My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Er . . . .Huh?

This story in the News today caught my eye. But it didn't seem like much, until I saw the last paragraph.

First, the lede:

Juniors and seniors are sliding through high school on lax academic standards, members of a study panel appointed by Gov. Bill Owens said today.

Rick O'Donnell, director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, called the lack of rigor in 11th and 12th grade "shocking."

And then, the conclusion:

Tupa agreed that high schools must improve the junior and senior program, but warned that many districts don't have the money for additional courses.

"You can't accomplish these goals with absolutely no funding. It doesn't happen," Tupa said.

"Tupa" being Ron Tupa, Dem state senator from Boulder.

I know a little bit about how high school schedules are built, and how teaching assignments are decided, having taught in a high school for six years. And that last statement is either just ludicrous, or a blatant play to increase funding for schools. Look, the students have to take a certain number of classes anyway--they either take the serious classes or they take the lighter fare. But there's not a senior alive who will take seven classes because they HAVE to take calculus but also WANT to take a schedule-filler (and I'm not gonna suggest course titles here because every subject has students who would do anything to be in the class; I'm talking about the mystery classes that fill out the mandatory 5-class schedule for juniors and seniors after they take requirements and desirables). So the issue becomes one of how teacher resources are allocated, NOT whether you need more teachers.

But there's another point here, also--this seems pretty superflous as far a "reform" goes. The college bound are already likely to be in calculus and those types of courses; the non-college bound are not ever going to benefit from calculus. Is it possible, just possible--and I know I'm proposing something radical here--that the non-college bound would be better served by an accounting class, to learn how to manage and understand money; or a persuasive writing class to learn how to make an argument, rather than a college composition course?

Is it possible that at some point we should recognize that trying to fit every student into a pre-cut mold MIGHT not be the best way to serve the population at large? Yes, I think it would be nice if everybody could carry on a lucid discussion of Shakespeare; but it would probably be even nicer, and better for society, if everybody had useful tools to function in life. For some, that's college-style skills (which will likely serve them for precisely four years, and then they'll have to learn living skills); for others, that's probably a different set of skills.

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