How One "Ordinary" Brooklyn High School Produced Six Nobel Laureates, A Supreme Court Justice, and Three Senators

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Author: Ira Stoll
Date: Winter 2021
From: Education Next(Vol. 21, Issue 1)
Publisher: Hoover Institution Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 969 words
Lexile Measure: 1230L

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THE DEATH OF JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG has triggered a resurgence of public interest in James Madison High School, the Brooklyn, N.Y., public school that Ginsburg attended. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, another James Madison graduate, held a press conference outside the school to discuss the timeline for confirming a justice to replace Ginsburg.

Graduates of the school include not only Ginsburg and Schumer but also Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate and senator from Vermont. And even a Republican former senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman.

At least six Nobel laureates also attended the school: Gary Becker and Robert Solow in economics, Arthur Ashkin and Martin Perl in physics, and Baruch Blumberg and Stanley Cohen in medicine.

The list of luminaries raises the question of whether the accomplishments were the product of something that happened at this public school itself, or whether the individuals would have been equally professionally successful had they gone to school somewhere else. To try to find an answer, I spent some time talking to Madison graduates and reading the high school's alumni newsletters.

"The questions you are asking are the questions that we all ask each other. I don't know who really has the answers," said Judith Naomi Fish, who graduated in 1964 and who has

written a series of articles about the school's history for its alumni newsletter.

The secret doesn't seem to have been any of the obvious factors. It wasn't a particularly wealthy group of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A645314693