Friday, December 24, 2010

Banned in Jamaica (HS)

Jamaica HS, long on the target list of the DOE for closing, has a story to tell. And here the students tell it in a play exposing educational apartheid in the building. Ironic given yesterday's PBS Newshour report on how Joel Klein has chopped the large schools. The report partially told the other side about how kids not accepted to the small schools went on to the nearest large one but left out the story of how small and large co-exist in the same building with one school clearly favored over the other.

What's interesting is that the students from both ends of the stick wrote this play and were stopped from performing it. I hope we can get people to sponsor performances around the city - maybe as one person suggested, on the steps of Tweed or in front of City Hall.

The ICE blog where Jamaica HS chapter leader James Eterno often blogs about the situation at the school (STUDENT PLAY BANNED) and Valerie Strauss at WAPO had details.

A student play blasting N.Y. school reform is banned

By Valerie Strauss
Fourteen students from two New York City schools -- Jamaica High and Queens Collegiate -- wrote an impressive play about school reform under Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, based on the classic play “Antigone.” They were rehearsing to perform the play -- complete with music, visual projections and lights -- when they were told that their principals had decided not to allow them stage it. The play, titled “Declassified: Struggle for Existence (We Used to Eat Lunch Together,” was banned.
According to a teacher who was working on the project with the students, the principals sent word that they were uncomfortable with criticism of Klein and Bloomberg, and they would not allow the Dec. 17 scheduled performance to go on in the Jamaica High auditorium.
It's hard to even fathom the thinking that went into the decision to stop the kids from performing a clever work that they created and that expresses their opinion of school reform that has affected their lives.
Eight years of business-driven reform under Klein were centered around standardized tests used to grade schools, and many of the troubled ones were either broken up into smaller schools or closed. Klein repeatedly pointed to rising test scores as evidence of his achievement, but recent revelations that the scores rose because the tests got increasingly easy to pass burst that success bubble.
The decision to ban the play shows a fear of upsetting authority -- not exactly the civics lesson you'd want kids to learn in an American school.
The students were inspired to write the play in part by a blog post by Jamaica High School teacher Marc Epstein, called "The Triumph of Academic Apartheid." It details how Jamaica High, a storied school, was slated to be closed (along with dozens of other schools) based on what Epstein explains were faulty data and assumptions.
For those interested in reading the work the kids wrote, here it is. It's not too long, and worth reading.

The Teacher's Side of the Banned Play

Huffington Post has printed Brian Pickett's account of the banned play at Jamaica High School. He is the teacher of the after school drama course that included students from both Queens Collegiate and Jamaica HS.

1 comment:

  1. Do we have Freedom of Speech in America? Or are we living under the KGB regimen?


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