Clancy and I took a trip back home to go to her high school reunion at the Deltona Leadership Academy for Math, Arts, and Sciences.

Clancy went to a special high school, which exist across the south and elsewhere, that caters to the gifted and talented. These state-run schools are usually attached to a second or third-tier college, where the students live and attend class during the school year. Though not a happy time for her, high school was nonetheless a particularly special time for her. Gifted and talented students from all across the state descending on a single institution.

It’s not just about being smart, though. A lot of the students are there for a reason. They’re people who decided, along with their parents, that going to high school hundreds of miles away was preferable to going to their local school. This might mean that their local school isn’t very good. It’s often that they have social problem. There is a very high misfit quotient. Which, for a misfit like Clancy, can be Heaven on Earth compared to a more typical school.

Clancy’s class in particular was of the more revolutionary variety (their class song was, in fact, Revolution) and the school actually clamped down in direct response to her class. They started seeking out kids of a straighter lace. The pendulum would eventually swing back with a discussion about what the school was actually all about, but Clancy’s sister attended a very different DLA than she did. For all of the headaches caused by her class, though, they also boasted by far the highest alumni giving amount of any of the classes that were there. While the gifted and talented aspect of it was relevent, the fact that a lot of kids found themselves at home, in a way, may have been an even bigger deal.

The contrast with my own school, and my own reunion, was stark. At my reunion, they didn’t even bother asking for money. We had a conference room of a hotel where maybe a hundred or so kids out of a class of about a thousand showed up. Her school was an academy while mine was a warehouse.

I don’t mean to sell my own school short. We were largely the children of engineers, doctors, and businesspeople. We were collectively arguably more privileged than Clancy’s class. We didn’t have to go very far.

More to the point, I have always appreciated the sheer size of my high school. It’s one of the largest 100 in the country today, and it’s smaller today than it was when I went there. I was far more prepared for college than most of my college classmates, despite the fact that I didn’t take a single honors course.

But mostly, I appreciated the school’s size giving me the ability to fade into the background and find my sort, which will mathematically exist in some number. I tend to like my large high school like I like large cities. A smaller and tight-knit school is fine, as long as you are a part of the cloth. In a place like the Deltona Leadership Academy, I might have been. But there aren’t many of those. But while I had friends at my school, I actually found “my sort” online (in the form of BBSes). Even in a school that large, I had to look elsewhere.

Schools like Clancy’s get criticism as a stark example of tracking. Removing smart kids from everyday schools. Others question whether tax money should be devoted to schools that cater to people who are definitionally advantaged. I disagree with that, through-and-through. Some of that for personal reasons – my awesome wife wouldn’t be who she is without that school – and partially for ideological reasons (the same ones that lead me to support tracking).

The DLA has a program where, even if you don’t live in Deltona, children of DLA alums can attend that school. I was at once happy and sad to hear that. Clancy has said that if whatever state we end up in has such a program, and our children want to attend, she would want them to be able to. Intellectually, I agree. Sentimentally, that would mean losing the kids right at the point where they are becoming the most interesting! A little piece of me harbored the thought that such a decision may not be necessary because we may not live in a state where such a program exists. Now, it doesn’t matter where we live, and instead of hundreds of miles away it might be thousands.

If I were to argue against it, it wouldn’t be an argument that I would win. It shouldn’t be, really.


Category: School

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9 Responses to The Leadership Academy vs. The Warehouse

  1. In contrast, I’ve never heard of any equivalent to that type of school in the Northeast with a residential programme. Around here, your choice is Catholic school, the few private schools that exist but cater toward wealthier people, the local vocational school run by pooled resources from the states and multiple districts, and your local private school. NYC students have a bit more in terms of options, but the vast majority don’t end up in the selective and elite schools with most attending zoned high schools.

    Others question whether tax money should be devoted to schools that cater to people who are definitionally advantaged

    I think the main problem that critics have with tracking is that a disproportionate amount of “wrong people” end up in the lower end tracks, and there’s a sense in a country known for second chances that tracking is harmful to late blossoming types. Mind you, the country known for tracking, Germany, isn’t as rigid as one would suspect with some students progressing from the lower tracks into special prep courses designed to lead into university.

