As a student of the Lyceum who had many peers in 'regular' Honors classes, it was apparent to me that the Lyceum does pose some advantages for its students that are unlikely (but not impossible) to be offered at the standard Honors level. For example, the Freshman Seminar course that all Lyceum Students must take touches upon a broad range of topics from classical art to advertising strategies-- information that I still find gives me an edge over fellow students at an "elite" university. Additionally, the higher caliber of work demanded is enriching for students, much the same way that the additional push-ups after practice are enriching to an athlete.
Additionally, the Lyceum increases the profile of Lowell High School and places it on the track to compete with higher ranked high schools. You can not compare the "Lowell High Honors Classes" to Acton HS, but you can compare the Lyceum. Therefore, the presence of the Lyceum increases the profile of the school, which benefits all.
I see nothing wrong with extending the offer of a challenging curriculum to all students in the city. The argument that there are people who chose not to matriculate into the Lyceum, or chose to not take the test, but who should nevertheless be considered to be as talented is simple unsupportable. This argument is similar to saying: John is as smart as a CEO, but chose not to apply for the job, or chose a cubicle job instead, but nevertheless he should get paid what a CEO gets paid.
I have no doubt, as a former student, that there are very many talented people at LHS who are just as smart or smarter than many in the Lyceum. But at the end of the day, it was the student's choice not to enter the Lyceum, therefore they should not expect the benefits.
As for the aloofness or elitism that the Lyceum is often believed to have, I can honestly say that I did not experience or witness any such thing. On the contrary, my peers and I frequently down-played the fact that we were Lyceum students to better fit into mixed AP classes. As for the preferential treatment at the pep rally that one parent mentioned-- in my first years at LHS, the Lyceum actually had to sit out the pep rallies and other school events and watch them on TV because administration was unsure how to dismiss us. Lyceum students are Freshmen in the Upper Class buildings, and can not dismiss with either, causing the entire program to be left out or forced to attend as an isolated group.
I beg all the wonderful, caring, and involved parents and students who read this to remember some things: firstly, if you sign up to take a challenging class, do not expect extra credits for it. The challenge should be for the sake of educational opportunity and enrichment, but beyond that the simple fact that you in particular are "working harder" is not a valid argument, since everyone puts in different effort. Secondly, there is no benefit to depriving any student an educational opportunity-- instead we should focus on improving the educational opportunities for all students, not taking them away.
Lastly, the comment about the vast majority of non-honors or underperforming students is the real challenge to our school system today. Out of a graduating class of nearly 800, only perhaps the top few hundred go to colleges-- this is a failure of our system. All students should be able to graduate high school with either the opportunity to pursue a meaningful higher education, or pursue a meaningful career.
Education is an American right-- lets empower all Lowell Students with it.