November 18, 2020, 7:00pm

Location: The Principal’s Office. William Friedman is reclining in a leather upholstered arm chair, smoking a cigarette. Sal Levy is perched on the edge of Friedman’s desk, leafing through some papers Friedman has handed him. Music emanates from a pair of speakers, mounted on the far wall.

Sal: [Looking up from the papers] So, this is becoming a big deal.

Will: [Takes a long drag off of his cigarette] Apparently.

Sal: Do we want it to become a big deal?

Will: I think so…I mean, that was the whole point, wasn’t it?  To prove that this thing works and then replicate it.

Sal: Yeah, I know. It just seems awfully fast. We haven’t even finished the first semester.

Will: Well, mid-semester grades have come out, and we’re number one in the state. Ditto on PSAT scores. 

Sal: I just think that we need to have a full year under our belts, before we can say “It works. Go spend millions of dollars.”

Will: You know I don’t disagree with you. It would seem, however, that politics is more impatient than science.They need something to take to the constituency, Sal. Things are really going to shit out there. 

Sal: It’s precisely that desperate mood that worries me. It means that you can’t rely on the support you get. They might turn on you at any moment.

Will: [Draws on his cigarette again and then puts it out in the ashtray. Rises] Let’s have a drink.

Sal: But, the gang will be here any minute.

Will: One drink, Sal. I’m not lining up shots.

Sal: Scotch?

Will: Scotch.

Sal: The Bruichladdich?

Will: The Bruichladdich.

Sal: Alright, then. One.

Will: A double?

Sal: You’re a bad man.

Will laughs and pours the whisky into a tumbler. Hands it to Sal and pours himself one.

Will: [Holding up his glass] To New Ridgemont High, long may she reign.

Sal: [Clinking Will’s glass] To you, man. For putting this thing together and getting it right.

Will and Sal: Cheers.

There is a knock and the door opens. Chloe Gold and Tom Rosen enter.

Will: [Crosses the room to greet them] Chloe! Tom!  Welcome!

Chloe: [Hugs Will and Sal in turn] Good to see you!

Tom: [Shaking Friedman’s hand] Principal Friedman.

Will: Please, Tom. ‘Will’.

Tom: Are we the first ones here?

Sal: Yeah…we’re still waiting on Mitch and the other wizards from the NRH media empire.

Will: Can I get you guys anything while we’re waiting? Tea?  Coffee? I have some soda in the fridge.

Tom: I’ll have a Bruichladdich.

Sal: Why did I know that was going to happen?

Will: Alright. We’ll be here an hour at least.

Chloe: Me too!

Will: [Hesitating] Uh…

Chloe: I didn’t drive…Tom brought me.

Will: [Smiles] Well, then, by all means. [Pours the Scotch into two tumblers and passes them to Chloe and Tom].  Cheers!

Sal: I look forward to your next academic paper, Will, when you discuss this particular…er…aspect of social immersion.

Will: This is in the finest tradition of higher education. If we were at Oxford, we’d be doing this three times a week, in my rooms.

Sal: Oxford’s a university, Will, not a high school.

Will: Kids used to go to Oxford at thirteen years of age.

Sal: In 1260.

Will: What are years? You know we’re playing with time, here.

Sal looks at Will, his right eyebrow raised.

Will: Drink your Scotch, Sal.

Sal: Sic ut dicis, Domine.

Chloe: Mmm…this is absolutely delicious.

Will: That’s the best of the Islay malts. 

Tom: [Settling into Will’s chair and sipping his drink] So, what’s all this about?

Will: There’s news I need to share with you guys, but let’s wait until Mitch and the others arrive.

Sal: You gonna’ give them all Scotch too? 

Will: If they want it, yes. Don’t worry, I have another bottle.

Sal: That wasn’t really what I was getting at.

Tom: Good news or bad news?

Will: Interesting news. I’ll let you decide whether it’s good or bad.

The door opens and Mitch enters, followed by David and Laurie, with Lee, Lance, and Brian bringing up the rear. 

Lee: [His arms raised, pointing into the room] Yo! Yo! Yo!

Mitch: For God’s sake, Lee.

Lee: Chill, man, it’s cool.

Will: [Shaking Mitch’s hand] Mitch, Laurie, guys…it’s great to see you!

Laurie: [Kissing him on the cheek] Hi Principal Friedman!

David [Leaning in and offering his hand] Principal Friedman!

Will: [Shaking it] Please, everyone, call me “Will.”

Lee: Heya, Will!

