College students think they have it tough trying to weed through their interests and settle on a major that will dictate the rest of their working lives. Now think about having four more years of that pressure. If Jeb Bush has his way, Florida students might have to deal with just that.
On Thursday, the Republicans pushed a bill through the Florida House that would require incoming high school students – 13- and 14-year olds – to declare a major like students do in college.
The mentality behind the bill, which has yet to pass the Senate, is that students drop out because high school is not tailored to their specific interests, something Bush said can be fixed by limiting a student’s course load to classes related to his or her major. Bush thinks the proposal would also help students better prepare for their chosen majors in college.
A student would still be required to take core classes in math, science and English, but the main focus would be on his or her subject of choice.
As a person who despises all things mathematic, I, more than anyone, would love to have gotten away with taking the few required math courses and forgotten about geometry, algebra honors, trigonometry and AP calculus. But as much as it pains me to admit it, without these classes, I’d be even worse at math than I am now (I still count on my fingers). Under this new proposal, students would be deprived of classes vital to their most basic education, an education that might not be the focus of their future careers, but would strengthen elements of their chosen path.
Do I hate math? Yes. But do I use it when I’m figuring out statistics in a story? Finagling Signal payroll? Making charts for the Wall Street Journal? Definitely. Without core classes, a student will never be as good at his or her major as he or she could be with these courses.
Core classes are also important because they allow students to test the waters in many different areas. I never even had a journalism class until I was a junior in high school. If I would have decided to major in English in high school and never taken the journalism class because it was not part of my course list, I might be having a love affair with Walt Whitman right now instead of writing you this fabulous editorial.
Without enough exposure to core classes, students might end up majoring in something they hate – or never discovering something they could have loved.
It’s a good thing that Bush wants students to take classes that pique their interests. But let students do this with the electives most high schools give them. By requiring students to choose something as restrictive as a major – something that will no doubt be changed multiple times by students who are four years less mature than college students who compulsively switch their majors – the stresses of high school life will increase tenfold. Forget the number of dropouts this proposal might prevent and think about how many students are going to have mental breakdowns because of it.
High school students already stress themselves to death starting mid-sophomore year when it comes time to start beefing up resumes and looking at colleges. Now that pressure will be extended as far back as eighth grade, perhaps earlier, if they are forced to choose a major.
This country is going to force students to start preparing earlier and earlier for college, until there’s no longer any time for kids to just have fun. In a few years, I fully expect to have to tell my child “Now put down the rattle, honey, and start studying – you have to get your diploma in 20 years.”