Hunt Plan Supported
To the Editor:
I write to suggest that the Forum provide strong encouragement to its
readers to study carefully and to encourage wide adoption of what I have
been calling the Hunt Plan for Secondary Education in Science and Mathematics.
The reference is to the Governor of North Carolina, James B. Hunt, Jr.,
and his plan for secondary education in science and mathematics that was
embodied in the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics at Durham
in the early eighties. The school flourishes today and inspires others,
but not nearly on as large a scale as the plan deserves.
The elements of the Hunt Plan which make it an important innovation in
secondary education are that it brings together a group of students selected
for special talent and interest in a particular field from an entire state,
in a residential, publicly supported school where they receive quality
education from a highly qualified faculty. So far as I am aware the North
Carolina School of Science and Mathematics was the very first school of
its kind in the history of public education in America, and deserves study
My interest in the Hunt Plan derives from my own experience as a student
and then as a student teacher at the Townsend Harris High School (THH)
in the City of New York in the thirties. Those experiences, viewed from
the perspective of half a century, were precious highlights of my career
as student and teacher. The stimulus to intellectual and to personal development
of rubbing elbows with peers as a student, and then to teaching highly
motivated and talented students as a teacher, were both unforgettable.
In my judgment the Hunt Plan transcends my THH experience in several
important respects. THH was not a residential school, and it took the better
part of an hour on the subways of New York City to travel to and from it.
Its influence on personal growth, valuable as it was, could have been greatly
reinforced if I had been in residence at the school full time, and I understand
the North Carolina School takes full advantage of full-time residence to
enrich its students' opportunities for intellectual and personal growth.
One of the criticisms leveled at the school is that it is "elitist" -
perhaps the most mindless and demagogic of criticisms. Is every attempt
to foster excellence - either in sports, music or other endeavors "elitist"?
In fact the Hunt plan is a very special advance in the equalization of
educational opportunity in at least one important way: it equalizes opportunity
between those living in rural and in metropolitan areas. It takes a metropolis
like New York City to provide suitable education for those with special
talents. Such opportunity is denied to youth in rural areas, whose talent,
in Thomas Gray's immortal line, is too often "born to blush unseen and
waste its sweetness on the desert air".
Another special value of the Hunt Plan is that it offers strong inducements
to men and women of talent to choose secondary education as a career. One
has not only the opportunity to open receptive minds to intellectual challenge,
but to encourage career interest in one's own field. Secondary school is
the stage in life when many make binding career decisions. One very important
way - perhaps the most important way - to redeem one's obligation to assure
one's professional posterity is to encourage those with suitable talents
and interests to follow one's own path.