The Cheapest Renovation

One of these days, the legislature will see the wisdom of fully funding all of MSMS’ dreams. Until then, I suspect that the least expensive way to improve MSMS involves its mental landscapes–that is, changing its curriculum. Our school currently meets or exceeds the requirements for Carnegie units necessary for admission to Mississippi’s four-year colleges. As a result, the breadth of an MSMS is impressive.

However, I’ve heard colleagues toy with the idea that we spread students too thin–that it may be beneficial to ask students to reduce the breadth of their content and to focus on specific topics during their senior years. This would only be possible if we completely revised the curriculum. What would happen if students were required to take a semester each of biology, chemistry, and physics instead of a year each? A year of English at MSMS instead of two? Would students be well-served to focus on their specific research interests during their senior years instead of taking courses across the curriculum?

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18 Responses to The Cheapest Renovation

  1. Taylor Willis says:

    To me, college is the place for a student to zone in on what they want and focus on the career that will make them successful in life. In turn, high school is where students should be exposed to a multitude of topics and courses because it’s the place where a student discovers what they are interested in. It sometimes does feel like MSMS spreads students too thin, for time is always ticking as more and more assignments are assigned and club meetings are scheduled. This rigorous course schedule, however, teaches MSMS students what the future will be like. While college might not be as spread out, adulthood will be, and students need to be prepared to face the real struggles of being an adult and balancing life. I think that students still need to be exposed to many different courses during their senior year rather than honing in on one specific area simply because we’re still teenagers. A lot of us think that we know what we want, and some might actually know what they want in life. However, a lot of us don’t, and we need this kind of exposure in order to find things we’re interested in and ways we want to put our touch on the world.

  2. E says:

    Like many here, parallels are drawn between MSMS and college. Colleges expose students to a wide variety of subjects with regard to their intended major. Students choose courses that focus on one or two specific subject. MSMS students have many classes imposed upon their schedule that focus primarily on the sciences and mathematics. Not every student plans on a career involving Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Caculus or Statistics, and this exposure is crucial. The current system gives a groundwork for students to better tackle the even greater range of options in college. From Studies in Eastern thought, Identity studies, Game Design, or Ceramic Art, the options are boundless wherever students go. I am a firm believer that its best to have as many opportunities as possible and try a little bit of everything. After our formal education ends, there is plenty of time to focus on a specific job or skill set, so why not see what the world can offer?

  3. KT says:

    Students are spread too thin, and it may be beneficial if I did not have to take another English class, or if I only needed to take half a year of biology. I would love to spend my time expanding my knowledge of the subjects I’m passionate about, and it would be refreshing if I knew that I’m not wasting my time taking an astronomy and astrophysics class even though I have my physics credit. With the extra space available, students could take classes that simply sound found, and not have to worry too much about which classes satisfy which credits.

  4. Erin says:

    I think spreading the curriculum thinner would be good. I understand the need for the math and science requirements, only if you want to go into something like that in college. If students were able to take more classes they actually wanted to take, their time at MSMS would be so much more enjoyable. Also, they would be able to possibly discover things they really like doing like, like writing, instead of being forced to memorize polyatomic ions and all the derivative rules.

  5. Bertha Mireles says:

    The option to narrow our curriculum to focus more on one field would be a great option for those who know exactly what they are going to do in college and who value advancing more in one subject, however for me personally, I force myself to work hard to advance in my worst subject because it is important to be knowledgable in more than one subject area. How can a great scientist be called intelligent if he writes awful papers or speaks with a narrow vocabulary and incorrect grammar? For me, an intelligent citizen is one who has dabbled in everything and can hold his or her own in any subject area. Yes, focusing on one subject that I love would be nice, but I also love many different subject areas, and it would be difficult for me to break out of my comfort zone if I were to focus on just one subject that I know I’m good at.

  6. G says:

    I most definitely agree that students here at MSMS are spread too thin. Between completing lab reports, getting enough sleep to function, writing various essays, logging wellness hours, reading hundreds of book pages a night, and remembering to eat a meal once in a while, there is too much schoolwork required of us that many of us may not even care about. By revising the curriculum, students would take those required courses (i.e. 1 semester of chemistry, biology, and physics and 1 year of english) as well take courses that peak their interest. Students should be given the opportunity to take more elective-type courses that will either not only help them prepare for post-secondary education but also hold their interest and develop passions for those topics. I think there’s too much being shoved down our throats. We’re forced to learn and memorize too much information that may will no longer matter the minute we finish that exam.

