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Driving Right into the Traffic Jam

Driving Right into the Traffic Jam

By James H. Choi
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Today’s Chicago Tribune has an article about New Trier (a high school in Chicago’s affluent North Suburb) students forgoing lunch to take more courses.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-new-trier-lunch-20111001,0,36863.story

The students’ and parents’ decision to forgo lunch has pros and cons, and I find myself ambivalent.  Pros: inches of progress in heavy traffic brings more progress  than not moving at all.  Cons: Slow motion under starvation is better than peace in full stomach?  The judgement should be left to each one’s value/goal.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6378458/Column/Info/English/SpecialEvents.gifBut I have a different question “Why did they wait all this time?”

As someone who teaches students to aim/achieve ever higher goals, I am all for the drives and ambitions of these students.  I am only questioning the distribution, or planning, as in, “Yes it is healthy to exercise, but not once a year for one week straight.”

That extra for-credit class that is pushing out the lunch hour could have been taken in previous years.  If not that class, then some other classes.  Of course, there are prerequisites and dependencies in all these courses.  But if students start planning early in their 5th or 6th grade, and map out the course load all the way to their high school years, then they can accomplish far more under less stress.

Different students are apt at different fields, and different students intellectually mature at different time frames.  My contention is that students should not passively let themselves to be carried by the system because that’s how they end up in a lunch-less crunch which–although is not the aim– is the result of the mass education system.

I bet that a great majority of these stressed students have the AP Calculus or AP Physics in the schedule now.  What if those were already done?  What if SAT Physics or SAT 2 Math were already taken care of as well?

Take the subject with the longest prerequisite/dependencies: Mathematics.  In order to take AP Calculus (a must in not only applying to but also to survive at top universities) students must take arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry/precalculus first.  Thus, planning to take the AP Calculus at a specific time is an exercise in long range planning of 6 years that reaches all the way back to elementary school.

This kind of long-term planning may sound ridiculous.  But then so is skipping lunch to take one more course.  If you have to be ridiculous anyway, then choose to eat.


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