Wednesday, August 05, 2009

shame on you, North Carolina.

recently, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law mandating that Governor's School charge a $500 per student tuition.

this makes me extremely sad.

if there had been tuition for Governor's School in 1998, i would not have been able to go. it was that simple. when i was in high school, my family didn't have money. they would not have been able to drop $500 for something so seemingly frivolous as sending me to summer camp. since it was completely state-sponsored, however, i got the chance to go.

and, it was far from frivolous. in fact, it was the best experience of my high school years.

my Area I class was choral music...and, when else was i going to get the chance to sing so much avant-garde music? it was unlike anything i had ever sung before, and i still hear bits and pieces of "when david heard" and "funeral ikos" pop into my head eleven years later. when else were we going to face the question as to whether it was artistic or unpatriotic to sing a bitonal arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner at a minor league baseball game? from the environment of my hometown and my high school? i say, nowhere else was i going to experience any of that. Area II discussed philosophy, and Area III discussed psychology...two topics that were hardly even alluded to in my home high school. yet there, at Governor's School, i got the chance to read and discuss writings about how the mind worked, and how we fit into society as a whole, with students from all over the state, with students in all different Area I concentrations...something i would not have otherwise been given the chance to do until several years later, in college.

still, the academic level is nowhere near the whole story.

i learned a lot in my classes, but it was also so much more than that. at my home high school, i was very much a loner. i didn't get along with the vast majority of my classmates, and didn't feel like i had very much in common with them. Governor's School opened my eyes to the previously absurd idea that there may be people floating around with whom i had something in common. it was nothing short of life-affirming to spend a summer around four hundred unabashedly intelligent peers. those six weeks were about the only time in my entire high school career that i spent my evenings socializing instead of writing horrendously emo poetry about how much my life sucked and how little i fit in. of course, not all academically gifted students were as alienated or socially inept as i was in high school, but many are. and, there is no way that i'm the only student whose eyes were opened in this way thanks to Governor's School.

and now, students whose parents can't afford an extra $500 out of a tight budget are getting locked out of this experience.

it's so strange that in the same paragraph of the law that authorizes this tuition, free public schools are mentioned several times. Governor's School is an extension and an enrichment of that service. it is a chance for academically gifted students to meet other academically gifted students from all over the state. the whole point of Governor's School is that only your talent and your intelligence mattered for getting in...it didn't matter if you were from a small town or a big city, and it didn't matter if you were from a rich family or a poor one. eight hundred students a year got the opportunity to leave town for the summer and find a home, without regard to the socioeconomic barriers that blocked access to just about any other summer opportunity for talented students.

in short, Governor's School was the most valuable six weeks of my free public education in North Carolina, and it's a shame that students in my position nowadays will not be able to have the opportunity i had eleven years ago.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I attended this summer of 09 and I just found out that they actually went through with the proposal of a tuition. I'm in the same situation as you, I know I couldn't ask my parents to give me $500 for a six week school that I had no idea what it was about. Today, I can say that it was the greatest summer of my life, I learned so much and I became aware of the society that we live in. I met new people and enjoyed conversations that could never even be imagined at my normal public high school. But also thanks to Governor's School, I'm going to help raise money (along with others from my school who attended) in order for anyone from my school to go if they are accepted. There's no way I can stand by and let the chance of a lifetime slip from somebody just because they don't have enough money.

Dani in NC said...

I thank you for posting this. My daughter is being encouraged to apply for NC Governor's School. Nowhere in the paper the high school sent home or on the website they directed us to does it say anything about a tuition fee. I mean, there isn't even a line saying it is free. I would have hated to have my daughter get in, only to be told that we couldn't send her because of the cost.