Besides meeting the requirements for graduation in New York State, the focus of Landmark High School in Manhatten is to prepare students to be thoughtful compassionate citizens. Apparently, principles of equality play a very important part in the school's curriculum, extending even to prom night. This is how Dani Shapiro reported on the prom in the magazine The New Yorker on July 3, 2000.

"Landmark is a small , progressive public high school on West Fifty-Eighth Street, with a graduating class of sixty, almost all of whom are going on to college. For the first time in the school's seven-year history, the seniors were to be allowed to choose a prom king and queen. The tradition defies Landmark's egalitarian philosophy , but a small group of girls had campaigned until the teachers relented -- on one condition. The winners' names would be pulled from a hat. Even with this compromise, Vivian Orlen, the school''s assistant principal was nervous. 'There's one particular girl, Elizabeth. If she doesn't get it, I swear she'll jump off the boat,' she said."

Dani Shapiro also had the opportunity to get the point of view of Elizabeth. "'Oh, my God, I want to be prom queen so bad,' Elizabeth said. Her face was sweet and stony at the same time. 'I've worked so hard, spent so much money on my appearance. -- and now it's a raffle.'"

The "tradition" that Shapiro refers to is one in which a handsome couple are chosen to preside over the prom celebration. Nerds need not apply. The tradition is practiced in thousands of North American high schools every year.

Whose position at Landmark High should be supported?

-- the teachers and students who believe no king or queen should be chosen

-- the teachers who compromised, but only if the king and queen were chosen in a draw

-- the students, such as Elizabeth, who believe that the king and queen should be chosen based on appearance



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