By Grace (a sophomore at Patterson Mill High School in Bel Air).
A new class is being offered to, or should I say imposed on, 9th grade students in Harford County Public Schools. Living in a Contemporary World (LICW) is meant to ease the transition from middle to high school as well as prepare students for adult life. One would think that the latter would be a more appropriate topic for a class taken senior year as 12th graders are closer to entering the adult world. One would be right. However, the two subjects have been smashed together to create one utterly useless class.
I am entering 10th grade at Patterson Mill High School, meaning I was in LICW class last year. I had heard from some of the older students that LICW was easy but boring. Having had my fair share of “easy but boring” classes, I knew what to expect. However, the class was worse than I could have imagined, much worse.
The year began with the usual introduction to the class including course outlines and classroom rules. About a week after I had been forced to find all my classes on my own, we went on a tour of the school. This was fun in that we didn’t have to sit in class, but it was otherwise unhelpful. Next on the list was the speech about how high school means accountability, responsibility and pretty much everything else we had already heard from our other teachers. I was beginning to realize just how much time I was wasting – 85 minutes. My peers seemed to agree as they began to slack off and lose respect for our teacher who struggled to make a coherent class out of the curriculum. Occasionally, we were asked to analyze current events or draw political cartoons but these meaningful activities were so few and far between that it was hard to see the value of the class. About halfway through the year we took a test that was mandated by the school system for this class. It seemed to assess our common sense as well as knowledge of economic terms we had already learned in government class either that year or in middle school. Ranging from insultingly easy to completely irrelevant, the test was a good reflection of the course in general. Our introduction to high school had ended (roughly halfway through the year) and we began to learn about personal finances. I’m not sure about my peers, but I do not plan to buy a house or invest in the stock market anytime soon. Aside from basic information, going into depth about these subjects seemed pointless considering I am fourteen years old. Let me repeat that so everyone knows, I am fourteen years old and I do not need to learn information now that I won’t use for another 7 years.
This brings me to the career unit. For a few months, we spent our time researching careers that interest us. There is nothing wrong with exploring, but we then had to choose one career. Our guidance counselors spoke to us about career clusters and gave us packets of information. Remember the whole “I’m fourteen thing”? Well I have no idea what I want to do with my future and I do not want to be forced into a group of classes based on what I want to do at this moment. It’s good to plan ahead but I don’t even need to choose a topic to study for at least 5 years. 5 years ago, I was nine years-old. At age nine my greatest aspiration was to become a famous movie star and 5 years before that, professional princess. I’d like the creators of LICW and the career pathways program to think about what they wanted to do when they were fourteen. Torturing adolescents probably wasn’t high up on their list. This is proof that interests change over time.
I do not mean to be cruel in my assessment of the class, it is a good idea, in theory. With more planning and consideration, a class based on planning your future and living in the real world would be a great elective for older students. Unfortunately, this class which is meant to help freshman do well in high school is giving them a bad taste for the idea. I would never wish that class on anyone and I hope no one has to endure it in the future. The only thing I took away from LICW is that I now know what it feels like to be in a boredom-induced coma.