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A 1992 story suggests Julia Stiles might be right about beakers

The actress Julia Stiles’ recent e-mail exchange with Chancellor Joel Klein started after she told him at an event that she hadn’t had any science classes in her public elementary school (Greenwich Village’s PS 3). Yesterday, New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog published a message from someone who said Stiles fabricated the embarrassing story she told Klein, about how she couldn’t identify a beaker once she started at a fancy private school.

Could it be that Stiles really never had a science class in elementary school? A brand-new blog that purports to be by Stiles repeats the claim. And here’s another hint, from 1992, when Stiles would have been finishing fifth grade:

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez unveiled a plan yesterday to drastically overhaul science instruction in New York City’s public schools, including adding an extra year of laboratory science to high school requirements and more than doubling the number of science periods offered to elementary school students. …

The plan, which comes at a time when the school system is struggling with overcrowded classes and a shortage of supplies, does not include any estimate of its cost. Nor does it have a timetable. Mr. Fernandez said a team of school officials would now begin studying those aspects.

Mr. Fernandez’s vision will also demand radical changes in how teachers are trained and recruited; right now high schools cannot find enough licensed high school science teachers and elementary schools are hiring teachers who may have taken no college science. …

How have things changed since Stiles was in school? As the chair of the City Council’s education committee, everyone’s favorite charter school operator, Eva Moskowitz, made the sorry state of science education a top issue, getting the Department of Education’s head science administrator to give her program a barely passing grade in 2005. The city launched a $60 million science curriculum in 2007. But the test that would have measured its success is now two years overdue.

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