The dying this month of Bernie Nussbaum, White Home counsel to President Clinton, despatched me to an oral historical past interview that Nussbaum recorded in 2002 with the College of Virginia’s Miller Middle. It’s a captivating supply for a wide range of causes, however for Training Subsequent functions I used to be struck by Nussbaum’s account of the position that New York Metropolis Public Colleges—and an examination college specifically—performed in his upward mobility. His dad and mom had been dressmakers who had immigrated from Poland and spoke Yiddish, the language of Jewish immigrants from Japanese Europe.
After I was born, each my dad and mom had been working. My grandmother used to care for me on the Decrease East Aspect in the course of the day. I slept within the night in my dad and mom’ residence. I didn’t communicate English, as a result of no one spoke English. So, once I began college, about 1942, in kindergarten—I suppose I will need to have spoken some damaged English. They thought I used to be some form of refugee. Some individuals inform me I nonetheless communicate damaged English—perhaps it hasn’t modified all that a lot. [laughter] Then, after all, I went to high school the place I did study to talk English. …
So, I went into the New York Metropolis public faculties. Every part I’ve right now I owe, apart from to my dad and mom and my household, clearly, I owe to the New York Metropolis public faculties. I went to an elementary college on the Decrease East Aspect, P.S. 15. I went to Junior Excessive Faculty 188 on the Decrease East Aspect when it was on Fourth Road and Avenue D. That is Alphabet Metropolis, the worst space within the metropolis of New York for a few years. It was a fairly powerful space then, though it bought worse afterward because the demographics began altering considerably.
Then, I went to the one most essential college I ever attended, which was not Harvard and never Columbia, however was Stuyvesant Excessive Faculty. I’m now on a nationwide committee, and we’re elevating $12 million as an endowment for a public highschool, which by no means has occurred earlier than. It’s an indication of the occasions and really unhappy. I, and a variety of different graduates—very distinguished and well-to-do graduates, a few of them—we are attempting to boost cash for this public highschool, which has this magnificent plant. Nevertheless it’s not likely being supported by town.
In any occasion, this was a aggressive highschool. You needed to go an examination to get into it, and I handed the take a look at and bought in. I went to Stuyvesant from 1951 till 1954. After I began at Stuyvesant, I don’t assume I’d ever heard of Columbia or Harvard or Yale or the College of Virginia. I knew Metropolis Faculty. There was at all times an excellent want in my household, despite the fact that we had been of comparatively modest means, to have individuals go to varsity. I at all times thought I’d go to Metropolis Faculty. Then I bought into Stuyvesant, grew to become an editor on the paper, and began studying about Ivy League faculties and issues like that. I made a decision to take a crack at that. I used to be admitted to Columbia. I used to be given a Columbia scholarship of $375, which was half tuition. I bought a state scholarship, which was the opposite $375. Tuition then, as you recognize, was about $750. So I used it and I went to Columbia.
I lived at dwelling for the primary couple of years. My mom wouldn’t like me to say this and she or he claims it’s not true anymore, however it’s true—they protested mightily in opposition to my going to Columbia. They couldn’t perceive why anyone would take $375 the state gave them, and provides it to some college, when you would hold it your self and go to Metropolis Faculty for nothing. [laughter] At this time, my mom is a serious knowledgeable on the Ivy League so she’s going to deny all of this.