Thursday, August 16, 2007

Majors for 9th Graders

This article has been making the rounds of various blogs and a lot has been said about it. I don't have a lot to add to the good-idea-bad-idea debate, aside from echoing one of the authorities quoted in the article in saying that this seems like a singularly terrible idea.

However, as someone interested in contemporary teen fiction and the degree to which it captures teenage experience, I think this could potentially add a whole new layer to the classic first-year-of-high-school experiences. It also reinforces my belief that anxiety about career and college for kids of all socioeconomic strata has taken on a whole new level of complexity and urgency.

I also found this quote interesting and a little disturbing from, especially a teacher:

“It eliminates the phrase, ‘I’m never going to need that when I grow up,’” said Randy Sherry, a technology teacher, who sees majors as a way to emphasize real-life experiences. “I don’t want to just throw education at them. I want them to be here for something they like, and that’s what the majors can do.”


lili said...

I'm from Canada; my daughters will graduate next June and while both have an idea what they'd like as careers, they received little help with those choices from any teacher or school counselor. While both did take a course last year called -career and personal planning- it did little to help them plan for a career.

Sometimes it's like school systems aren't so much about the kids, as about the teachers.

Micol Ostow said...

I happen to think it's ridiculous. There are plenty of things you learn in school that you're never going to need when you grown up (I still have no idea what trinomials are), but there's still something to be said for the value of a basic liberal arts education. Anyone who saw the Miss Teen USA clip about 1 in 5 Americans not being able to identify the US on a map should be well aware of the horrific state of the American educational system. Being offered opportunities to concentrate on special interests (ie: creative writing intensives or the like) seems like a plausible and practical alternative to unnecessarily narrowing a student's scope of study at such a young and open-minded age.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

RS said...

If it causes you to think, then I am happy to have "disturbed" you and I respect your opinion. The following information may help people form their own opinions. Please consider that the few sentences you read were pared down from a 15 minute interview with the reporter.
1. Associating knowledge acquired in High School with focused, real-world activities enhances the learning experience by providing a mechanism for relating the information to something the student is interested in. This is directly related to better performance at the College level. Feel free to check the National Academy Foundation's research on this.
2. Imagine choosing "Sports Leadership" as your focus, where you will take only ONE required course in that area per year, and, at the end of 3 of your 4 years, you realize that this is not for you. The education is not wasted, and you learned this for free. Any you only have to take ONE more course to complete the Major. Consider the alternative of not knowing about any field, choosing one for College, PAYING the College Tuition and THEN changing your mind once you get there. Learning about your interests in High School by trying something you like costs very little in comparison.
3. Getting a benefit from the Major's focus on real life does NOT require you to continue in that Major in College. It's just a focus of knowledge to real life situations. So if you "Major" in Globalization in High School, its perfectly OK to go to College for Engineering, Law, BioMed, etc. and it happens all the time.
4. In some situations, having Majors at the High-School level also brings in Major-Related electives. In many cases, there is no problem with a "Bio-Med" major taking a "Sports Leadership" elective. That Sports Leadership elective might not have existed without the Major being there in the first place.