At Central High School, the emphasis and rigor of the math and science courses is apparent. While the students identify the programs to be strong and the teachers view them as important, the question that comes up is, what about the students who prefer the humanities?
There is quantitative evidence of this discrepancy, such as the amount of awards given on honors day to math or science students versus awards in subjects of the humanities, or the higher amount of AP or Honors math or science electives versus the regularly weighted humanities electives.
The teachers within the math or science category of classes recognize the rigor their classes have, though, as teacher Lindsay Polarek and Darren Plattner identify the benefits of their courses are not only for possible careers or for those interested in their classes.
Polarek, a math teacher at Central explains what she sees to be important in her classes is “…[H]ow you think and how you approach problems, more for the problem solving and the logic aspect ’cause that’s what’s gonna follow through in other courses.”
Plattner, one of the schools two physics teacher believes “…[I]t’s really important that students have an understanding of why the world works the way that it does, which is what physics tries to explain.”
And the students recognize the strength and lessons from the programs as well, student Leah Fields explains her take away from these classes is that “It teaches you a lot about how to interact with others and problem solve in a way that is positive and productive.”
Student Leah Courtney identifies the strength of the program, and why she believes these programs are emphasized.
“Central is very fortunate with the teachers that they have leading the AP science classes, so I think that is a reason that they sometimes get more attention.” Courtney says.
While the the strength of these math and science programs at Central are things to be proud of, the lights shine so brightly on them that they have shoved the humanities into darkness.
Many students feel a push toward math and science courses, such as April Goana and Leah Fields.
“I think central puts a lot of emphasis on math and science, they really want you to take a math or science even if you personally don’t want to.” senior April Goana remarks.
“The counselors strongly encourage the kids to continue those courses and it doesn’t always feel like a choice.” Fields says.
When student Leah Fields was asked to reflect on her class schedule, her response was:
“I was listing off my schedule and realized that I have more english/language based classes than science and math which was genuinely shocking because I have to spend so much more time on the science and math classes that I thought that I had more of them.”
This appears to be a common thread amongst students.
“When it comes to school I will say I tend to put more effort into my math and science classes.” Senior Alexis Aragon reflects.
“I tend to put more effort into math and science classes just because I feel like most often they are harder. At least in freshman-junior years I felt like I could get A’s in my humanities classes without putting in the same 110% effort I put into math and science classes.” senior Jade O’Connor says.
Leah Fields reflects on why she thinks this is:
“The ultimate goal of high school is to get the best grades possible and since the math and science classes move at a faster pace with a lot more homework, more effort is put into those classes to try and get good grades.”
Lindsay Polarek identifies the difference she sees in these classes.
“I think it’s easier to see the rigor being like similar in math and science because of the type… I mean, I think the rigor is there but it’s harder to measure and its harder to tell like how hard it is.”
What Polarek hits on is a notion many students see. It is easier to see one’s intelligence measured through the test scores, and therefore, math and science begin to hold a higher value and rank of intelligence within the student body.
So why is it a big deal? Why does it matter if math and science outshine the humanities? It isn’t like Central doesn’t offer humanities courses?
“It makes it a lot harder for them to focus on what they really want to be doing, it’s hard to make something that you’re truly creatively proud of when you have to spend so much time focused on something else to have your grades reflect your hard work. It would also be very stressful and discouraging to prefer humanities classes when it’s necessary to focus on the math and science classes.” Fields says.
If it is important for every student to take math and science courses, it is important that every student take humanities courses.
“Humanities courses have a lot more room for creativity and expressing yourself. They allow for kids to share their opinions and stories which lets them get to know each other better.” says Fields.
Humanities are important, too. They are just as important to building skills of human interaction and the importance of understanding oneself and others. So let me ask, why does one appear more valuable than the other?