It’s a dilemma that thousands of city educators have faced in the last decade: Should they work in a new school, knowing that its existence was made possible by another school’s closure?
When high school social studies teacher (and teachers union activist) Stephen Lazar was confronted with the question last year, he chose to help start the new school — but not without strong reservations.
Today in the Community section, Lazar outlines the thinking that led him to Harvest Collegiate High School, which opened this year in the space being vacated by Legacy High School for Integrated Studies, which is in the first year of being phased out.
I’m excited for Harvest Collegiate High School to be born, but for that to happen, Legacy High School has to die. … … I’m of two minds on whether or not good people should try to open new schools in New York City right now. On the one hand, it makes one complicit in the failed current school reform project; on the other hand, if schools are going to be opened anyway, it’s better that good people be part of that. I honestly don’t know which is right in the end and accept the judgment and criticism I get for my decision to side with the latter view.
Spoiler alert: Lazar writes that he believes that what gets taught, and how, is just as political as where teaching and learning take place. That means he is taking a stand he believes in by launching a new member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, even as he compromises his beliefs in another way.