Healing a Nation
During the 1980s, the landscape of science education in America began blossoming with breathtaking colors. One state after another opened high schools whose provocative mission was to turn out scientists and mathematicians at an early age. For publicly financed institutions, many of these schools were revolutionary. They came with college-style dormitories that allowed students from the far reaches of the state—its backwaters as well as its big cities—to live at the schools while studying. They boasted teachers who had actually worked as scientists. They handpicked their students.
State governments had historically supported residential schools for juvenile delinquents and handicapped children. But never before had they set up such costly quarters for their brightest youngsters. If the structure was bold, so was the thinking behind it: Bring the cleverest, most inventive young minds together in a cocoon equipped with up-to-date equipment and the most sophisticated teachers and let them bounce ideas off each other.
North Carolina established the first boarding school in 1980, and it was followed by Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Alabama. At least ten other states opened "regional" schools. These were not residential, but drew their students from a cluster of neighboring school districts and kept them together for much of the day exploring science and mathematics.
The phenomenon arose from an abundance of concerns: America's anemic performance in developing new technology, the inabil