[Editorial] The Overlooked Importance of the Unspecialized High School Course
by The Milton Measure on Friday, February 26th, 2016
As seniors frantically gather all the signatures and forms required for their final senior project proposals, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen face their own share of stresses during this time of year: course selection for the 2016-2017 academic year. Every year, Milton updates its course catalogue, adding new highly requested courses and retiring those that are unpopular. Classes II-IV not only have to decide on the types and level of courses they want to take but also the number of courses. This selection can be a daunting task.
This year, Milton’s 2016-2017 course catalog has added a total of seven new courses (certain renamed courses not included). The three new half courses include: Advanced Art: Documentary Film, Computer Programming 4: Applied Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence, and Futurology: The Path from Science Fiction to Science Fact. Four new semester courses include Principles of Economics (Semester 1 or 2), Topics in Global Economics: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century (Semester 2), Organic Chemistry 1 (Semester 1) and Organic Chemistry 2 (Semester 2). The one course that has been retired is Becoming American: Immigrants and Immigration Today.
The short attention of our generation leads teachers to search for different ways to garner interest. One popular tactic is the implementation of specialized courses. However, while a class entitled Science in the Modern Age may sound more intriguing than standard Advanced Chemistry, the benefit of less specialized classes in a high school setting should not be overlooked. A student’s teenage years should be a time for him to experiment and explore, to discover his interests or passions he believes to be central to his identity; because let’s face it, no one’s identity is one hundred percent concrete in high school. Moreover, a flexible identity should be a point of excitement, not of ridicule.
High school ought to be a place where students can explore a wide range of academic disciplines and develop their interests. In contrast, college years should primarily provide opportunities for depth and specialization. With that said, we do not wish to criticize or prohibit the administration from offering these college-style courses, because many students do reach standard college level academic proficiency before they graduate. Most other students, however, likely feel overwhelmed by the level of specialization these new courses offer.
Every student is different; what might inspire one might deeply may disinterest another. Nevertheless, managing passion with rigor is inevitably important. Regarding the balance between an intensely demanding course load and one that is “hack,” we believe an ideal course load is one that is manageable but at the same time challenges a student’s academic abilities. Challenging these abilities is a critical prerequisite to furthering them. If you believe you are a future English major, take a science class, if you believe you’re the next Einstein, take an Art course. Non-specialized courses provide this invaluable flexibility.
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