Beckman High School: A Patriot Prison?


An aerial view of East Jersey State Prison has a similar structure to Beckman’s four wings

Angela Zhang, Staff Writer

Arnold O. Beckman High School first opened its doors in August of 2004, welcoming in a wide array of diverse students. Named after renowned scientist, chemist, and philanthropist Arnold O. Beckman, Beckman seemed destined for greatness. Since its opening, Beckman has been awarded the status of California Distinguished School twice, received numerous awards and recognition for both their arts and athletics programs, and nurtured aspiring students who went on to achieve wonders. Over the years, the student population has risen from 600 or so kids to 3,013 students. With a ranking of #55 of the high schools in California, and #355 in national rankings, Beckman has exhibited top of the notch qualities that exemplify greatness in the staff, students, and overall academically stimulating environment of the school.



However, rumor has it, Beckman High School wasn’t always going to be the renowned, distinguished school that it is in present day. In fact, some say that our pristine campus grounds weren’t even originally intended to become a high school. They say that Beckman was actually supposed to be a juvenile delinquent rehab center. Crazy, right? If you were to compare a prison blueprint to Beckman’s blueprint, you would find notable similarities.



If you looked at the layout of our campus, you can observe how the various wings branch out surrounding the administration building, just as a prison might have hallways lined with cells circling the main building in the center.



So, was Beckman really supposed to be a prison?



The design of the school certainly does resemble the layout of a prison, but the idea of a juvie hall right in the middle of Irvine seems a bit more than far-fetched. The surrounding neighborhoods might have a complaint or two.



“Irvine is a planned city,”  Coach Ali Rawaf, the Beckman boys wrestling coach says. “The developers were always intending to have a school be constructed on this plot of land.”



If not to be a prison, then why would TUSD choose to have our school look the way it does?



“It’s modeled off of a panopticon-type design,” Rawaf says. “It’s so that [for example,] four people in the center can watch four hundred people on the outside surrounding them.”



This explains why the main building of a prison resides in the center of all the cells, so that the guards can keep watch over all of the prisoners. It also provides reason for why the school would want the administration to be in a location in the midst of all activity.



Mr. Beilin, a math teacher at Beckman High School, puts in his share of what he’s heard is the story behind Beckman’s design. “The TUSD board were in such a rush to get Beckman High School approved that they bought plans from another school in order to skip the entire process of hiring an architect and paying to get custom blueprints done. By doing this, they were able to get to building the school as soon as possible in the time crunch that they had.”



This would mean that there’s another high school out there that looks exactly the same as BHS. You would be able to navigate the school with no problem whatsoever, since it’s an exact replica of Beckman. Or, more accurately, Beckman is an exact replica of that school. Slightly eerie, if I may say.



But why else would the TUSD district choose to model Beckman in such a way? Why spend $69 million making the school look like that?



“For convenience,” says Ms. Hardi, a Beckman biology teacher. “Since the school is just one big circle, it makes it easier for students to make their way around.”



Investigation of the origins of Beckman’s structural design can be concluded with the answer that Beckman, fortunately for us, wasn’t going to ever be a prison, but serves as a stimulating environment for young minds instead. Yay Beckman!