted in my comments that MSNBC says Blair is already taking college classes somewhere. That's interesting. In what sort of college could she be enrolled on such short notice? I mean, I'm assuming that as of a week or two ago, she thought she'd be attending Harvard this fall.
Let's see, is she now attending a community college? Is she at a school that wait-listed her and is now willing to accept her, sticky-fingered writings and all? Or was she (or her family) so driven that her plan all along was to take college-level classes in the summer before she was to officially begin college?
Erin O'Connor's blog, Critical Mass has regular updates on the case of Macomb Community College professor John Bonnell. Haven't heard of him, you say? That's because the case of his most recent suspension isn't gathering much press, despite the obscene nature of the charges.
It seems Dr. Bonnell likes salty, earthy language, which is not surprising in a man who's been teaching James Joyce for 30 years. In fact, Erin is quite sure that it's Dr. Bonnell's stellar teaching of James Joyce, and not the language, that's the reason behind the suspension. As Erin puts it, "Students do not have the right not to be offended, and a bad word or dirty anecdote does not harassment make," yet some students are complaining of being "verbally raped" and "degraded" in the classroom. Other students have come forth to defend Dr. Bonnell's language by saying that it was always germane to the topic of the class, and that he was an excellent professor. All of Erin's posts on the topic are fascinating (and lengthy), so go read 'em.
The whole mess reminds me of one of my most brilliant professors in college, who was also a certifiable lunatic. I won't name names here, but "Dr. J." taught the intro Calculus class for science and math majors, which often had 400 students enrolled at one time. At least, 400 were enrolled at the beginning of the semester, because the course was meant to weed out those who weren't built for a science degree, and boy, did Dr. J. ever weed.
He was nuts. He was a Vietnam vet, with a long grey ponytail and a disdainful yet schizophrenic expression, who owned only two shirts (a black turtleneck and a khaki shirt with epaulets) and one pair of jeans. He demanded absolute silence in the auditorium in which he taught - understandable, given the size of the class, but the man must have had sonar capabilities and nerves of steel, because he could hear one single solitary boy whispering to another in the back of the huge room, and he never hesitated to toss them out of class for it. His cursing was imaginative and perfectly timed, and he put down many a student who deserved it. There were 400 of us to one of him, and we were completely outnumbered.
He had a chair at the front of the auditorium and would often sit in it and pontificate on topics completely unrelated to calculus. No one dared interrupt him, or even move, because even when in a good mood, he'd single you out for embarrassment. One day he decided to quote lines of his favorite poetry and took turns pointing at various hapless students, stupid enough to be sitting near the front, and scream, "Who wrote that?!" No one ever knew - we were science majors, for God's sake - and that would lead him off into a rant about our general uselessness as human beings and the declining state of the educational system. His comments on the American military machine were brutal; his conspiracy theories, exquisite.
But MAN, could that guy teach calculus. Once we were all in a state of utter silence and complete rigidity, literally perched on the edge of our seats and ready to flee in case he was packing heat that day, he would step to the overhead projector and work his magic, and the formulas would flow directly from his pen into our left brains. All of his military experience came in handy here, because so much of learning calculus is understanding how the formulas describe real-world calculations of force, trajectories, rates of change, and the like. All of our examples revolved around cannons, tanks, and shotgun shells.
As far as I know, his job was never in danger. Perhaps science majors are weirder than other students, or made of sterner stuff (or just more likely to bear the crosses they're given). Perhaps his wildly positive evaluations, out of the 150 or so who made it to the end of the class, made up for it. Most likely, the college knew they'd never find anyone else good enough - and crazy enough - to walk into the lion's den of 400 young adults to teach "The Big Math" every year.
The Weekly Standard has a comprehensive essay up about our favorite high-school news item, Blair Hornstine. Author Jonathan Last is an unique position to comment - he attended Moorestown High School and so was able to provide an insider's viewpoint of the whole scandal. He attended the graduation. He talked to the parents who allegedly heard Louis Hornstine brag about manipulating the system. He synthesized a great many details into this fascinating wrapup of the whole saga. And he certainly uncovered some new facts, not previously noted in the press.
Blair's lawyer wasn't an expert on education law, but instead a man legendary in Jersey circles for defending mob kingpins. Two additional lawyers came on board when her plagiarism was discovered, in order to "play offense" with Harvard and make sure that her acceptance there was still valid. [Update: Hope they' weren't billing by the hour....]
Few people in Moorestown seem to believe that Blair had any sort of physical disability, at least one severe enough to prevent her from attending school. Blair's chirping statements to interviewers - you know, the ones about there being plenty of time in the day for her to do volunteer work and about how she always keeps busy to avoid boredom? - didn't help matters.
She received an A+ (value: 4.3) for gym, a class she never attended (she had a doctor's note excusing her from it), and her father wanted the grade removed. No, not because she didn't deserve it, but because her GPA was above 4.3 at the time, and this undeserved grade in gym would have drug her GPA downwards.
And, last but not least, Blair's father, New Jersey superior court judge Louis Hornstine, has accepted an adjunct teaching position at - where else? - Harvard. Guess this means that the online petition for Harvard to rescind Blair's acceptance was completely futile, eh? Harvard's not going to shut the gates on the daughter of one of their newest faculty members, now are they?
Well, Moorestown High's graduation ceremony appears to have gone off without a hitch. In fact, it sounds like a darn good time was had by all, and I'm sure salutatorian Kenny Mirkin appreciated his standing O. Miss Blair was completely absent from the proceedings, both in mind and spirit; although listed in the graduation program, her name was not announced from the podium with the rest of the graduating class.
I'm sure a few wrapup stories about Blair's trials and tribulations, and the Moorestown students who seem happy to be rid of her, will appear over the next few days, and I'll link to all the ones I can find.
Today is June 19th, the eagerly-anticipated Graduation Day for Moorestown (NJ) High School. Of course, sole valedictorian, known plagiarist, and general object of scorn Blair Hornstine won't be attending. The senior class has prepared a resume celebrating the 278-member class, and singling out 22 seniors for special recognition. Blair isn't on that list. I assume that, in her absence, the festivities stand little chance of degenerating into this. Given that her fellow classmates are now being subjected to some insulting generalizations for their presumed envy of Blair, I hope they behave respectfully and prove their detractors wrong.
So, where's Blair? Taking a relaxing vacation in the Caribbean? Or gearing up for college by settling early in Cambridge? Some little birdies (one is shown below) are sending interesting rumors my way regarding Harvard's newest occupant, but I can't print anything until I find some verification online (or see it in print). You'll know the story as soon as I do.
Moorestown salutatorian Kenneth Mirkin is readying his speech for graduation. Since Blair won't be attending, he gets a chance to shine, and I believe he intends to focus the audience's attention on all the students other than Blair, which is where it belongs.
But hey, since I know you guys love this story, here are all the links back to all my postings on it.