It sounds like an interesting approach. Instead of the traditional school system of zones and students going to schools based on where they live, we will send our students to schools based on their interests. That is Superintendent Romain Dallemand’s proposal.
A student interested in the arts would go to a high school that focuses on arts, even if the high school is across the county. The busing problems will be awesome. A student interested in technology will go to a school with a focus on technology.
All the students would have a core curriculum, but then spend time on the subjects that interest them. It is a fascinating concept. There are hurtles to the plan, most notably the logistics of getting a child from Lizella to ... where exactly? The devil is in the details.
There are other details, too. More teachers and principals are telling me there is a growing disciplinary problem in the school system. It seems our superintendent has hit on a novel idea to cure the suspension rate. He will stop letting principals suspend students. One teacher tells me it is routine at her school. A student will cuss out a teacher, be sent to the principal and wait till the next class. In school suspension remains an option, but students are starting to catch on. The inmates may soon run the asylum.
There is another problem. It is all well and good to let students go to school based on their interests, but what if they cannot read, write and add? While we continue to innovate within the schools, we continue also to graduate students who will not pass muster in the workforce due to their lack of basic skills.
Last week I had this conversation with a friend. We were lamenting the new trend in education to put students on “career paths.” My friend said that in 9th grade he wanted to be a NASCAR driver. We weren’t sure which of the state’s suggested high school career paths that would fit under. More so, we were not sure what would happen if, like him, by 10th grade he decided he wanted to be a soldier instead.
The goal to get our students on career paths and pursue interests is trendy. Gone are trends such as learning to read proficiently and think critically. It’s all about the future now. You show a propensity to be an accountant in 9th grade? Well by God we are going to put you on that career path and by God you will be an accountant. Woe to the student who decides in 12th grade he wants to be an engineer instead.
Between disciplinary problems and long term failures within our school system, Superintendent Dallemand has his work cut out for him. We should applaud him for thinking outside the box. I would much rather our children go to schools pursuing interests, allowing them flexibility to change those interests and consequently their schools, rather than boxing them into career paths as the state wants.
I have a deep fear about the future of our education system. As we embrace new education trends and leave further and further behind the classical style of education that is no longer fashionable, one day we will wake up and realize we have wiped out the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the American worker by decreeing that in 9th grade they should find their career path and cater to it.
Sometimes the basics are best and the trends are folly.
Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.