Thomas Friedman opens this morning’s New York Times column — “America’s Real Dream Team” — with a quiz.
What DC dinner, he asks, did he recently attend at which the following people were honored:
Linda Zhou, Alice Wei Zhao, Lori Ying, Angela Yu-Yun Yeung, Lynnelle Lin Ye, Kevin Young Xu, Benjamin Chang Sun, Jane Yoonhae Suh, Katheryn Cheng Shi, Sunanda Sharma, Sarine Gayaneh Shahmirian, Arjun Ranganath Puranik, Raman Venkat Nelakant, Akhil Mathew, Paul Masih Das, David Chienyun Liu, Elisa Bisi Lin, Yifan Li, Lanair Amaad Lett, Ruoyi Jiang, Otana Agape Jakpor, Peter Danming Hu, Yale Wang Fan, Yuval Yaacov Calev, Levent Alpoge, John Vincenzo Capodilupo and Namrata Anand.
No, he says — it wasn’t “the China-India Friendship League.”
It honored the 40 finalists in the 2010 Intel Science Search. Begun in 1942 and sponsored by Westhinghouse until 1998, it’s the country’s most prestigious competition in which high school students present original research — and compete for $630,000 in prizes.
Thomas Friedman did not mention Jason Gandelman. But the Staples senior was one of the nation’s 40 finalists. Connecticut’s only representative — and 1 of just 2 Intel finalists from New England — Jason was honored for his project on bioinformatic and synthetic approaches to studying advanced glycation end-products.
Fair enough. Friedman’s thesis is that most finalists hail from immigrant families, largely from Asia. A self-described “pro-immigration fanatic,” he uses the Intel results to argue that keeping “a constant flow of legal immigrants into our country — whether they wear blue collars or lab coats — is the key to keeping us ahead of China.”
The Times columnist is also a staunch advocate of the power of education. He quoted a San Jose, Calif. biology teacher who taught 2 — 2! — Intel finalists. She praised her school, supportive parents, and an Intel grant that allows her to spend part of each day inspiring and preparing students to enter the contest.
Friedman said that San Jose realtors are running newspaper ads in China and India, telling potential immigrants to buy homes in that high school district because of its Intel science success.
I understand Friedman’s point. I applaud his use of a national forum to shine a much-needed spotlight on the importance of immigration to the future well-being of our nation.
It is right that we celebrate the accomplishments of Linda Zhou, Otana Agape Jakpor and Jane Yoonhae Suh — and do all we can to encourage their success, and those of young people like them, across the country.
But we also must recognize Jason Gandelman, right here in our home town — a student who thrives in Staples classes like Authentic Science Research (whose teachers do not have Intel grants, or time off each day to prepare students for the contest).
And we must do whatever we can to ensure that cutting-edge, challenging programs in all our schools continue, so the Jason Gandelmans of the future can compete with the Sarine Gayaneh Shahmirians, Yale Wang Fans and Levent Alpgoes growing up in America today.
Once again you’ve gotten it right. You do this town such a service by providing information to thousands of people who know nothing about twenty-first century education. Some are suspect when they hear me talk about the gem that is Staples High School and all of Westport’s public schools because to them I am only saying what I have to say as Principal of Staples. I am so grateful that you know so many of our students and their incredible achievements. Without the monetary support that our schools have had over the years we would not see so many students showcased in the press for outstanding achievements. Imagine what our kids could do if our ASR teachers DID have time each day to confer and prepare students for this and other competitions as their counterparts in that California school? Imagine if our teachers in other subject areas had time to do the same thing with students. I’ve said many times that in Westport, citizens get their money’s worth from their schools. Give us more and our students will do even better.
The money is there to achieve the goals that John Dodig has set. But the budget priorities fall short of funding his goals.