On April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in New York City, 28-year-old Jackie Robinson shattered Major League Baseball’s apartheid walls by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On January 20, 1969, 13-year-old Alice de Rivera and her parents, Brooklyn residents, initiated a historic lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court that, a few months later, demolished the gender walls that for 65 years prevented female students from enrolling at the elite Stuyvesant High School.
In September 1970, identical walls that kept female students for 48 years from attending Brooklyn Technical High School also came tumbling down.
The third monumental benefit from “Alice de Rivera v. The NYC Board of Education” was the abolition of a two-to-one gender quota favoring male students, which had been in effect at the Bronx High School of Science since 1946. While my graduating class in 1967 was 67-percent male and 33-percent female, the classes that entered in early 1970’s were almost evenly split between males and females.
Until Alice de Rivera’s titanic legal victory, only 900 of the 10,000 seats at NYC’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) “Big Three” were occupied by female students. In 2018, 44 percent of the 16,000 students at the city’s eight specialized academic high schools are female.
The approaching 50th anniversary of Alice de Rivera’s landmark victory, the second most important K-12 civil-rights case of the second half of the 20th century, presents a long-overdue opportunity to recognize her remarkable achievement, which also helped open the doors for female students at other elite American public high schools, including Chicago’s Lane Tech (1971), Boston Latin (1972), Baltimore’s Polytechnic Institute (1974) and City College High School (1980), and Philadelphia’s Central High School (in 1983 after seven years of litigation).
The most significant education court case between 1950 and 1999 is the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in “Brown v. Topeka Board of Education of Topeka” in 1954, which outlawed racial segregation in the public schools of many states and cities, including Washington D.C. and Baltimore. However, the public schools in New York City were not affected by the Brown decision, as they have been integrated since 1898, when the five separate boroughs consolidated, and the citywide Board of Education was created.
Alice de Rivera did not enter Stuyvesant in September 1969, with 12 other female students (10 in tenth grade and two in ninth grade), as her parents, a New York University psychology professor and an educational therapist at the Brooklyn Psychiatric Clinic, relocated their family outside the city. But at Stuyvesant’s graduation in June 2013, Dr. Alice de Rivera Haines, a physician, was rightfully awarded an honorary degree.
A second reason for Americans to celebrate Alice de Rivera’s monumental civil-rights impact is Mayor Bill de Blasio and other far-left New Yorkers hypocritically added the gender card to the race and ethnicity cards, in their failed effort last month to abolish the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), which has been for decades the sole gateway into Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and five other specialized high schools.
I doubt that Mayor de Blasio, first elected in 2013, will be the first New York City elected official to honor Alice de Rivera. In early June, he unsuccessfully attempted to steamroll through the state legislature a bill to abolish the 1971 Calandra-Hecht Act, which mandates the SHSAT as the only ticket into Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech, and the other newer and much smaller high schools.
In a long press release on June 3, 2018, four days before New York State legislative leaders refused to bring to a vote a destructive bill abolishing the SHSAT, Mayor de Blasio hypocritically boasted that his plan would boost the female representation at the eight specialized high schools from a current “44 percent” to “62 percent.”
In a reprehensible New York Daily News article on March 14, 2018, “Fewer Girls Than Boys Accepted Into Top NY High Schools Even Though More Of Them Tried Out,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams speciously complained that it is “unacceptable to say you care about gender and racial diversity and then fail to produce any semblance of equity in the number of female, black and Latino test takers and admitted students.”
Borough President Adams, who either flunked-out of or voluntarily transferred from Brooklyn Tech in the late 1970s, has egregiously misrepresented the facts about the 2018 SHSAT demographics. Of the 28,333 eighth graders who sat the test in October 2017, 31.1 percent were Asian, 22.9 percent were Latino, 20.2 percent were black, and 18.1 percent were white.
By gender, 51.5 percent of test-takers were female and 48.5 percent were male. Thus, no impartial observer would attack these participation rates for lacking “any semblance” of racial, ethnic and gender “equity.”
However, the acceptance rates among different racial or ethnic test takers were indeed huge: 29.7 percent of Asians and 26.2 of whites passed, while only 4.9 percent of Hispanics and 3.5 percent of blacks passed. (Eleven percent of this year’s successful SHSAT candidates either did not answer the questions about race or ethnicity, or chose multi-racial.)
Furthermore, of the successful 2018 SHSAT candidates, 44.5 percent were female and 55.5 percent male. Thus, to conflate among successful candidates, the 6.3 percent who are Latino and the 4.1 percent who are black, with the 44.5 percent who are female, is the epitome of intellectual and moral dishonesty.
Indeed, this tendentious campaign to link the small percentages of black and Hispanic eighth graders who have passed the SHSAT in recent years, with the exponentially larger percentage of successful female eighth graders, starkly exposes the bankruptcy of what is best described as the “liberal ideology of intersectionality.”
In addition to Brooklyn BP Adams’s deeply-flawed complaint, the absurdity of “intersectionality” is highlighted by a quote from David E. Kirkland, executive director of New York University’s Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, which is included in Mayor de Blasio’s press release I cited earlier:
“We’ve known for some time that the exclusion of Black and Brown students from the City’s specialized high schools and the kinds of opportunity hoarding enjoyed by more privilege [sic] racial and ethnic communities were in fact de jure consequences of lingering legacies of racism and white supremacy.”
In the Orwellian world of hardcore leftists, the SHSAT results, in which Asian-American eighth graders earned a little more than half the seats and white eighth graders a little more than one-quarter of the seats, are an enduring legacy of “racism and white supremacy.”
In January 2019, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Alice de Rivera Haines’ earth-shattering lawsuit, Donald Trump should award her the presidential medal of freedom. President Trump is keenly aware of the indispensable contributions that American scientists, engineers, medical doctors and other STEM professionals have made since World War I, when the country began its rapid ascent to international scientific leadership.
His father’s younger brother, Dr. John Trump, reared and educated in New York City, was one of the most prominent electrical engineers during the 20th century, and the recipient from President Ronald Reagan in 1983 of the National Medal of Science. Honoring Dr. Alice de Rivera Haines will insure that her magnificent contribution to America’s STEM pre-eminence is finally recognized by her fellow citizens, present and future.
Mark Schulte is a prolific writer and a 1967 graduate of Bronx Science. Between 1985 and 2009, he taught — mostly math — in New York City public schools.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.