I originally posted this just to del.icio.us, but the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. There’s apparently a movement to have high school students “major” in something as they progress towards college.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
I attended a magnet high school for science and mathematics. So did many of my friends: Jonathan, Rick, and Jess went to MSMS with me, Kat went to ASMS, and Brian went to NCSSM [which I didn’t know until a few weeks ago]. I think that most of our friends very definitely could have gone to those schools if those opportunities had been available for them when they were ready for them. All of us lived away from home for two years in a magnet environment, but I bet that we’d all feel the same about this: specialization at that age is a bad, bad idea.
When I look at my curriculum, I made a bet going in that I would be an engineering major in college, so I was very, very heavy on physics and mathematics, taking every course offered by the school in both curricula. I discounted everything else that I could to focus as much as I could, forsaking AP courses in the humanities that I really wish that I’d taken because they would have interested and challenged me. [Some of my peers did take those courses, but they weren’t able to take all the physics courses I did or able to do research at Mississippi State as I did.] At this point, you’re thinking, “What’s your point, Morris? You have an aerospace engineering degree and work in aerospace. You’re the prime candidate for this idea.”
Well, that ignores the fact that, for a period of time between 18 and 23, I felt like I’d been called into ordained ministry. [I now think that I was wrong, but man, the guilt messed me up for years.] I thought that all I’d done was very wrong for myself. I had a time of crisis, and I was ready to change. But because I had built up this massive momentum—insert your favorite fat joke here ;)—I was never able to break out of it. Granted, I am totally happy with things now, but what if I’d gotten into my field and hated it? All that work would be for naught, and at 22, I would have been starting over in school. Sure, that wouldn’t have fazed me much, but what about the very kinds of at-risk kids that the program in Jersey is trying to reach? Those kids don’t have the resources to change horses mid-stream.
High school kids are not equipped to choose a career as they enter those hallowed halls.