Opinion: For good education reform, listen to teachers

RAFI NAZAM

Education: Frequently seen as a human right by many, often used as a political battleground to wield ideology by others. Of course, on a local scale, such statements do not always wholly apply, but the flaws that exist in education today are not exempt from Guilderland. These flaws have been magnifying since education was something controlled by the government, and today they are at their peak. But there is never always agreement on what exactly these flaws are, or their central causes. Many blame the lack of funding, or Governor Cuomo, or the Department of Education, or the wealth gap, or many other things. But who’s saying this? These opinions we consume and receive come from such places as news articles found on the internet, they don’t always tell the whole story. It’s snapshot coverage of pinpoint issues, focusing on one thing at a time so as not to confuse us. I didn’t like that. So I decided wanted to go and find out everything myself.

I wanted to know more about this struggle taking place in education, approaching it from different angles. A problem is rarely as simple as being caused by singular sources. It isn’t just poverty, it isn’t just the State, it isn’t just Governor Cuomo, it isn’t just teachers, it isn’t just any one thing. It’s all of those coexisting within the same country, within the same world, affecting each other and all having a collective impact on how children are educated. To deny that would be to deny the complexity of the world we’ve created for ourselves. The first angle that I approached this topic from was through the internet, watching videos and reading articles on the topic of flaws that exist in the current education system. I came across many on the topic made by Salman Khan, the founder of KhanAcademy, a site that contains video-lectures dedicated to making learning easier. Sal had a great many things to say on the topic, presenting generally the same points wherever he spoke, whether it was at his TED talk or speaking with Charlie Rose, all centering around fixing education. He described his points in detail, bringing up how education today uses a one-size-fits-all model, not caring about individual progress. And in saying all of this, I wondered just how much better education would be if we considered these ideas. And I wondered why we weren’t considering these ideas. More and more videos were watched, more and more articles were read. I eventually reached the conclusion that the State itself was what was stopping us. But how, exactly, did they remove such possibility? Just how tight was their grip on us?

And so, I went to the teachers. They who receive instruction from the state, then pass it to us. I knew they’d have information and opinions related to this matter. Videos and articles wouldn’t be enough. I interviewed a large number of teachers, asking them a set of questions that would get them to tell me something about how the state affected their jobs. The first thing that I had asked them about was standardized testing. Though most saw the needs for having standards to hold students and teachers accountable towards, they believed that the way in which the state used them was misguided and unfair, currently only used due to how efficient current methods of testing are.

Initially, I questioned them about the control the state has over their curriculum. Most if not all told me that the state gives them a certain list of topics/areas that are required to be covered during the year, guidelines to keep them from straying. However, the state has no say in how these topics are taught, leaving that up to the teachers. That part, to me, was pleasantly surprising, as I had (jokingly) expected a much more grim answer.

Next I asked them about budgets and funding. Many complained about how funding was tight, cutting down on the number of teachers in each department, increasing class sizes. This example was made evident to me by numerous teachers in many of my classes. It was very clear that teachers had a more difficult time managing classes and meeting with students due to the sheer numbers of children each one had to teach. Something a teacher had said last year really strikes me today, now that I look back at it; “I don’t have time, I’ve got 120 students.” More and more is expected of both students and teachers all at the same time degrading the environments we’re told to succeed in.

When approached about the subject of how teachers are currently evaluated, almost all of them told me about APPR. It’s a system of evaluating teachers based on observations(which were already in place) and statewide testing grades. 60% is based on observation and 40% based on exam scores such as the regents. Previously, evaluations were based purely on observation, not factoring in any test scores. While it was generally agreed upon that test scores were a useful metric of measuring student progress, the catch here was that each staff member would be judged on these scores. A teacher in the Math department may receive a lower overall score due to lesser average regents scores in science. This type of system holds each teacher accountable for areas they do not have control over, instead of looking at them individually for their strengths and weaknesses. Another flaw in the new system is the use of outside observers. Previously, all observations on teachers were done by the staff that worked here, but the new system plans to use people from outside the district to eliminate any possible bias. While the idea here doesn’t seem ill-intentioned, the problem is that the state, like with many issues, is not clear on how exactly this is going to be implemented. Always giving initiatives to follow but never telling people how to follow through.

