Sunday, May 6, 2007

Revised Public Education Entry, Part 2

A meaningful education should, as its very goal, have everyone leaving high school with a knowledge set that would be valuable to the individual. Knowing, however the very basics of an intended field of college study would do a great amount of good to a college-bound student. Having the vocational skills necessary for entering the job market at a pay level where a small family could be sustained (until further education or promotion) would be an immensely valuable situation for the many people who leave high school with no intention of going on to higher education (a segment of the population seemingly ignored by most education officials). A system that forces the job-bound student to take college prep classes instead of vocational ones robs that student of the promise of public school, and forcing a college-bound student to take nothing but vocational skills would be a handicap in future educational endeavors. Both students have distinct needs with little overlap, and if they are going to be in the same system, they will both need a way to make that system work for their own benefit. The foundation of a system that encompasses these two needs (and the other diverse needs public school systems aim to satisfy) is valid, meaningful choice.

Schools are limited by funds, and public schools especially are limited on the amount of funding they get per student. Classes in subject areas that can sustain large class sizes are guaranteed to exist, and classes that cannot attract forty students (out of a student body of between one and three thousand) consistently, year after year, are not going to be offered. Every spring, students are handed course catalogues with many, many interesting options, only to find out that their chosen class didn’t make it, and so they will, instead, have to settle for an overflow option.

Language classes are a good example of this. Having German, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, Italian, and Latin offered at public school make sense, but not every school can offer every language, and so by some students everywhere are disenfranchised by this. APS has already seen the potential problem this could pose, and so some language classes (Chinese and Japanese) are available to all of APS high schoolers at CEC. This is a good use of resources, and helps to ensure that the classes are sizable, and the students can take the languages they want. It's a step in the right direction.
Now, the right direction, the huge, sweeping change, is fun. With something close to 90,000 students, surely a class can be drawn for almost every conceivable subject. With eleven high-school campuses, there is enough room to house all the classes that could be formed. And really, with the tax base of a sizable city, the resources of a university, and the experience with dual-credit programs at the local community college, it should be entirely possible to change the way High School works in Albuquerque.
My vision is this - a vast, multi-campus school, where upperclassmen especially (and maybe lower classmen) are allowed to either pursue the standard educational path, a more specialized course that will let them graduate with some college credit, to the point even of maybe a minor degree, or to get job training and job experience that will make dropping out foolish, because the kids would be paid and improving while attending school.
This system, this education-by-choice, would allow students with drive to specialize, students without it to go through high school as before, and students as a whole to be allowed access to the education they want. Giving people what they want, in ways that allow for a more productive society, can hardly be something wrong.

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