“Why you should hate this school.” That’s the sub-head for an article in September’s Washingtonian on what some say is America’s best high school: Thomas Jefferson in Northern Virginia. Started in 1985 to produce more and better math and science stars for the region’s high-tech economy, TJ has grown beyond that vision, and not because the school planned--or even wanted--to do so. It’s the ever-increasing talent of its student population, which boasts state-champion sports stars, award winning musicians, and more National Merit finalists than any other school in the country, and that’s not accounting for the scads of computer nerds, sciences whizzes, and mathletes. But now, says author Drew Lindsay, the school is wondering, “How much success is too much?” Should we worry that 15 year-olds are pulling all-nighters and are so motivated they’ve become professional students, working the system to angle every point on every test, tear down records, and be the next Nobel prize winner? Well, maybe not. We can’t quite bring ourselves to complain that a school is too good, or that its students work too hard. TJ is indeed lucky to be awash in super applicants. (It’s as hard to get into as Georgetown or Williams.) We shouldn’t begrudge this school its success. We should, on the other hand, create more schools like it.
“Success Factory: Inside America’s Best High School,” by Drew Lindsay, The Washingtonian, September 21, 2009