Up and Running Again

Welcome back, fearless bloggeurs! I’m excited to be exited about the spring semester. I teach a goodly chunk of my favorite literature each spring–Chopin, Frost, Faulkner, O’Connor, Joyce, Williams–the list of beloved texts is almost embarrassingly long.

My seniors might find this semester a useful time to reflect on their accomplishments, and to ask us all about the sort of education MSMS would be well-served to offer. I do my best to offer college-level instruction in English. I have wondered lately whether or not such courses give my students the skills they need to thrive in college and beyond. Assuming that most students here will seek majors in STEM fields, would MSMS be better off if we developed a technical writing course that would knock a semester off literature requirements? I have no idea who would teach it–I am utterly uninterested and unqualified–but I suspect my science/math oriented students would feel like they were receiving better preparation for their professions in a technical writing class than they do while studying the Greater Romantic Lyric.

All of this begs another question: what is the proper goal of education? Do we simply want a more qualified workforce? Better citizens? Do we want schools to create more doctors than plumbers? More teachers than opera stars? More engineers than poets?

For me, such questions cannot be answered without acknowledging that education in Mississippi is likely to be funded at levels that are less than ideal. Mississippi is already over $100 million short of revenue from the current fiscal year, which will have an impact on budgeting for next year. Furthermore, our school’s specialized mission is imperiled by the insistence that “level funding” (the appropriation of the same amount year after year) is good, because at least it isn’t “less funding.” However, given the cost of boarding and educating 250 students, level funding is less funding because it does not account for inflation–we simply cannot accept all eligible students with the money appropriated to us.

You can’t have a Cadillac for the cost of a second-hand mini-van; you can’t get superb results from education if you offer funding for it that is sub-par.

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21 Responses to Up and Running Again

  1. Kamal Bhalla says:

    The question regarding whether or not adding the “technical writing course” would be a tremendous help to future MSMS students. This course could help students that may be struggling with writing skills in their classes.
    When thought about whether or not we want more doctors vs plumbers (etc), I believe that the educational system is doing its best for students to reach out and do their best in life. Each student has their potential to achieve the highest for themselves. One student may choose a career that others may disagree on, but that is their choice. I do not believe that the educational system today is leaning towards one job/field in particular, but it is instead helping students to learn information that they can use in many different careers. Even though one may not need to know any calculus when they want to become a poet, it is still reputable to have that course in ones education.

  2. Devon Matheny says:

    I personally want to major in a STEM field, however I do not think it is necessary for this course to be made. Yes, there are many who are problem solvers who love math and science, but writing skills and knowing literature are vital in the success of any great profession. I think the way Literature classes are conducted and taught are at an optimal level. Of course there are going to be some people who do not want to take a Literature class, but, like every other requisite class, it could be considered required for proper function in the “real world” or just in any career. In other words, writing skills can never be improved enough, and although it may be hard for STEM oriented people to work in Literature classes, it is also hard for Literature minded people to work well in STEM classes.

  3. Meagan Pittman says:

    A technical writing course would be beneficial to many students at MSMS, considering many students choose this school to better prepare for their future job, as well as college, an opportunity that many regular high schools don’t provide. However, I don’t believe that this course should count as a standard english credit, possibly counting as an elective. MSMS could focus a bit more on exposing students to various career fields, specifically the medical field. I know that many of my peers are interested in this field including myself, but besides preparation for college, I see little exposure to the actual field itself. As far as producing “more doctors than plumbers,” I firmly believe that each job is important and that schools should be focusing on providing a quality education that will equip all students for whatever career they choose to pursue.

  4. Brianna Ladnier says:

    Education is about moving forward the society. The more intelligent we are, the more we can accomplish as a “herd”. Although I am distinctly a math and science person, I still believe English is important. You expose yourself to progressive thinking, different opions and perspectives, critical thinking skills, and ways to keep yourself awake while reading less than riveting texts, which will be useful whenever adulting. I want to be a anesthesiologist. Nothing to do with English, right? But I have to read important legal documents. I have to read minutes from meetings about difficult cases. I have to be able to formulate important reports and sift through mountains of paperwork and decipher their meanings. English, Math, and Science are important skills that are applicable to almost any job, and they should be learned and taught.