The grand takeaway is that in this new era of government overreach, more and more control is being placed on our schools in an effort to catch up with the rest of the world. I do not absolve any blame from teachers themselves, nor ourselves, nor the state. It is through our complacency that we allowed this happen, and it is through the state that the bureaucracy enacts these measures.   We are sacrificing our own autonomy so that we might receive guidance, but in the end it constrains us, taking too much and giving us too little. I can only hope that we as students, we as people, can try to change education for the better, abandoning old dogma in place of free-thinking.

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Opinions: High schools must do more to prepare students for the SAT

ANGELO AMORE

The SAT is a notorious test that millions of high school students across the country unwillingly take each year. It is a test that proves what students learn in high school. It is a test that colleges view as almost an ultimate measure of intelligence. It is a test that directly compares me to the next student. It is a test that public high schools across the country refuse to teach. Why wouldn’t high schools offer students a class on the SAT, a test that matters so much on an application? High schools offer everything but SAT prep. A public high school like Guilderland provides students with the opportunity to perform and excel in all academic and non-academic criteria that colleges look for in applications. The lack of test preparation in schools burdens busy students by forcing them to independently study. Preparation for such an immensely important test should be offered by high schools.

Guilderland High School offers everything to its students but SAT prep–AP classes, clubs, sports, teacher recommendations. Everything but SAT prep. Here at Guilderland, students participate in clubs ranging from French to Harry Potter, take AP classes ranging from European History to Calculus, and play sports ranging from golf to basketball. All of this reflects the way high school is designed to prepare us for college. Since all these characteristics do indeed matter when applying to college, it’s wrong for a high school to not offer SAT prep–an equally important aspect on applications. By not offering any prep, it almost seems that high schools don’t care how students perform, that they seemingly don’t care about the future of their students. It is incredibly wrong that we are prepared in every aspect of high school, but are neglected an increasingly important part of college applications.

By not offering SAT prep in school, students have no choice but to prepare independently while admirably attempting to balance a full schedule. By studying outside of school we have less time for extracurriculars, jobs, and other outside activities that would admissions officers would deem impressive. In order to excel on the SAT, we remove ourselves from these outside activities and events in our lives that also matter. We remove ourselves from sports practice, club fundraisers, even family gatherings. All of this sacrifice, just to prepare enough for the SAT so we won’t have to take it–and prepare for it–a second time. This is not the responsibility of us students, but of the high school. High schools act as hypocrites by not offering SAT prep because it does not align with what high schools should offer its students. If a high school sets a standard to prepare students for college–offering aforementioned AP classes and extracurriculars–then not preparing us for the SAT is an absolute disgrace. They are ignorantly disregarding the fact that the SAT is a tremendously important test that we take for college.

The SAT is a brutal four hour exam that is viewed as a punishing and insuperable obstacle for students with aspirations of attending a competitive university. The SAT forces us to physically remove ourselves from outside activities we’d far rather do. The SAT forces us to study for long nights and endless days just to get a score back we won’t be satisfied with. The SAT forces stress upon sufficiently busy lives. Why do high schools refuse to help stop this harassment of students? Any other form of harassment would be stomped on and crushed in a heartbeat. Yet when it comes to a test that high schools could readily prepare students for, there is no assistance against, no prevention of, and no protection from this harassment. Without proper guidance, students are left to deal with an enormous task alone, leading to unconditional sacrifice, unfair work, and unwarranted stress.

The fact that high schools do absolutely nothing to help their students for this exam is utterly shameful. A school could offer a half-year SAT course that prepares students for the test either midway or at the end of the year. The prep could help develop strategies, understand the test in-depth, and learn the types of questions, eventually culminating in a much higher score. It is indisputable that high schools are wrong in not preparing students for the SAT despite possessing the power to do so.

The injustice of affirmative action in college admissions

ELANA DESANTIS

For many students here at Guilderland, race isn’t something that we spend a lot of time thinking about. While GHS is a place filled with all kinds of diverse interests, it is not a place filled with all kinds of diverse people: we are an overwhelmingly white school. There is a limited amount of individuals able to see race through the often sharper lens of minority. I am guilty of it too – as a white American I easily forget the privileges I garner simply because of that fact. Recently, however, as the college admissions wave crashes in once again, the sometimes-difficult contemplation about who we are, where we come from, and how that affects us peeks its head above the surface.

