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January 1, 2005

Educational Segregation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ryan Jones @ 12:00 am

No, this isn?t your racy Aaron McCray type article about how schools treat minorities unfairly; in fact this article has nothing to do with race or gender period. I?m not going to preach about how we should have separate classrooms for boys and girls, or separate schools for smart kids and burnouts. I?m not even going to preach that I think it?s unfair how burnouts can get the same degree by taking fewer classes of less difficulty; that?s another topic.

What I?m talking about is a type of segregation that existed prior to Dick Clark?s rockin? new years eve, still exists now, and unfortunately (along with Dick Clark) will exist for a long time to come. Maybe I?m just old, or maybe my high school was weird, but I remember back in 8th grade on that magical day when we got to select classes for our first year of high school.

At the top of the form I remember having to choose:
Course of Study: [ ] College Prep [ ] Vocational [ ] General

I thought nothing of it at the time and checked College Prep, as I had a great dream of playing football for the University of Michigan (later that year however I learned my chances of playing college football were slightly less than my chances of running into Elton John at my local Hooters). This reminds me of a long story about hockey, high school wrestling and garden gnomes, but I?m trying to stick to my topic.

In my first two years of high school, everything was fine. I took computer classes, shop classes, and the usual math, English, and science. Then junior year things split up. Shop and computer people went off to vocational training while college bound students stayed in the classroom. I was torn on which way to go, why couldn?t I do both? Thankfully, and with a little bit of ?encouragement? from my parents, I went on to college, but I wish I would have been able to get some real training in CISCO networking or CAD.

It doesn?t stop there though, it gets worse in college. If I want to ask deep questions about life I can major in philosophy. This was fun, but I wasn?t allowed in the computer lab. If I want to answer these questions I can major in Physics. I got access to the physics lab, but I couldn?t do theory. Thankfully the decision was easy. I wanted a degree that would get me a job, so I chose engineering. Now I get to work with AI and computers, which is great, but everybody gives me weird looks when I discuss the philosophical consequences of this AI.

Why can?t high school students get hands on experience while at the same time preparing for college? In the old days there was one subject that encompassed all: philosophy. Going back to Plato?s academy, everybody learned everything. ?let no one enter who does not know geometry? etc etc. People were well versed. Nowadays, this just isn?t the case. As an employer, wouldn?t you prefer your potential employees to have knowledge of more than just their concentration?

You just don?t see the same type of well-rounded employee anymore. Humanities courses are seen as ?additional requirements? instead of useful classes. Is being well-rounded still important or do we prefer people with much knowledge, but limited scope? Or maybe this is just a problem in my hometown? Does anyone else notice this?

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