Editorials and Opinions

CON: Opposing Viewpoints – The grass is always greener

By Alex Caron
Published: April 2009

I preface this by stating clearly, I am NOT a Newton South hater! Abso-lutely not! South has whipped me into shape, enhanced my love of theatre and arts, and taught me to work hard. Moreover, I’ve developed close relationships with teachers who have changed my perspective on learning and creativity.

Newton South’s biggest drawbacks are not school-specific’€in fact, many are shared by most suburban public schools. I’ll stick to a few main points’€our “one track system, our “art vs. academia epidemic, and our college-centered mentality.

Flashback to sixth grade’€our math teacher handed us her recommendations for next year’s math class. Those slips of paper essentially sealed our fate up through twelfth grade (and perhaps beyond). If the paper didn’t say “Advanced Math, chances are, you aren’t in AP math right now.

Why is it appropriate to lock a pre-pubescent student into a track before they have a chance to demonstrate ability? People mature (and develop mature reasoning) at different rates. Many of my friends have expressed dismay about their early placement, because they have proven more capable than they were given the chance to be.

While math is the only subject that places people so early on, a similar argument can be made about languages, English, history, and sciences. Switching down from a class is fairly easy (although I have had trouble with it), but switching up is near impossible. Students should be in control of their own classes.
Additionally, as people have probably noticed recently, when it comes to budget cuts, arts and athletics are usually hit first. I understand that in a school, academics must come first, but in my experience, art can provide a new perspective in traditional classwork and serve as a general motivator.

My most stimulating English projects have been those that express literature through an art medium. I make new discoveries about the text, through a fun and rewarding process. I say, rather than cutting back on art, incorporate it more thoroughly into traditional academics.

I realize I shouldn’t have talked about people not being able to take AP classes. Why? Because people are so caught up in the term “AP that they lose sight of the actual advantage of such courses.

AP courses are inherently oriented towards college; you are encouraged to take an exam at the end of the year to earn college credit. We are so concerned with what lies beyond that we don’t fully enjoy the here and now. We should take pride in reading, developing reasoning, and learning’€not in test prep! There’s no reason for “higher level courses to be tied to college.

In closing, Newton South is not for everyone. In a large public high school, we can easily get lost in the perpetual motion. I’ve been fortunate enough to develop strong relationships with different teachers and communities, but most students are not so lucky.

I could have written about “stress or “stringent policy, but I think everyone understands these terms and their negative implications. Perhaps the above will spark some conversation!

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