“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.” President Lyndon Johnson said this in 1965, as he so eloquently described the rationale for the continued, then contemporary, use of affirmative action in the United States. Affirmative Action programs are meant to help bolster opportunities for minority groups who have been subject to both the visible and invisible barriers of discrimination. They are an attempt at leveling the playing field so all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, are able to have their slice of the American Dream. I’ll give you the logic: Two hundred fifty years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of “separate but equal,” and the continual, omnipotent gray cloud of discrimination under the police and justice system. And this idea of marginalization isn’t unique to African Americans – as the U.S. population swelled to become the melting pot it is now, nearly every ethnic minority group – Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans – has been subjected to some form of discrimination under the law. Affirmative Action programs began just after the Civil War and continue today, through employment and recruiting procedures, as well as how it pertains to many Guilderland students – college admissions. And while it should be clear at this point that I believe sturdily in the principles that Affirmative Action are built upon, I have recently begun to ask the question that unbearably arises each year around this time: Is Affirmative Action in college admissions truly fair?

Before I begin making any kind of case, I feel it behooves me as a senior and as the author of this article to briefly explain my own college process.  I applied to school Early Decision and by incredible luck and potential divine intervention, I was one of the lucky few who knew where they were going by mid-December of this past year. I’m saying this not to toot my own horn, but rather to explain that this article isn’t some angry retaliation at a hoard of rejection letters. I also think it behooves me to mention this: Personally, I don’t know if I think Affirmative Action in colleges should change drastically, it’s an idea that I struggle with. But I do know that there is an argument to amending the system, and it’s one that I believe is important to make.

It is fairly well known that college admissions is not a perfect science – not even close, especially when it comes to elite universities. Acceptance to top-tier schools, even by the most qualified of qualified students is never close to a guarantee. Perfect grades, amazing standardized test scores, a host of extracurricular activities, and great essays have now become the norm among applications to say, an Ivy League institution. The admissions standards are so high that simply meeting them means relatively little. These standards, however, aren’t consistent from applicant to applicant. Students that fall under the category of “underrepresented minority” or URM (typically black, Hispanic, or Native American), are often subject to a relative detente by admissions officers regarding the level at which their applications are scrutinized. I’m not claiming that URM students who are accepted to prestigious universities aren’t deserving of it, and that they aren’t incredibly bright, driven people, because in order to get into a top school you must be. However, what I am saying is that many, many rejected applicants are as well. More specifically, Asian-American applicants.

I wrote earlier that the basis of Affirmative Action was to help level the playing field, and on its surface, easing the acceptance standards for URMs does that. It uses the idea that these students have been given less opportunity, and inherently don’t have the same platform that say, white people have, to achieve high academic success. I’ll get back to this point, but for now I will say yes, that is true. Being white in America has a lot of advantages that other minorities don’t receive. So while Affirmative Action has an arguably reasonable basis behind changing admissions standards for URMs, it’s harder to account for the raised admissions standards that Asian-American individuals fall victim to. In 2009, in their book “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal,” Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford, studied applicants from 1997 and found that whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than fifteen times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian-Americans. And this was data from now nearly twenty years ago. Okay, there are inherent disadvantages that black people face in America, however, I believe firmly that there aren’t inherent advantages to being an Asian person, especially not in comparison to white Americans.

The reason for this disparity in standards is the case of diversity – we need it in colleges. Diversity is a good thing in a learning environment. It helps give a wide range of perspectives. It benefits both minorities who are able to have people that they can relate to ethnically, and for whites who can understand the world better through their classmates. Schools aim to create a student population reflective of the population as a whole.  If colleges ignored race in their admissions process, we wouldn’t get the same cross-section of humanity that campuses would like to reflect. Take UC Berkeley, arguably the most prestigious school in the UC system, a system that in 1997, began a race-blind admissions process. In 2014, Asian Americans were the largest demographic to be admitted, making up 42.8 percent of admissions offers, followed by whites with 28.4 percent. While California does have a high Asian-American population, they are not the majority ethnic group, not even close.

So, a race-blind admissions process does create some diversity issues, I can agree with that. However, something feels inherently wrong about essentially punishing a demographic for having high levels of achievement. In many Asian-American households, education is an important value, which is why we see such staggering levels of incredibly successful Asian students. The thing here to note is this, though, successful students in general tend to come from families where education is a stressed ideal. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic – if your parents expect you to take school seriously, you likely will. Asian-Americans aren’t successful because they are Asian, they are successful because they come from an environment where they are expected to be, just like the vast majority of every other top student from every race. If colleges raised their admissions standards off of which students were read to when they were little, encouraged to take enrichment opportunities or watch educational television, I imagine that their acceptances would change. This noted disparity in Asian-American academic success and everyone else has little do with race and more to do with values, values that are more prominent in Asian communities but likely the most prominent on the campuses of elite universities, where the majority of students benefited from the very same things that Asians are being penalized for.

