Lowell High School, San Francisco, CA – March 18, 2019

by George J Elbaum

Lowell High School is a public magnet school which opened in 1856 and is the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi.  With enrollment of approximately 2,600 students (57% Asian, 15% White, 10% Hispanic, 8% Filipino, and 10% all other) it is one of only two public schools in San Francisco that is permitted to admit only students who meet special admission requirements.  The Lowell admission process is competitive and based on a combination of standardized test scores, GPA, a writing sample, and extracurricular activities.  As a result, its students’ test scores have historically ranked among the Top 10 Public Schools in California.  (Recent SAT scores: Critical Reading 595 vs. 495 CA average; Writing 594 vs. 484 CA avg., Math 636 vs. 500 CA avg.)  Lowell was therefore named a California Distinguished School 7 times, National Blue Ribbon School 4 times, and is currently ranked 96th by U.S. News & World Report in its “Best High Schools in America” for 2018, making it the 2nd highest ranking school in California with over 2,000 students.  Lowell was also ranked 49th by Newsweek‘s America’s Best High Schools 2012 list and 66th by Newsweek’s 2013 list.

In addition to its stellar academic performance, Lowell has one of the most active student bodies in San Francisco, with over 84 academic organizations, athletic teams and student interest clubs.  In athletics,  Lowell has competitive teams in 17 sports plus cheerleading, and these teams claim more city championships than any other public high school in San Francisco.

My talk was part of the World War II unit of the Modern World History Class taken by mostly freshman, and occasionally sophomore students.  For a couple of the teachers, the talk also served as a kick-off for a class project where students went home and interviewed their own family members about the family history related to conflicts which have occurred in the 20th century.  For the majority of the Modern World History students the talk served as a potent illustration that history is about the lives of real people and that the choices which individuals make have long repercussions in the lives of others.

My talk was organized by Modern World History teacher Erin Hanlon, with an introduction by Modern World History teacher Lauretta Komlos.  Attending it also were teachers Amanda Klein, Jason Tuason, Ana Rosa Maldonado-Silva, and Kay Crisman-Petrini. and it was arranged by Brian Fong of Facing History and Ourselves.

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