Will: You are most welcome, Lee. [To everyone] Drinks?

Lance: What is it?

Will: Scotch. I also have tea, coffee, and soda…Coca Cola and Sprite.

Lance: I’ll have a Scotch.

Lee: Every day’s a surprise with you, lately. When did you become so exciting?

Lance: I happen to like Scotch.

Brian: Coca Cola.

David: Scotch.

Laurie: Sprite. [Looks apologetic] I only like foo-foo drinks, like Sea Breezes.

Lee: Scotch.

Mitch: Coffee.

Will: Cream and sugar?

Mitch: Black.

Friedman goes to the other room to get the coffee and sodas.

Lee: [To Sal] So, what’s up? 

Sal: Will has news. I’ll let him tell it.

Friedman returns, with a tray bearing two highball glasses, filled with soda, which he hands to Brian and Laurie, and a small percolator, with a cup and saucer, which he gives to Mitch. Returns to the bar, where he pours three more measures of Scotch into tumblers and passes them to Lance, David, and Lee. Refills his own glass and raises it.

Will: To New Ridgemont High!

All: [Raising their glasses] To New Ridgemont High!

Will: I hope that this will be the first of many informal meetings that we’ll have, over the course of the year. Their purpose, in part, is to allow us to talk business, without the hustle and bustle of the school going on all around us, but beyond that, I want to treat these meetings as an opportunity to speculate, theorize, and brainstorm. Each of you brings special abilities and talents that New Ridgemont High can benefit from.

Chloe: [Takes Will’s arm] Plus, it’s nice to see each other socially, isn’t it?

Will: [Beaming] It certainly is.

Tom: So what’s our business?

Will: New Ridgemont High is leading the state in mid-semester grade point averages and PSAT scores, and it’s causing a major buzz in the state Capitol and the Governor’s mansion. There’s talk about replicating the experiment; creating two new charter schools, based on the New Ridgemont High model, as early as next Fall.

Tom: I see.

Lee: Are you – are we – ready for that? I mean our school’s amazing and everything, but we haven’t even been in session a full term.

Chloe: It does seem a bit quick.

Friedman: Sal and I agree with you. In my gut, I’m sure that New Ridgemont High is working beyond my wildest dreams. But, scientifically? We don’t have nearly enough data to draw any inferences at all, let alone claim publicly that it works.

Brian: Yeah, I mean, your sample is skewed isn’t it?  Practically the entire student body is a massive exercise in upper class self-selection. They might’ve done this well in a garbage dump.

Will: That was always going to be a limitation, Brian. This is a practical exercise, using human subjects. I had to start with a population that was already high achieving. You can’t experiment with people like you do with animals.

Sal: One thing to remember about the social sciences: you can never apply the methodology too rigidly. It has to be elastic; to shape itself to the contours of things, as they occur on the ground.

Lance: I like that. Flexible science for flexible circumstances.

Tom: So, how do you intend to respond to this?

Will: I haven’t decided yet. That’s part of the reason I wanted you guys to come tonight; to take soundings. And to talk about the PR side of it. I know Mitch has a lot of ideas on that front.

Mitch: I do, indeed.

Tom: Well, it would seem logical to start with what our response is going to be and then move on to how we’re going to communicate it.

Will: Agreed. So, what do you think we should do?

Tom: Given the politics? We should get in front of it. Otherwise we’re going to be led around by people who don’t know what they’re doing.This way, at least, we’ll be in control of the process.

Sal: I wouldn’t assume we’ll be in control of much of anything outside these walls, but I agree that we can’t just sit and wait for it to go away. 

Will: It won’t go away. The situation in the high schools is reaching a crisis point. They want to do something.

Lee: You mean, they want to be seen doing something. 

Tom: Politically speaking that amounts to the same thing.

Sal: But are we prepared to do this [waves his hand around the room] publicly? It’d be one thing if we had a year’s success under our belts and a whole bunch of graduates going to Ivy League schools; hard proof that the NRH model works. But to let it all hang out now? I’m not sure the public is ready for it. In fact, I’m sure they aren’t.

Lee: [Bitterly] Yeah, people like lying to themselves too much. 

Will: Granted and granted. Still, we have to respond.

Mitch: I think it’s time for an information tour.

Chloe: What do you mean?

Mitch: We’ve got the media center set up. Let’s use it to teach the public about Social Immersion theory and to show them New Ridgemont High.

Will: What do you have in mind?

Mitch: Well, the student features, for one. We should run those every week. Let people see what the students are doing here; how the place works.

