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CLASS DISMISSED by Meredith Maran


Senior Year in an American High School

by Meredith Maran

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-26568-9
Publisher: St. Martin's

A lively, dramatic, and provocative story of one writer’s sojourn into one of our nation’s most diverse public high schools.

Maran (Notes From an Incomplete Revolution, 1997) spent one year tracing the lives of three seniors at Berkeley High School: a somewhat troubled white boy from a well-to-do family, a biracial superachiever, and a functionally illiterate African-American football star. What emerges is a fascinating account highlighting the inequalities that characterize our nation’s public schools. Although Berkeley is considered a model of integration (with African-American, Latino, Asian, white, and interracial students), it actually houses several separate and unequal schools. The white students make up 30 percent of the school system, but they comprise more than 90 percent of all Advanced Placement classes. And while 85 percent of Berkeley High graduates go to college, only 14 percent of these college-bound seniors are African-American. (Many more African-Americans, in fact, eventually go to prison than to college.) Not surprisingly, these clearly delineated socioeconomic differences result in all kinds of tensions: in the course of Maran’s year, the school was plagued by arson, corruption, ineptitude, and plummeting teacher morale. The author concludes her exposé with a number of suggestions to improve Berkeley and other public schools. While her suggestion to abolish private schools in order to improve the status of public ones is at once naïve and frightening, she also suggests creating smaller classes, a more demanding curriculum, increased parental involvement, and higher teacher salaries.

A passionate and intelligent account.