This idea that academic success is derived not from your race, but rather from your household, is the driving force for much of the backlash against Affirmative Action. This logic is also pretty simple: You have a black student and a white student, both with two parents who are college educated attending the same high school and falling in the same socioeconomic bracket. It is challenging to find any disparity in opportunity for academic success between these two students. They both come from households where education is important, they have the same chance to take challenging classes, join clubs and sports, and neither has to worry about family economics more than the other. However, when it comes to applying to colleges, the black student has an advantage because they are black. I am someone who hates the absurd claims of so-called “reverse racism,” or the idea that any of this somehow makes up for the atrocities that African-Americans have been subject to in our history as a country and still today. I’m not complaining about my whiteness, I’m just stating the fact that this is true.

I’m not saying that Affirmative Action needs to go completely. It does a good job helping bring up minority groups that haven’t been given a fair hand, but it also tips the scales against Asian-Americans, and at times, poorer white people. The most readily available amendments to this entire system stabs at the demographic that we haven’t talked about yet: the poor. People from challenging economic backgrounds are at the most disadvantageous position when it comes to academic opportunity. Beyond just the stressors and struggles of daily life around or below the poverty line, students from low-income areas often attend worse public schools, and are less likely to have parents who graduated college. Here is the important thing though: the URMs I was talking about earlier all have significantly higher poverty rates than white people. If Affirmative Action focused more on class and family background, and less on race itself, theoretically, diversity should occur in an organic way.

I know that this isn’t a perfect solution. I know that discrimination isn’t black and white (no pun intended), but rather a dynamic mosaic of little things, of micro-aggressions, of deeply rooted and unrecognized stigmas we find within ourselves. I know that in the search for equality, we have so, so far to go as a country. But I also know this: I have spent hours at night doing APUSH, gnawing through calculus, stressing over English papers. I have seen my friends do the same, friends who are white and friends who are black, friends who are Hispanic and friends who are Asian. While our struggles are often unique, we are bound by our work ethic and love of learning, our late nights and our long readings. So when college admissions comes down to the nitty-gritty, when rejections make us question our efforts or hurt for our friends, white, Asian or anything else, it is known: we could not have done this any way but together.

Attack in Kenya overlooked in America

MIKE ZHU

Not everyday do we see nearly 150 university students killed in a mass shooting. But could it be that we don’t hear about it at all?

On April 2, the Islamist militant group al-Shaabab claimed responsibility for the massacre at Garissa University in Kenya earlier that day. After entering the campus grounds and shooting the guards, the four militants began firing in the library and classrooms, killing 148 students and wounding another 80. Though the militants claimed to have released Muslims and killed only Christians, the attack was seemingly random and targeted all groups, especially women.

Al-Shaabab was also the perpetrator behind the Westgate shopping mall attack in September 2013, which killed nearly 70 and wounded 175. A jihadist terrorist group with around 8,000 members, al-Shaabab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012 and continuously launches attacks in Kenya. Hardly a week earlier, al-Shaabab attacked Hotel Maka Al Mukaram in Mogadishu, killing 20 and wounding another 30.

In fact, al-Shaabab conducts so many attacks in Kenya—whether it be skirmishes with local military forces or large civilian massacres—that each specific one does nothing but paint a larger picture. In fact, they lose individual significance. Could that be why we students hardly hear about, or even care about, events of such stupendous magnitude?

Al-Shaabab’s attacks are not about demonstrating international power. They don’t have international consequence, and matter even less perhaps for countries like the U.S. What they do show is their ability to frustrate the Kenyan government in an everyday setting, such as schools or malls. Not only are they more vulnerable; attacking a glamorous mall or newly constructed school is more symbolic than functional. Perhaps that’s why fundamentalist groups such as al-Shaabab continue to survive and thrive: their threat is local, and their opposition is weak.

And maybe that shows something about American foreign policy towards radical Islamic groups in the Middle East and Africa: the drone strike and the bolstering of a naturally weak leadership is not the right way to confront fundamentalism. Instead, the U.S. should focus their help on the local level, because Kenya’s problems are local.