Sal: You’ll have to be very careful, in your editing Mitch. You can’t broadcast footage of kids smoking behind the building.

Mitch: Of course not. 

Tom: I can help with that. You and your team produce the features, and I’ll take the knife to ‘em, before passing them up for final approval.

Will: That should work. What else?

Mitch: I know you hate being on television, but we really should do some in-depth interviews with you. Provide the scientific context for the stuff the public’s gonna’ see.

Will: I’ll wear my best suit.

Lance: How about some walkthroughs with Chloe? Y’know, “Welcome to our school, I’m your tour guide,” that sort of thing.

Chloe: [Turning pink] Why me?

Tom: Isn’t it obvious? You’re good looking, articulate, and successful. People will buy anything you’re selling.

Chloe: Ugh.

Mitch: He’s right. You’re the best advertisement the school has.

Chloe: That seems awfully cynical.

Will: Dress down. Make it about the substance. You are the Student Body President. Who better than you to give the public a tour of the school?

Chloe: Hmm.

Mitch: You’ll be fantastic, Chloe, really. Your love for the school will come through. And there’s no one else who can speak for all the cliques. It has to be you.

Tom: Principal Friedman talking about the experimental side of New Ridgemont High and you showing it to them from the inside, at the personal level? It’s perfect.

Chloe: [Laughs and tosses her hair, the light causing her eyes and lips to sparkle] Okay! You’ve convinced me. I’ll do it! [Takes a long sip of her drink]

Tom: [Leaning over to Mitch and whispering] That, Mitch, was one of those heart bursting moments I was talking about the other day.

Mitch: I’m trying to ignore it. “Throw myself into the work,” remember?

Tom laughs and downs the remains of his drink. Gets up and crosses over to the bar, where he pours himself a glass of water.

Will: There’s one thing about this that I don’t like.

Sal: Just one? I could fill a yellow pad.

Will: It’s going to mean a break in immersion for you guys.

Tom: And that bothers you?

Will: Yes. Very much.

Tom: Why?

Will: [Looks down at his drink] Because this only works, if the greatest possible level of immersion is maintained. It means that you won’t be getting the full experience.

Tom: I understand.

Will: New Ridgemont High is my love letter to young people, Tom. The thought that you can only have part of it; that you have to go out there and promote the damned thing… I should be doing that for you.

Chloe: Oh, Will…

Mitch: Principal Friedman – Will – your “thing” has changed my life. I’d say that I’ve gotten all of it, not just a part, and I’ve been here only three months.

Lee: No one feels ripped off, Will.

Sal: They want to help, Will, and we need them. This thing is too big for one person. And it shouldn’t just be the adults talking about it. The students should get to have their say.

Will: I know. I always want things to be perfect.

Chloe: They are. We’re all here, together, aren’t we? What else is there?

Lance: Yeah, I mean, it’s not like we were exactly rocking and rolling before.

Will: [Laughs] Lance, you have a magnificent attitude. I’ll cancel the pity tour.

Tom: So, we’ll use the Media Center to educate the public and promote the school. What else?

Will: I’m thinking that we ought to have some sort of executive council; one that includes the student leadership, as well as faculty department heads.

Tom: And by student leadership you mean…?

Will: You, Chloe, and Mitch, for starters. Depending on how the various student organizations develop, I would consider adding a few others.

Sal: That’s very university-like, isn’t it?

Will: Yes, and it’s on purpose. Remember that op-ed I photocopied for you? By Leon Botstein?

Sal: Where he argues for eliminating high school altogether and sending kids to college, after junior high?

Will: That’s the one. While I disagree with the main thesis, a lot of the points he makes in getting to it are sound. A good part of the problem we’re having today comes from infantilizing teenagers. They’re not children, for god’s sake.

Sal: Argentina lowered the voting age to sixteen.

Will: I wish the U.S. would do the same. It would transform our politics for the better.

Chloe: Well, I think it’s a fabulous idea. [Looks at Mitch and Tom, who are nodding] Count us in.

Will: That’s about all I have for tonight, unless you guys have something you want to discuss?

Tom: It’s a lot to digest. No need to pile on more.

Mitch: I don’t have anything either.

Will: Let’s hang out a little, then. Let that Scotch work its way out of you, before heading out. Music requests?

Chloe: You know what I want to hear.

Will: [Laughing] Yeah, I know. [Grabs the Simple Minds tape that is sitting on his desk and heads over to the stereo.]

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