    • trumwill says:

      My impression of the northeast is that (a) it has no shortage of boarding schools (although not free ones like DLA), and (b) have a robust private school system. These things would combine, I would imagine, to reduce the the market for a public school. Sucks to be the kids from families who can’t afford private school, though.

      As someone who was “tracked” poorly, albeit an UMC white guy, I am sensitive to those concerns. A lot of the opposition, though, comes from the very concept itself of tracking.

      • Yes, but from what you’re written, somebody like Clancy wouldn’t have attended a Northeastern private boarding school, and given your theoretical ages, if she wasn’t Catholic, her chances of attending a private school are low given that the vast majority of private schools around here are parochial and religious schools for Catholics. Otherwise, you fight tooth and nail to move into the right neighbourhood with the best schools that you can buy, but non-religious private schools really aren’t in the equation for anybody in the middle class around here.

        FWIW, Catholic school is $5K for elementary school, $11K for high school. Private non-boarding school costs $25K per student. Property tax on a $500K house is around $12K per year, and can be higher in some areas. The math doesn’t work for even $200K households.

        • trumwill says:

          somebody like Clancy wouldn’t have attended a Northeastern private boarding school

          Why? Cost? That would have been an obstacle.

          I think where the existence of such schools matters is that even if Clancy can’t attend, enough can that there is less motivation to institute a statewide one.

          That’s the northeast, anyway. I’ve never heard of one of these things outside of the south, though, and I don’t think it’s the same in Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, etc. So there might be something particular about the South.

          Clancy did attend Catholic school in her earlier years. It was dependent on how good the public school she was assigned to was.

          • says:

            Oklahoma has a school for the gifted in mathematics and the sciences. I can’t remember anymore how I learned of it, as I am not from Oklahoma and did not attend the school.

  2. fillyjonk says:

    My parents sent me to private high school. (by great good fortune, a well-respected prep school existed in our town, so I didn’t have to board).

    As you said: it had a high misfit quotient. Which was wonderful for me. I went from being an eighth-grader who hid and did her best not to attract the attention of any of her peers, to a freshman who actually had friends and felt kind of like she fit in somewhere. And I was challenged intellectually. And I learned things – both skills like note-taking and writing papers, and just “things” (like memorizing bits of Shakespeare) that have stuck with me nearly 30 years later.

    The local public school, while it strove to be good (and probably was academically okay) also suffered from something that happens in some affluent towns: a lot of the students felt they were just serving out their time, and that partying and hooking up were more important than anything academic. If you were a smart kid, you were ignored at best, bullied at worst.

    I have my suspicions, based on my junior high experience, that I might not be here typing this (either “here” in the sense of being a somewhat successful person sitting in an office at a computer or, more melodramatically, “here” at all, given the depths of sadness I felt sometimes at 13) if my parents hadn’t sent me to prep school.

    They talk about how ‘tracking’ is bad for kids but I would argue equally that leaving the little egghead in a milieu where being smart means you get teased all the time probably isn’t very good for THAT particular kid.

  3. trumwill says:

    The local public school, while it strove to be good (and probably was academically okay) also suffered from something that happens in some affluent towns: a lot of the students felt they were just serving out their time, and that partying and hooking up were more important than anything academic. If you were a smart kid, you were ignored at best, bullied at worst.

    That describes The Warehouse, to a degree. The upshot about our school, though, was that the honors classes provided the smart kids with their own extensive network. That wasn’t so good for me, of course, because not only was I not with them but I was actively separated from them. I remember going to my high school reunion and I ended up with a group of them that I knew from K-6 at IHOP afterwards. It was a jab in the chest that we had all gone our separate ways in middle and high school. On the other hand, the honors program at Clancy’s school was apparently really cliquish and she was on the outside of their focal center due to her misfitty qualities.

  4. superdestroyer says:

    Northern Virginia has a STEM magnet program for kids who are very sharp. In working with many of them, what one quickly realizes is that most of them have very sharp parents and that most of them matured early. When Algebra is expect in 7th grade now, only the early bloomers have a chance. It is one of the reasons that girls are doing so much better in school than the guys are. In addition, it has always been easier for girls to function as misfits than guys however, it has always been easier for guys to function as loners and girls.

    • trumwill says:

      Though there’s no straight economic component, since DLA is free, I do suspect children of parents of some education levels are over-represented.

      I’ll have to ask Clancy how she became aware of the school.

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