There is an epidemic in North America, the mentality that our students are to ‘keep their options open’. Now, it isn’t this statement that I disagree with, it is the way it is being handled within our educational system.
Parents, and students alike, are keeping their options open by overloading themselves with science and math courses. The successful completion of these courses will allow them to competitively apply for any university program, but are we really keeping their options open? As Sir Ken Robinson alludes to in his Ted Talk, How to Escape Education’s Death Valley (Apr 2013), we need our students to have a broad and well rounded education; we are not doing this by keeping their ‘options open’. We are pulling students from the fine arts and practical arts to overfill our science and math classrooms with many students who don’t want to be there. Using science and math courses as the option-defined medium, has really limited many of these options to business, technology, science industry, and medical careers; is this really that many options?
Secondly, I am a strong advocate for both science and mathematics education, but also recognize that not everyone is meant to take every course. Year after year I see students have their self esteem crushed by taking a high level mathematics course (or physics course) which they neither understand nor need for their intended career path, but because their parents want their ‘options open’ they suffer in silence through these courses. Why are we forcing these students to suffer crippling self-esteem destruction just to have their options open after high school, particularly when they are not likely to pursue these paths?
What is the real benefit to keeping their options open? We should be exposing our students to various areas, not simply academic knowledge. Students should be taught to find what they love and pursue it, not that the world isn’t always pleasant. Educators need to excite our students and students need to learn that being excited about art is just as good as being excited about science; they have options beyond academic pursuits and should be exposed to this as their reality.