By John Lee
One of the most identifiable characteristics of our school is the wide variety of special curricula and academic programs available to students. According to our school’s profile and mission statement, the purpose of having these programs is to “satisfy college and career readiness requirements,” thus preparing students to be successful in “a diverse, global society.” Yet, despite the well-minded intentions of this structure, some students and teachers believe it would be beneficial to have a more unified education, citing reasons such as lack of adequate interaction between students of different programs, unnecessary distinctions between programs, and harmful preconceptions that arise from these distinctions.
However, when having the long-term benefits of specialized curricula in mind, it becomes easier to understand why our school continues to develop its unique career-oriented system. At a school of almost 4,500 students, diversity in academic interests and career goals cannot be avoided. We do have to meet our basic A-G requirements in order to graduate, but this can be done while still following one of many routes our school provides. Students with passions for business and finance, literature and social studies, interdisciplinary electives, math and science, research and communications, or digital arts and media can all find their places in diverse environments among fellow students who share these same interests by being in the programs offered by our school.
It may seem like several of these programs do not even have enough variety in their classes in order to be deemed separate. However, it’s difficult to judge the structure and nature of other programs without actually being part of them. In reality, although some classes and teachers are shared between some programs, each includes a unique set of classes and classroom interactions: Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone with its seminar- and research-based curriculum, Global Business and Finance (GBF) with its Economic Olympiad, Humanitas/New Media with its interdisciplinary liberal arts environment, Career Technical Education (CTE) with its hands-on training in a variety of careers, and International Baccalaureate (IB) with its nontraditional, community leadership-oriented focus.
Even between Global History of Ideas (GHI) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), two programs often believed unnecessarily divided, there is enough distinction between their strengths and intellectual emphases to argue for their separation. Finally, iGranada’s use of virtual learning accommodates for students who need more flexible schedules or have career goals in digital arts and media.
However, many of the arguments against our school’s structure care less about their official curricula and more about what these programs might entail for students. Although these divisions may seemingly imply students are unable to find their individual identities otherwise, having no distinction between different cohorts of students with different wants and needs can make it difficult for students to find their intellectual identities without having access to teachers, fellow students, and specific classes that hone in on shared interests. Every student prefers certain subjects over others, or has certain classroom interactions they enjoy or don’t enjoy, and without distinguishing between these programs, it would simply be more complex to deal with the allocation of resources for 4,500 students who don’t fit into one easily-defined curriculum.
Finally, what we do in our classes, regardless of whether or not we have specialized programs, should not dictate our lives. Sure, a majority of our time at school is spent in the classroom. But the demonstration of our identities comes not from what we learn but from how we apply what we learn and what we do outside of the classroom. Clubs, volunteer activities, social events, all of these open the way to establishing ourselves in society. But before we get there, it helps to have a community in which we are comfortable and challenged by programs tailored towards helping us get to where we want.
By Jeet Rai
Currently, students have the option to join several houses on campus, including the AP Capstone Program (APC), Career Technical Education (CTE), Global Business and Finances (GBF), Global History of Ideas (GHI), Humanitas/New Media (HU/NM), iGranada, International Baccalaureate (IB), or Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM).
Even though choosing a house is not necessarily required, many students often believe that they must, lest they get stuck with the traditional route. Other non house-affiliated students that prefer the newly coined Granada’s Guaranteed Curriculum believe that placement in specific houses inevitably leads to inflexibility within their schedule.
Although it is true that placing students in a specific house renders students similar to “lost souls,” or students who do not know or have not chosen specific interests, in actuality, students are less likely to choose elective classes that appeal to them because houses such as GBF and IB require students to take a certain amount and type of classes. Whereas it is still possible to choose electives such as Senior Leadership Council, Yearbook, or Robotics, while a part of these houses, it becomes far more difficult to bend an inflexible schedule.
Furthermore, for those that do not quite fit into a nicely labeled box or category, whether that be GHI or STEM, students want the freedom to choose their own types of classes that are not necessarily geared towards a historical or mathematical or scientific perspective. They want to pave their own way, explore a plethora of subjects rather than focus on a singular one. Rather than having their schedule molded to fit the program they’re in, these students prefer to shape their own identity.
“Particularly for incoming freshmen, students need the opportunity and freedom to explore their interests before they choose a certain house. This allows them to make much more knowledgeable decisions about which area of study best interests them,” IB coordinator Nicholas Weber said.
Students in designated programs cause much more limited communication with other students on campus. Even if one makes the effort to meet new people, the program’s group assignments cause the student to be surrounded by their cohort even outside of school. Although nutrition and lunch are viable options, all students know that the classroom is where the majority of interaction occurs, where new friendships develop. Meeting new people is almost impossible when students are restricted by their program and see the same people day in and day out, with very little variety and diversity amongst their peers.
“Ever since I joined my program, I have been surrounded by not only the same people, but also the same types of people. Everyone has the same goal; sure, there is diversity, but it is not as varied as I imagine the environment that non-house affiliated students are immersed in. People think, ‘Oh yeah we can hang out with our other friends during nutrition or lunch,’ but you reach a point where you can’t quite relate to your other friends anymore, or they don’t have anything in common with you,” senior Samantha Holl said.
In fact, there is little social mobility and communication that occurs with students from other houses. Instead of a sense of togetherness, there is often animosity amongst groups. It is a well-known trend that there exists a hierarchy of programs, organized by their level of difficulty; the more academically rigorous, the more hostility that surrounds that group of people.
Personalities are not only shaped by the type of house one is placed in, but also the athletics department or the clubs one chooses on campus; the difference is that students are free to choose in these cases. Let us continue to believe in the freedom of choice, the shaping of our own education, and the pursuit and fostering of our own interests from authentic, rather than crafted and artificial foundations.