  5. Landry Filce says:

    I believe the goal of education is to present students with an array of subjects- from American Poetry to Human Infectious Diseases- and let them decide what they wish to study more in depth. I think that every student should be educated on at least a surface level about subjects like math, science, English, and history, whether or not they plan to have a career in that. I think it is useful, if not necessary, to have well-rounded citizens. I believe that specialization is also necessary, of course, but I think that everyone could benefit from taking Calculus, along with University English.

  6. Vera L. Taire says:

    A technical education course may not be necessary, but incorporating a series of technical writing seminars into MSMS 101 would go a long way toward bridging the gap between our future careers and our curriculum. Many students bemoan 101, calling it ‘pointless’ or a ‘waste of time.’ This would be a great way to make it more useful.

    The goal of education is to challenge the mind. The goal of herd education is to bring the level of the masses closer to the level of the greats. It’s about becoming a well-rounded person, closer to a common level. However, the constant competition of herd education continues to raise the level of the masses.

    I would say we want a thoughtful workforce. We need plumbers, electricians, burger flippers, and janitors. But we as a modernized country want well-read and well-versed plumbers, electricians, burger flippers, and janitors. Doesn’t it make the country as a whole better if the lowest of the low have read Shakespeare? But why is Hamlet our measuring unit?

    Either way, we can’t afford what we want.

  7. Sara Kostmayer says:

    The majority of MSMS students will most likely end up pursuing STEM career fields, that is true. Many students could benefit largely from a technical writing based course; however, that does not mean that basic literature classes should be cut out of the required classes entirely. Students here at MSMS are pushed to become the best student they can be, and literature courses instill great reading comprehension skills which are necessary to function as a well informed person in the world of academia.

    The goal of education should be to prepare students best for the life they choose. There is a reason that concentrations are something that MSMS students may earn. In acknowledging the idea that students should be able to choose their lifestyle, they should also have access to tools which can prepare them for jobs of their choosing. Having the right kind of exposure to the life they have chosen to pursue should in turn prepare them to become part of a better workforce. Lastly, by exposing students to a wide variety of different occupations available, a more diverse and evenly distributed workforce would be created. The goal of education should not be based upon one set goal or live within strict boundaries. Students all have different aspirations and methods of learning, and the education system should be flexible enough to provide a track for all children which accomplishes all of these goals.

    With the idea of the current stagnant funding issue, it is clear that the state does not value education as much as it should. Because of this, many students are left alone and in the dark once they leave high school. This issue in and of itself has the effect of restricting the education of both regular public schools and specialized “magnet” schools such as MSMS or MSA. All in all, a flexible and smoothly integrated educational system in our lovely state is not something which will come easily or quite frankly at all with what funds we are provided now.

  8. Aurelia Caine says:

    I plan on thriving in a STEM related field myself. I think a technical writing course would be a great investment for the school. Lots of us would be able to benefit from it. We also would love to have a semester of literature knocked off in my opinion. The question of what is the goal of school simply depends on who you are asking. I think the goal is to build well-educated young adults so that they will be prepared to go into the real world. The goal is to challenge everyone to go beyond their comfort zones and reach another level.

  9. Amber Jackson says:

    I think the purpose of education is just to bring an awareness and understanding of the world around you. There are different ways to understand the world and different aspects to learn about it. I want to go into engineering and I feel like being well-versed in both (STEM and Humanities) is ideal. Math and Science are forms of art. Some of the important skills needed to succeed in a technical field, such as creativity and critical thinking, are skills also developed in the Humanities. People need to see the world from a logical, technical viewpoint, as well as from an emotional and spiritual viewpoint. Great discoveries have only been made in the world when we have been able to do both. Also, with the workforce, I feel like a balance is ideal (as much engineers as poets). Just because.

