I'm procrastinating, but not enough to write a full post on the college admissions scandal, so instead I'm going to write about Homestead High School circa 1982 and the myth of equal access and opportunity.
When I was in 7th grade, the local high school district closed one of its schools and redrew its boundaries, so instead of going to Fremont High I was slated to go to Homestead. This was not noteworthy in and of itself, since in the Gen X baby bust era lots of schools were closed. My first elementary school closed after I completed third grade, and the other junior high in the district closed while I was in junior high. My jaded little young biddy self did not give the high school change much thought other than to look at which one was further away from my house.
Homestead drew the majority of its students from higher income areas. It was not a drastic difference back then, but it did result in the kids from Cupertino Jr. High having access to somewhat better educational resources than the ones from Mango Jr. High.
I did well in school so I was in the most advanced classes available at Mango. I headed off to Homestead at the start of ninth grade and got a rude surprise - I had gotten some shitty advice about class selection from the junior high guidance counselors. They had told us to not take science as freshmen because the UC schools didn't count freshman grades so I ended up taking an art class which tanked my GPA instead of biology. There was no consideration of the fact that some of us might end up going
to places that cared about freshman grades, might like science, or might want to do another
academic class instead of a non-academic elective, etc. No one suggested taking another language as my elective, either (I was already taking French). My parents, although educated, were not tiger- or helicopter-parents, even by 1980's standards. They didn't know to advise me to do anything different than what the advice counselors suggested. Meanwhile, most of my counterparts from Cupertino Jr. High were taking biology as freshman.
I remedied the lapse by taking physics and biology my sophomore year. Meanwhile, Homestead started a AP History and an Honors Chemistry class my junior year. AP's were just becoming a thing back then so it wasn't common knowledge like it is now. I took the Honors Chem, of course, but I didn't take AP History because history just wasn't my thing and no one thought to tell my that it would look good on my transcript and push me just a little bit. Seriously. Virtually all of my classmates in the accelerated track took AP History but no one thought to remind the girl who was getting A+'s in physics, biology, trigonometry and French that AP History might be a good idea.
Anyway, my lack of AP History and the horrible art grades didn't have any ill-effects long term and I mostly forgot about it. The funny thing is that I didn't realize that there was anything unusual until yesterday, when it suddenly hit me that this wasn't just a tale of Gen X slacker woes but actually a very poor excuse for guidance counseling at best. At worst it's an illustration of how minor school inequalities at the junior high level and a lack of understanding of what is necessary to get into college can get amplified at high school, even for kids in the accelerated track.