Things to Remember

Yesterday was one of that handful of days that remind one each year why they live in Boston. The temperature reached 60 and people emerged from the self-imposed house arrest of winter. Vince was up very early to go skiing with the YES program at Loon in New Hampshire. It was a great day, except for the fact that both Vince and the Parent Imperfect forgot to make sure that Vince had any $$$ for lunch. There’s nothing quite like getting up at 5AM, eating virtually nothing for breakfast and then skiing all day on an empty stomach. The PI must be training the kid for the 21st century resistance. If the snow was shaky yesterday as far north as Loon, what it will be like for V’s final YES trip of the year in two weeks? Maybe it’s better not to sign-up for these March trips?

Miss Connie would certainly have loved to be with the big brother, but the cast on her right arm has put an end to skiing for this year. Instead, she stayed home to read in the morning, go with her parents on a walk through Forest Hills Cemetery at mid-day and then help Liz begin to clean out the cellar in the afternoon. She likes wandering around the cemetery, watching the birds, reading the stones and admiring all of the sculpture strewn over the yard. She and her mother can spend a long time with one particular piece called, “Things to Remember,” an obelisk with fragments of the possessions of a life mounted on every surface.

Today is the official beginning of March Madness. Sports fans, of which the PI is certainly one, have one definition of the phrase: A fellow member of Theodore Parker Church has her own. For N., March Madness is the process of school assignment in the Boston Public Schools. It is the time when new students get their assignments and current students consider the options for next year. Sixth graders who took the ISEE find out how they did in the exam school derby, and a small percentage of 3-5 graders make choices about the system’s Advanced Work Class.  N’s name for this process is well chosen. And all of this happens on top of the absolute confusion that is the basic school assignment process affecting all students and their families.

This coming week is crunch time as the PI and Liz consider the Advanced Work options for Ms. Connie. Just to heighten the sense of madness, the forms that must be turned in by the end of the week have not yet been distributed. For some reason, rather than send them directly to the parents of invitees, the powers that be send them on the perilous journey from the School Department on Court Street, downtown, to the school attended by the invitee, to the family and then back to Court Street. A journey down the Amazon on a makeshift raft might have more chance of success, which is, of course, why N. calls it March Madness.

As he rounds the far turn in his first year at the nation’s oldest public school, Vince is probably settled for next year. His school has made headlines this week with the announcement that it is eliminating its honors classes in hopes of giving a broader cross-section of students access to Advanced Placement classes. In explaining the change, Headmaster, Lynne Moody Teta made reference to two principles that guide her approach: (1) High expectations of all students, and (2) Equity. The argument is that some young people find themselves as students durning their time at the school, so it is not fair to determine access to AP classes (and all that comes with them), by how students respond in seventh grade. With an honors system that began in eighth grade, this has been very much the case.

These are countercultural values at the nation’s oldest private school, so Ms. Moody Teta is getting dragged over the coals for her trouble. The controversy may even bring the PI into the life of the school, as he very much supports the Headmaster’s efforts to move this culture sitting on top of 375 years of reinforcement. Such a change might help Vince, who is certainly still trying to find himself as a student, but, for better or worse, that probably wouldn’t be enough to drag the PI into the fray. We’ll see if anything is enough.

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