  10. AK Mynatt says:

    I honestly do not know what I want to major in at this point. A technical writing class would obviously help some, but there are still other students who will follow career pathways in the literary arts. For this reason, the course could be offered as an elective. Also, education is what develops a person’s human capital. Without high human capital, there is a high change of poverty in your life, and nobody wants to live a life of poverty.

  11. Kayla says:

    I think that the technical writing class would definitely help, but everyone would not feel as if they need it for their career choices; so this class should be offered as an elective. Education is for benefit of being informed and understanding the world you are surrounded by. Education can be a strong power for people who want to help others, or to do a certain something with their life.

  12. Kendall Wells says:

    A technical writing course would be very beneficial to students who currently struggle in their writing classes, but the process of learning to write comes with experience and critical thinking. Yes, some students thrive in STEM related courses while other do better in humanities, but improving as a student comes with writing a few bad essays and learning from it. If a technical writing course were to be added, it should definitely be an elective. Students should still be required to have two literature credits. If a student is thriving in Cal 1 but is struggling in UE I, that means that UEI is challenging them, therefore making them a better overall student. To grow as a student you should learn all the subjects you can, but major in the one you’re the best at and the one you enjoy the most. Not every job is in the STEM field, and many people change their major in college. With that said, literature courses are a very important part of the learning process for all students.

  13. Yousef Abu-Salah says:

    I believe that a technical writing class is a great idea. It would be both fun and informative, as well as being a great way to improve the writing of many students. By improving our writing, it would aid every aspect of both our high school career as well as the rest of our life. Some of the students at this school lack in the realm of both writing and the arts, and this would allow them to become more well-rounded. Being well-rounded is a necessity for good students, because it allows them to succeed no matter what academic obstacle appears. It also allows them to be better workers for the workforce, and this is always welcome.

  14. Emily King says:

    I understand why schools have so many requirements when it comes to what classes students have to take: it’s meant to expose students to many different subjects, and, in turn, help them discover what they’re interested in and enjoy (or at least that’s my optimistic interpretation, anyway). However, while this is good in theory, it also seems like this gets somewhat overdone and corrupted in practice. Say that, hypothetically speaking, students are told that they have to take Biology, so they sit in a classroom for an hour every day—and, instead of coming away with useful, interesting knowledge about things like how cellular processes in the body function and a greater understanding of the world around them, they learn that the “mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” and that they really hate Biology. Personally, this doesn’t exactly seem like an ideal system to me.

    Thus, to me, it’s always seemed like, once you get to high school, the number of required courses should drop off somewhat. MSMS, on the other hand, increases the number of required courses: students have to take a credit of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (specifically here, not just in general!), as well as a half-credit of Computer Science—and that’s on top of the normal English, History, foreign language, and art requirements. This place is full of a lot of opportunities, but I know a lot of people have to prioritize their mandatory courses over the ones that actually interest them. A senior-only (so that juniors wouldn’t choose it over other classes on principle if they’ve had bad experiences with English) technical writing course might provide a chance to, if not remove some of these requirements, then at least circumvent them somewhat. However, although I could be biased, I believe there wouldn’t be as much student interest as you think.

  15. Liam McDougal says:

    I feel as if a technical writing course could be beneficiary for students who have little experience in the very useful skill. Discounting Creative Writing, as far as I’m aware none of the English courses at MSMS touch up on grammar/writing ability, and it would be useful to have a class to assist those who need the assistance. Writing is a skill that we will need for life, and it is in our best interest to become skilled in it at a younger age, so we are put at an advantage when applying for things that require essays.