Building a capable nation requires time, so that local political and economic divisions can be solved. This means building a capable economy in both Kenya and Somalia, where al- Shaabab is based. Ending this economic misery eliminates the perfect environment for such radical terrorist groups. But there is a larger problem than al-Shaabab for the U.S., and that’s the absence of attention towards events like the university shooting. The Garissa University massacre did not spawn the massive social media outburst like #freeourgirls or #JeSuisCharlie.

Stéphane Charbonnier and four other cartoonists were killed for publishing what they believed in, and their names will be remembered as symbols of free speech. But those 150 students were killed for learning, for trying to better their futures and worshiping different Gods. Will the deaths of these students have the same symbolic meaning than the attack on Charlie Hebdo?

Most likely not, and it spawns the crucial question: why not? What makes the attack on Charlie Hebdo so much more striking and important than the shooting at Garissa University?

The first consideration is location. Is it possible that Charlie Hebdo received more attention simply because it occurred in Paris? Perhaps, but then we remember that #freeourgirls began because of the kidnapping of 200 female students in Nigeria. Could it be the perpetrators of the killings? It’s unlikely. Radical Muslims carried out the assassinations of Charlie Hebdo columnists. Islamic fundamentalists also carried out the abduction of the Nigerian girls.

What about the ideals that the killings symbolized? The assassinations of Charlie Hebdo journalists reinvigorated support for free speech, while the abduction in Nigeria demonstrated the universal right to an education. But the same goes for the attack at Garissa University. So where is the discrepancy?

A final consideration is that the attack in Kenya was a more local problem than the attack in Paris or the kidnappings in Nigeria. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was conducted by French Muslims because for many years the newspaper’s satirists had been slamming and mocking Muhammad and Islam under the protection of free speech. In Nigeria, the 200 schoolgirls were abducted because the Islamist group Boko Haram, who carried out the kidnappings, disliked the new style of Western education that was “corrupting” Africa and wanted a return to traditional Islamic education. In contrast, however, the recent massacre in Kenya was merely one piece of a thread of constant attacks carried out by a dangerous but overall typical fundamentalist group. The attack in Kenya had little to no international implications—and though one could argue that the other two events did not either, the attack on Kenya was motivated almost solely by local reasons. Undermining a nation’s local security is not symbolically the same as assassinating members of a famous satirical newspaper or kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls.

Ultimately, that’s the danger we face: ignorance to the real problems. We can continue to fight a war against a danger we cannot see—radicalism and fundamentalism in a religion that’s becoming widely scrutinized—but we will not be able to restore peace if we continue to turn blind eyes towards an actual problem. Radical Islamic terrorist groups are continuing to pose real threats in Africa, the Middle East, and increasingly in the West and in Europe. But that problem lies in Kenya, and other African countries where attacks and conflicts are daily occurrences, not in Paris or Washington, where threats are only that and one attack grabs historic attention.

All of these events are horrific. Assassinations of Parisian journalists threaten American newspapers and massacres in Kenya frighten students at home. But to address the long-term problem, we need to consider the problem in Kenya as well as Paris, and we need to force ourselves to look at the problem we face, because every one of the terrifying events should deserve our attention.

Focus on STEAM, not STEM

Chant it with me! S! T! E! M! What does that spell? STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

Well, at least it feels as though everyone is cheering for STEM these days, and booing for the liberal arts.

And who can blame them? The one place the United States has not been able to dominate is in education, specifically math and science. In order to maintain our power status, the country must improve in its ability to produce intellectuals on par with those of our competitors.

But are we constantly pushing STEM too often? By pressuring kids into STEM careers are we neglecting those students who would thrive in a liberal arts environment?

Science and Math department head Mr. Piscitelli would argue no. Although he thinks there are winds blowing in our country pushing our sails towards STEM for competitive reasons, the main reason why there is a push for stem is the “swell of the industries in the area and probably the opportunities that they’re seeing.” World renowned programs and institutions like SUNY Polytechnic in Albany and GlobalFoundaries in Malta are only steps away, which, according to Piscitelli, “makes more opportunities available in STEM careers to the graduating classes and that’s why it seems like we are pushing for STEM more these days.”

This isn’t only happening here though. Nationwide, the careers in STEM fields are growing in number while, and Piscitelli points out, other fields like journalism may have more people going into a field with a smaller number of opportunities available. Although there’s a lot of rhetoric out there about STEM recently, he isn’t wrong – there are more opportunities for these fields. New York State even just introduced a large scholarship for those pursuing STEM careers in NYS SUNY schools.

