FEd April 1995 Newsletter -letter from Lawrence Crangerg

April 1995



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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 and emulation.

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.

Lawrence Cranberg
Austin, Texas