    The goal of education is to prepare students to shape the future, and prepare them for the types of jobs that will exist when they exit their education. This should not mean preparing them exactly for the jobs that exist today- about 65% of the jobs that will be held in the future don’t exist yet, just like how jobs such as IT management and professional gaming didn’t exist when my parents were in high school/college. Rather, education needs to provide students with both the basic skills necessary to function in whatever field they may go into, as well as the capability to learn for when the future inevitably rolls around. I believe because of this, more schools should be oriented towards teaching for those jobs- namely, STEM careers. This does not mean non-STEM classes should go away, it just isn’t what we’ll be seeing the most of in the future.

    Personally, like most MSMS students, I plan to go into a STEM career, probably majoring in either biomedical or aerospace engineering. I would like to make a career out of something along the lines of designing more efficient propulsion systems for spacecraft or more modular/adaptive prosthetic limbs for amputees.

  16. Samuel Patterson III says:

    A technical writing course would be great because superb writing skills are valued for any intricate profession, STEM fields included. The goal of proper PRIMARY education is to give students a chance to sample various subjects of study. As the student enters secondary education they should have a gauge of their interests and some basic tools to help ensure a smooth transition. The education system should help lead students depending on the interests of the student, but it should not usher students towards demanded fields.

  17. Mariat Thankachan says:

    It is true that many students at MSMS will go on to pursue majors in STEM fields; however, literature and other humanities is a necessary aspect of the education that prepares students for college and then life. It would be unfair for students to not receive lessons in literature because that would strip them of an opportunity to understand the importance of words. Unlike numbers or scientific theories, English teaches students how to express their true emotions poetically. I believe that a technical writing class would be very useful, but nothing beats the analysis of literature where unique interpretations of life can be made.
    Education’s purpose is not only to help create a more qualified workforce, but also to provide a variety options for students to learn about and choose their interests from. Not everyone has a passion for STEM fields, the world still needs poets, performers, and painters to make life colorful. Therefore, it is important for these students to receive options in literature lessons that will open their minds to new possibilities.

  18. P. Patel says:

    A school should not only focus on a certain subject area in their school but instead, try to make their student well rounded. It is necessary for a student to be well rounded because that student will be prepared for life. Also, no one is sure in what they want to do in life until they are in college, then why force them in high school to pick a career they are not even sure about. Also, even though some jobs, like a doctor, get paid than more than menial jobs, that does not reduce the importance of those menial jobs. The reason for that is because if there is something wrong with your pipes in your house a doctor is not going to help you, only a plumber can. For a balanced world, you need people that are willing to do both small and major jobs.

  19. Shuchi Patel says:

    I believe the proper goal of education is to enable students to be prepared for whatever they want to be, but it has to include all basic subjects. These basic subjects involve each other in one way or another. For example, lab reports require skills in language. It is also beneficial to not learn about just one field, because many students change the fields the want to go in.

  20. Sarah Swiderski says:

    First of all, I think a technical writing course is a great idea.

    The goal of education is to enrich the minds of the future, and thus the future itself. Areas with higher test scores are shown to have a multitude of benefits.
    As for the United States, our test scores are mediocre at best.
    I believe the target for education reform should be improving mathematical reasoning. Mathematics is so incredibly fundamental, especially concepts like logic and spacial reasoning. The areas that seem to implement this criteria are gifted programs, where students are actually able to play games dealing with these concepts.
    Instead, math classes in the U.S. typically function through on textbook learning, which often incites a dislike for the subject. (I can’t blame most of them, this makes math incredibly boring.)
    A strong mathematical foundation is beneficial in making connections and finding patterns, increasing performance in standardized testing and often in other academic areas.

    Editing out approach to math shouldn’t be too incredibly costly.
    It’s actually getting off our butts and doing it.

  21. Darby Meadows says:

    The goal of education is to inform people of the world around them and how it is changing. Students who are more math-minded should not be forced to take extra literature courses, but instead take the STEM courses that they want. The same goes for students who like English more; they should take the literature classes that they want to and only have to take the required STEM courses that they need to graduate. That’s what is so great about MSMS. Students have the option to emphasize the subjects that they’re interested in.

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