Why high school students should have a more personalized education

As a sophomore in high school, I’m already thinking about college and what my future could look like. My goal is to become an English major and study a track in screenwriting. So why should I be having to take chemistry and learning how to find the atomic radius of an atom? I believe there are some basic classes you should take as a freshman, like algebra and biology, but after that, I think your high school career ought to be up to you.

(photo by Pixabay)

School systems currently run on a well-rounded education, giving each student a piece of each subject. But is that preparing us for college? I don’t think that a well-rounded education is the best for students. A student’s motivation is what will help he or she to succeed in school. If the student is not motivated or interested in what they are learning, then they aren’t going to be fully committed or involved. The APA (American Psychological Association) stated, “What and how much is learned is influenced by the motivation. Motivation to learn, in turn, is influenced by the individual’s emotional states, beliefs, interests and goals, and habits of thinking.” Also students are more likely to set a goal for themselves if it’s relevant to their interests. If a student loves math-based courses and wants a career in math, then that student will aim to be in high math classes. That same student is most likely not going to aim to be in upper level English or art courses. 

Like everyone, students have different interests. Some students love reading and annotating a poem by Edgar Allan Poe while others may find that boring. While another student can love reading the periodic table, and memorizing the elements. Everyone is different. With those differences of interests come differences in learning. For example, math is a subject of repetition, while English is a subject of understanding grammar and being able to dive deeper into literature. At Mount Saint Joe, geometry and American Literature are the two classes most sophomores take. Geometry is a very visual course, involving drawing the different angles and measuring the distance and midpoint of a graph. While in American Literature, the course helps you think outside the box and includes lots of discussions. For someone who is going to be an English major, why do I have to be drawing the angles of triangles? And someone who loves geometry could be saying the same thing about English. 

(photo from Pixabay)

Most parents say college is when you decide what you want to be as an adult. That college is when you can personalize your courses and narrow down a profession. Why can’t we do that in high school? Why do students have to wait until college? Most responses say that it’s because you might change your major and interests even before college. That’s not a bad thing at all in my opinion.

If students start narrowing down a major in high school then by the time they are freshmen at college, they have a pretty good idea of their future. For some college students now, they realize what they have been studying is not for them, so they have to restart their college careers. If those students were able to figure that out in high school, then they could start on the right track. So I believe as a freshman, students should have a well-rounded education with one elective. Then as a sophomore, students are allowed 1-2 electives and take the basic courses. Then junior year, 3-4 electives with 2-3 general classes. The student at this point could be narrowing down the possible major for them. Then at senior year, the student has 4-5 electives and 1-2 basic courses. This can allow the student during the four years in high school to decide what their major will be. 

I asked some college students and MSJ faculty members for their input on this topic. I sent the following questions to four college students, two sophomores and two seniors.

  • Did high school prepare you well enough for college?
  • Did you know the subject/major you wanted to study in college while in high school? 
  • Did high school give you classes with what you wanted to do with your life?
  • Do you wish you were able to eliminate the high school courses irrelevant to your future major?
  • Do you think high school students should have a “well-rounded” education or a “personalized” education? (Personalized meaning students pick the courses for their college major)
  • Do you wish you knew your college major before college?

The students overall agreed with me. One student answered, “Yes I wish I didn’t have to take several of the classes I was required to take. I feel like if I got to pick between different classes I would have been more interested to learn and be more involved.” While Kyle Ogden, a student at Washington College, said “I think well-rounded so that people are exposed to all kinds of subjects, so they can choose what they like. Rather than guessing what they will want 10-15 years in the future. I think too many kids would find themselves in trouble if they chose that young and were wrong.” Which I will admit makes sense, but that’s not the case for every student.

The student should have the option to have well rounded or personalized education. One of the students I asked had mixed feelings about what style of education is best. Trevor Wright, a sophomore at Anne Arundel Community College stated, “I am split both ways. While I don’t like the ‘well-rounded’ education because the classes are often boring or uninteresting, I feel that with a ‘personalized’ high school education, students may find that they wasted their time once they reach college. (They change majors or become uninterested in what they liked in high school). I think that a hybrid of these two education styles has the potential to work very well.”

(photo by Pixabay)

I was able to talk to a few faculty members here at St. Joe to get their opinion. There was a mix of responses regarding the style of education they think is more efficient. Mrs. Abrahms, a science teacher, is in-between and thinks that if the student is mature enough, that they could succeed with a personalized education. When asked if a personalized education would work all over in the U.S, she believed that this style wouldn’t work. Mrs. Ekanem, on the other hand, agreed with me. She thought that freshmen should be well-rounded, but sophomores and upperclassmen should have a personalized. She stated how some subjects don’t need to be “as in-depth as they are” because they won’t be necessary for adults in the future. When I talked to Mr. McDivitt, he explained how a well-rounded education is best because it allows the student to have balance. Also that those different classes allow the student to learn skills that will help them later in life. I completely agree, but some skills can be learned in multiple courses.   

For me, I would definitely prefer to be allowed to take more English-based courses. One of the schools I plan on applying for is Full Sail University and focusing on screenwriting and film, so getting a head start would benefit me greatly. A personalized education would show what subject a student is strong in and what they want to pursue in college.

Ethan Webber is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class, and a member of The Quill

Categories: Opinions