  7. Linda Arnoldus says:

    As a person with many different interests, I would be miserable only concentrating in one subject. 16-18 are too early of years to decide what you want to study for the rest of your life. I went into MSMS wanting a concentration in physics, and I was frustrated when I could only take 2/3 physics classes I wanted this year. However, the “random” classes I was “forced to take” have become some of my favorite classes. I would never have chosen to be in sculpture, WW2, Tales, etc. but they have become some of my favorite classes. I think that narrowing the curriculum would be the opposite of progress.

    • Ellen Overstreet says:

      I feel that it would be better for students ages 16-18 to be able to start choosing what areas they want to focus in. Most students are only able to make this choice once when they are applying to colleges, but allowing students to make these decisions during high school allows them to determine what areas they are truly interested in studying. A student may take classes in a field they think they are interested in and realize that they dislike it. This gives students a chance to narrow their choices of what to study in college. The student will feel more confident in what they have picked to major in because they have already had some experience studying the subject.

  8. Cameron Thomas says:

    I do agree on the fact that we are spread a bit thin here. I’ve developed so many different interests while being here that I don’t even know what career field I want to enter anymore. It would also be beneficial to have a focus, so we as students can be even more well-prepared for college. However, I feel like that would change something that I personally love about MSMS. Never would I have thought that I would be able to write a 1,000+ word article within an hour, fluently read and enjoy Shakespeare, expand and condense logarithms, do solution stoichiometry, learn about dead people that no one really knows, or fluently greet someone in a different language all in a days work. I think MSMS hitting me from all of these different angles is helping me become a more well-rounded person. When I do go to college and realize I do not like what I am majoring in, I would have to thank MSMS for giving me something that I can fall back on. If you are a divergent, it would be a waist of the rest of your talents to be put in dauntless (allusion to the book/movie: Divergent).

  9. Samantha Broussard says:

    Personally, I do not believe MSMS should change its curriculum. If students were only required to study one broad subject it would no longer comply with one of the core values of MSMS, educating the whole child. The purpose of MSMS is to help the gifted students of Mississippi expand their knowledge in all the subjects, not just what they would specifically like to pursue later in life. The beauty of MSMS is that while some kids may not particularly enjoy the curriculum, they learn to find value in what they are learning and may develop interest they never knew they had. If students focused on one thing, no one would branch out and learn what they do and don’t like. College is for picking specifics, but high school is for doing everything you can and learning what works for you and what doesn’t

  10. Catherine Boltz says:

    I once thought that allowing students to focus on one subject was best, but now I do not agree. At my old school, a lot of the reasoning behind not enjoying a class was due to the teacher just giving me “busy work”, or just not doing a very good job of teaching the subject. coming to MSMS has sparked an interest in classes I never thought I’d enjoy, like history or english. That has a lot to do with having more qualified teachers with more discussion based classes. Therefore, focusing on just one subject might limit interests in other subjects.

  11. B says:

    Multiple other math and science school in the US have a curriculum that makes seniors (and sometimes junior) take courses that interest them and in something they will major in during college. Even other countries use these techniques. For example in Germany, the kids (ages 8 -12) are given a test to see where they can be placed, either the “smart” school or the school where they specialize in a certain task, like watch-making. However, Germany now is starting not to do this, but what the other countries are doing. So in the long term, it’s not going to help the students to only do specialized classes, but as a well-rounded curriculum that incorporates subjects (like English), they will need in college and life. As college is the place to go to get a degree on something a student likes or will pursue a career in. College is the place to get more into a particular subject or area.

  12. Collin says:

    The idea of being able to change the requirements for subjects students are less interested in is something of a dream. Lots of people that attend MSMS do it to become closer to a certain topic or subject. A closeness that just is not available at their previous school. There are two types of people at MSMS. People who are here for Math and Science, and people who are here for English and History. It is logical to have graduation requirements for classes like Calculus and Physics, because we are a Math and Science School. However, for the people who aren’t particularly excited and passionate about math and science, these requirements should dulled. The same with the students who aren’t passionate about History and English. It would be wonderful if I was able to take every math and physics class. However, because of lengthy requirements for History and English, this is just a dream. If seniors were able to go all out in their chosen subject, disregarding all other requirements, morale would be up by 1000%. However, because we have a government that thinks that we should have a broad spectrum of classes, this senior focus will probably never happen. Yes, it would be amazing for every student here, but it is just a dream.