But as high schools students we are presented with a brightly packaged dilemma. Do we follow the trail of opportunity? Or do we construct a path for a career we love? And if those two paths happen to meet, great, but for those of us who would like to pursue a more liberal career path words and phrases like job security, income, and “liberal arts won’t get you a job,” start to poke at us. We’re pressured by our parents, teachers, the media and other sources to go the more secure route: going for the higher paying STEM  job. It’s the battle between of happiness and success (however one defines it.) No one wants to be a failure, but no one wants to be unhappy.

Picking a major, and then a career is the hardest choice we have to make as young adults. And as Alicia Chen, a GHS Senior, points out, it will be difficult sometimes to always do what we love. “Way back when the people who made money off of art were friends with the king, like Mozart and Beethoven. Van Gogh never made any money.” It has always been hard to make a living off of more artsy activities because it’s so hard to place a price on books and paintings.

Science and engineering, on the other hand, are number-based fields. It’s easier to put a price on chemicals or machines. Chen elaborates that “money, and consumerism, are all based on numbers, so if you’re working with numbers that’s more easily translatable to money in the long run.”

But just because it’s harder doesn’t mean we should give up on our dreams. Chen thinks that as long as you’re not trying to “take the easy way out,” by avoiding the “more difficult” science majors then students should follow their hearts. “If you really like English or history, or whatever obscure thing, like philosophy or slavic languages, then you should go for it,” she says.  Nick VonDollen, a Senior at GHS, agrees. In the end, he says, happiness will always beat a fatter paycheck. “A salary is something that we use to live off of, but the things we do in our lives that give them true value are the things that we know we love to do deep down. I wouldn’t bother working a ‘better job’ for a better salary if I were waking up dreading work for the next 65 years.”

Possibly there’s an even simpler solution, a compromise. If one loves both art and science, or one loves art and is concerned about scary things like job security, then why not do both? In fact, a new and improved term has begun to circulate in the education community: STEAM. With the inclusions of the arts in this new term, artistic pursuits and STEM paths are combined. Art Teacher Ms.Best agrees is the best possible solution, because you have to be creative even in a STEM career.  “I don’t think you can have good science or math without creativity,” Best explains. “Art is like science sometimes because you have to experiment and try new things, or else you’re not going to survive, you’re not going to float. Science is like art because you have to be rigid in some ways, but if you’re not creative you’re not going to progress, you’re just going to do the same experiment you’ve always done.”

Mr.Bender, a science teacher, agrees that STEAM is the better way to go. “ I don’t think you can’t do art if you’re doing STEM – you should do art and STEM. Some very creative people who are in engineering need a way to spatially relate what they’re building, and that’s art. That’s good. Music,too, is another language. They’re all good.” He believes the focus on STEM in recent years is because of the need for people in those careers, especially women and minorities, but he doesn’t think we should as he says, “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” as there are good parts to a liberal education. For example, he says, “Reading Cicero tells you the same problems we have today that they had back then.”

If our country wants to become the true leader in education, we need to stop focusing on STEM and focus more on STEAM. We need to stop discounting the liberal arts and start appreciating that there is value in all types of education. In fact, it seems best if we act studiously in both fields if we wish to truly succeed in life. Guidance Counselor Mrs.Sheehan makes the important notice about how often different subject areas can be combined in careers, “There are a lot of ways to combine art, and math and science and tech, which I don’t think a lot of kids know they can combine.”

The bottom line is that our future is in our hands. We need to decide what will make us happy, whether it be STEM, STEAM, or liberal arts, and not what will make us a lot of money, or what society is pressuring us to do. Sheehan puts it best when she says “I think you have to follow what your heart is saying. Do what you’re passionate about.”

Don’t blame the teachers

“My teacher sucks.” Some students spew out this complaint on a daily basis, but we seem to use it as a simple scapegoat for our problems. We blame our “bad” teachers for heavy homework loads, tight project deadlines, poor test grades, and boring classes. We complain about these teachers so often that the complaints have become simple passive utterances and have lost all meaning. We hardly ever stop to think about why there might be teachers out there who are ill-fitted to do their job. We just whine about it, and we sometimes blame the education system as a whole, which we have been told all our school-age lives is going to the dogs. And if adults and people of authority, especially, tell us this, then it must be true. Right?

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