“What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “What’s your dream?” are probably two of the most asked questions to kids. At least to the kid version of me they were. They tell us we can be anything we want to be and do anything we want to do as long as we are pursuing our dreams. Then how come in school all we ever seem to focus on are math and reading scores? As a current college student, I see such high demand for computer science majors and engineering related careers. However, it also seems the first chance most of us get for freedom in choosing what we wish to study is in college. High school and middle school seem to be so standardized and focused on math and reading scores that those schools have neglected to offer us an education on any other subjects.
Now, I can say that I have experienced a wide spectrum of schools. The previously mentioned scenario was largely my middle school experience. However, when I was in 8th grade, I was given the opportunity to apply to my county’s magnet school. This was a unique school where not only did I apply to the school, I had to apply to a specific academy within. As long as you surpassed a certain score on the End of Grade (EOG) tests, you were eligible to apply. Once applicants were checked to make sure they passed that requirement, they were put into a lottery for each academy. The academies were Auto Technology, Teacher Preparation, Medical Science, Biotechnology, Nursing, Engineering, IT, Performing Arts Theatre, Performing Arts Dance, and Performing Arts Music and Production. The only exception to the lottery were the Performing Arts academies that were based off of an audition.
Having this academy system allowed me to pursue my interests without having to wait until college to take these classes. Of course we had to complete our basic high school graduation requirements, but we were also given requirements based off of the academy we chose. I like to think of it as a midway point between college and high school. These classes never took away from what was required from us to learn to graduate high school, but it allowed us to further our passions. Even if later we decided we did not like the academy we chose, we could apply to transfer to a different one. At least personally, this also eliminated a lot of indecision in college of what majors and minors I wanted to pursue. Rather than only taking classes in the basic school subjects, I was able to take classes that applied to a variety of careers. It was kind of like a career fair, except instead of one hour I had years. Introducing a variety of classes that are applicable to real life reminds us what school is actually about: to use the education we receive to improve real life. I think schools, particularly high schools, need to offer a greater variety of classes, particularly those that can be applicable to real life or even just to prepare us for college. It distracts from the monotone of the typical graduation-requirement classes as well as makes school more interesting to go to.