Principal Stanley Teitel announced that he will extend the Writing Across the Curriculum policy to lunch courses on Tuesday, March 14. Writing Across the Curriculum is a school-wide program implemented in 2010, which requires teachers in all subjects to assign writing assignments to their students. The initiative to bring this policy to the lunch department was headed by lunch (ZLN5) teacher Paul Lenta and Assistant Principal Mid- Day Culinary Arts Pete Zah.
Zah and Lenta expressed a sentiment that the administration had “marginalized Stuyvesant’s prestigious lunch department when they made Writing Across the Curriculum a few years back,” Zah said. “The department is much more important than many others, like the Free Period, Breakfast or Mathematics departments.” Stuyvesant had originally exempted the lunch department from the policy because students “already get enough stress through their lunch class,” Teitel said.
There is truth to this claim. Students can often be heard yelling at each other in the cafeteria as a result of the extreme pressure of lunch class. Many students forgo this class altogether, spending their lunch period in the hallways or even outside of the school. This cutting can lead to lack of focus and poor performance in other classes. “Lunch is supposed to help kids stay focused and attentive, but students coming from lunch seem bleary- eyed and unfocused,” math teacher Patrick Kavanagh said. “This is a serious problem, and I can’t run a functioning class with students in this state. Clearly the lunch department needs do something about reducing stress, because I believe that is the root of this incredibly problematic and unfortunate phenomenon.”
Staff members have even stopped trying to persuade students to no longer exit the cafeteria or the school. “I gave up hope of trying to get kids to stop cutting lunch awhile ago—there’s just too many off them,” a security guard, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “Now, all I do is say ‘one, two or five’ to remind students that they can either get a one or two percent as their grade in the class, or go to floor five, which is the cafeteria.”
Teitel made his decision after Lenta pointed out major flaws in Writing Across the Curriculum. “You can’t have a school-wide policy if it’s not school-wide,” Lenta said. “Lunch is a class, too, and we’re sick and tired of being looked down upon by the other departments. If you can have this policy in classes like Physical Education or English, where writing is even more tangential to the curriculum, why can’t we lunch teachers have it too?” Teitel’s decision is a significant endorsement of the lunch department’s ongoing efforts to be recognized as a more legitimate class.
The new policy has gathered criticism from students and teachers alike. “I have never seen students as loud and angry in an AP Physics or Multivariate Calculus class, as I have in the cafeteria. The number of students cutting lunch is higher than in all other classes combined. Lunch is clearly the single most nerve-racking course offered at Stuyvesant. To require essays for the class would only increase stress even more,” Parent Coordinator Harvey Blumm said.
As part of the extension of the policy, which will be implemented this semester, the lunch department will require all students to write a 12 page research paper on the life of vice president Joseph Biden, who is believed to have eaten lunch almost every day of his life. “I think this might give students a new perspective on famous figures in the history of lunch, whom they might never have known about otherwise,” Zah said.