  13. Alice Calvert says:

    I have often toyed with the idea of a complete restructuring of the educational system as a whole. Of course, this, while not that, is a step in the direction of the idea I have always imagined.

    Many times during my academic life, I have questioned the purpose of the class I was taking, and its validity in regards to the career path I wish to follow. While I can easily see the importance of chemistry, I have no interest in becoming a chemist.

    If you cannot show why a class is applicable in every day life, then that class should not be required.

    This idea, though optimal to me, is unfeasible. The idea of taking X number of classes and X subjects is at this time too deeply ingrained. I am however, in extremely strong support of the removal of more general classes in favour of taking more specific, specialized classes.

    It is well known that you are more likely to succeed in a subject you are passionate about. Interest leads to productivity, and disinterest can easily breed apathy or burnout. Passion is the driving force behind work, especially in academia where the promise of a paycheck or financial support is not a secondary factor.

    Too often it is assumed that to remedy this problem, a teacher should be tasked to garner passion for a subject, and as such they are asked to fight an uphill battle against the interests of their students. I propose a simpler solution, one which allows students to simply take the bare minimum of requirements, while then only enlisting in classes they find interesting.

    General education is no longer needed en masse.

    Well roundedness is an outdated concept, and angularity is the future.

    Teachers are no longer the only sources of knowledge, and for the vast majority of general things, the internet or other sources can be employed to find a quick answer. Now more than ever, teachers are the guiding hand, to introduce concepts and guide students on how to learn and use them.

    Independent research, independent study, and the choice of what to learn and why is what is desperately needed so as to fundamentally change and improve the way we educate students forever. MSMS is already teetering on the edge of such a system, and phasing into it would be substantially easier here than anywhere else.

    If there was anyway to mark Mississippi as the beginning of a progressive education system, this is it. The choice of what you study in undeniably the beginning of a better world.

  14. X says:

    The students should have a choice of taking either path, reducing the number of required credits and lengths of classes or sticking to the current curriculum. The current curriculum is very challenging and may prepare the students for the workload of college. The AP courses need to stay a year long to properly prepare for those interested in taking the end of the year AP exam. However, reducing the length of class requirements from a year long to a semester long will allow the students to have more free time by their senior year. If that is done, there must be a new requirement, such as they have to complete x hours of research and present an x minute presentation at the end of each semester or at the end of the year in order to fill in the free time.

    Personally, in senior year, because of college applications, courses required should be reduced in length due to time constraints. These applications tend to be very stressful and time-consuming, and in addition to the huge workload of homework and club activities, students are stretched thin. MSMS has always required more of students than any other public high school in Mississippi. Do we want to keep it that way, the challenging atmosphere that has been built up until now, or do we want to cut down a bit and focus on major-oriented fields?

  15. Alexandra Magee says:

    I think the pace of learning material would be even faster because teachers would try to fit as much general information of one subject as possible into one semester. Former students will typically warn high school students that is never a good idea to skip any subject for a year since professors expect students to know the material given. Generally, many students would benefit from specifically researching interests to better accentuate an aspiration or dream job. However, several students do not know who or what they aspire to become in this world. For these students, sampling off of the MSMS course catalogue gives a safe experience to see which aspect of different subjects is most interesting. Because this sampling is done at MSMS at a cheaper price, students can then have a general course to lead them to a happy destination in the workplace.

  16. Elijah Dosda says:

    With MSMS emulating many aspects of colleges, I think it would be beneficial to modify the course structure to more closely adhere to that of a colleges, with basics only being taken the first year with some limited pathway possibilities, then senior year being open to choose a pathway that satisfies a potential major, and another less strenuous pathway satisfying a potential minor. By simplifying it into a Junior year, and a Senior year path A (Major) and path B (Minor), it would limit the wide variation of classes that we have each semester and have more centric classes pertaining to our point of study.
    This way, students can be more prepared for the college routes they are about to experience and not be too overwhelmed from having to jump from AP Bio to English, and all the way to Programming and Art, which is what our current schedule has us taking leaps of learning styles to complete all these wildly different classes.

  17. Geneva Hamilton says:

    Yes, students would benefit greatly from this change. Being focused on our specific area of interest would prepare us even more for college. After all, college students do it by majoring in their desired field. It also would relieve some of the stress put on us students.

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