Opinion: Students or Robots? – The Lack of Choice at BHS
By Jiaying Su
Filing into the auditorium with yet another copy of the blue-and-white student programming handbook, most of these incoming students are already keenly aware of their academic fates for the rest of their high school careers.
Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus, Chemistry or Physics, U.S. History or English 10A – these requirements ingrain themselves into the minds of these students. They know of their limited choices, politely and blankly staring at the plethora of charts and “options” that unfold before them in the form of lectures and PowerPoints. Eyeing the almighty 8.5×11 scheduling sheet between the folds of their handbook, they are played by this system.
Although a certain degree of order is necessary in upholding Braintree High School’s academic standards on a community, state, and national level, the guidance department should award more liberties in the academic decisions of their students, lessening the stifling restrictions, and allowing students to discover and pursue their own passions.
MCAS, SAT’s, and AP Exams are a few methods that gauge the academic ability of students across the United States. Each school must maintain a curriculum that allows its students to pass these assessments. Consequently, the guidance department predetermines strict courses each year, in an attempt to foster success. Establishing four years of mandatory subjects in Math, Science, English, Social Studies, and two years of Language, there is little deviation from the intended program of studies through the division of students based upon their academic standings: Advanced Placement, Advanced Honors, Honors, or College Prep.
For example, a freshman in Advanced Honors Biology will either find herself in Advanced Honors Chemistry or even Advanced Placement Chemistry in the following year solely due to her performance in Biology – a course that is completely unrelated to Chemistry. A sophomore in Honors English 10B will find himself in Honors English 11B, or, after the arduous task of collecting signatures from the English department, he will find himself in an Advanced Placement English course. The predictability of the required courses manifest in the brief list of either Advanced Placement, Advanced Honors, Honors, or College Prep, and according to one’s predetermined stature during freshmen year, the intended program of studies has already been chosen, with minor exceptions.
While this approach has augmented Braintree High School’s MCAS scores over the past four years, these time-consuming mandatory four year courses diminish a student’s ability to discover a true passion.
There are seven blocks in a school day, five of those blocks consist of mandatory classes, one of those blocks includes gym (or study hall), and one block is a free elective to explore another class. High school’s purpose is to prepare its students for college by exposing them to new experiences; however, most students have been deprived of the self-discovery of these new experiences. Some students have never set foot in the Art Wing; others, the Music Wing. Some students who have a passion for a specific subject will never be able to fully explore all of the courses that the school has to offer in regards to the that subject due to the restrictions of the guidance department and the curriculum.
A certain degree of rigidity and stability is necessary in maintaining academic standards; however, as a community, we must consider our goals and our true purpose with the public education system. Are we attempting to create the next generation of passionate and educated students? Or are we just programming robots without a purpose?