Posted by: Magistra | June 5, 2006

Major Florida

Earlier today, Gov. Bush signed the A++ Plan into law (apparently, the A+ plan needed some improvement, contrary to what its name suggests). The part of the law that’s getting the most attention is that starting in 2007-08, high school students in Florida have to declare a “major” and can also have “minors.”

According to Bush, “Our students will now take charge and plan for their future, realizing the decisions they make today shape their tomorrow.” Funny, but I thought that part of why we treat adolescent education differently from adult education is precisely because they are less likely to connect today with tomorrow, and even if they do, what they want tomorrow is more likely to change. I thought the idea was to expose students to many different topics, approaches, and skills.

To understand what the new requirements will look like for students, I sketched out what course selection would look like, based on a six-period schedule. I used “xxx” to stand for an elective course.

Frosh Soph Junior Senior
Eng Eng Eng Eng
Math Math Math Math
Sci Sci Sci xxx
xxx Soc Sci Soc Sci Soc Sci
PE/Hlth Major Major xxx
Fine Arts Major Major xxx

Thinking about my own high school courses, I guess I “majored” in Latin, since I took that for four years. Along the way, I might have picked up a music “minor” depending on how many credits it takes for a minor (the press release doesn’t say).

Looking at the table and thinking about my own schedule, I really don’t understand what having a “major” adds to your high school experience. The press release says that “areas of interest” (aka “majors”) are being added “to better engage students in planning and making decisions for their future.” I can see how that could result from this new process, but I wonder if creating a new program is the best use of Florida’s resources.

Assuming that planning for the future is something academic counselors and teachers already try to work on with students (a safe assumption, I think), will creating a new program enhance those attempts? My fear is that it will create more paperwork without increasing the resources (like, say, reducing the number of students per counselor) needed to meet the goal of helping students develop planning skills. I’ll be curious in a few years to see what teachers in Florida are saying about this new plan.


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