Even Minors Need Majors

In the past decade, education reforms have varied across the nation as the current education system continues to fail to prepare for either college or the workforce (Coplin). In response, some states have advanced their education programs by requiring high school students to major in high school. In 2007, Senator Jeb Bush enacted his A++ Plan which requires all Florida high school students to fulfill the requirements of a major (Schweiss and Fennell). This concept generally rejects the traditional educational systems of the United States and embraces those of many European nations. As this system continues to challenge the current education system, the nation must begin to decide if schools would be more effective if they required that high school students select and fulfill a major.

While numerous counties across the nation have adopted the requirement of a high school major, many oppose this reform. Some critics, such as Susan Fuhrman, the president of Columbia University Teachers College, believe that high school is meant for exploration of interests (Bush and Fuhrman), not for choosing and fulfilling a major. The current education system perceives high school as place for students to experiment. They can pursue a variety of interests in hopes of narrowing down their career paths by the time they enter college. Nancy Cox, president of the Florida Parents and Teachers Association, is concerned that focusing a student’s electives on a particular subject will eliminate them from potentially finding “their true calling” (Stein and Winchester). As students enter high school, many are not mature enough to make a commitment to a career path that they will pursue for the rest of their lives. Thus, these critics have come to the conclusion that perhaps high school students are not ready to declare a major.

Proponents of the idea that high school students should fulfill a major concede that perhaps some students may not be prepared to select a major in high school. Even some students acknowledge that they are not mature enough to coordinate their future as freshmen in high school. Nicole Hutchinson, a freshman at Dwight Morrow High School in New Jersey, has selected performing arts as her major rather than a major that would lead her to a career in nursing—what she imagines herself becoming in the future. “I think I’m too young to make a decision because I might change my mind later on,” says Hutchinson (Hu). Students have the best judgments as to whether or not they are mature enough to dictate their future. Similarly, picking a major may limit the opportunities that students have to explore a variety of interests. Many students understand the impact this decision could have later in life and decide that they want to postpone that decision if possible. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, the percentage of college freshman that are undecided on a major has continually risen over the past four decades (“Major Indecision”). When students four years older than high school freshman cannot completely commit to an area of interest, it is valid to come to the conclusion that the nation cannot logically expect fourteen year olds to be prepared to commit to a career path that they will work at for the next eight to twelve years. Opponents have merit to argue that requiring high school students to select a major may not allow students to fully explore their interests before college; likewise there is merit to argue that a major is too large of a commitment for a high school freshman to make.

As the current educational system continually fails to prepare students for college or the workforce, change is necessary. While opponents believe that requiring high school students to fulfill a major does not allow students to fully explore their interests before college and that a major is too large of a commitment for a fourteen year-old to make, proponents tend to support the requirement of a major in high school, believing that it will increase the effectiveness of the current education system and will give students an advantage over those who do not pick a major. It should be necessary for high school students to select and fulfill the requirements of a major in high school. Doing so will increase graduation rates and fully prepare students for college and the workforce.

In order to increase the effectiveness of the current education system, adopting a requirement for high school students to fulfill a major would be the most successful approach. If the nation were to implement an education system in which high school students were required to fulfill a major, Senator Jeb Bush’s A++ Plan would be the most effective in preparing students for college and the workforce. This system would allow students to choose classes based on their interests. Giving students the ability to decide what they want to study allows them to become further engaged in their studies and provides them with a new perspective on school. This system has proved effective in increasing education rates. In Florida, graduation rates were at 68.9% in 2006 before the A++ program was implemented. In 2008, graduation rates augmented to 76.3% (Smith). Similarly, dropout rates have decrease from 3.0% in 2005 to 2.3% in 2008 (ibid.). The increase in graduation rates and decrease in dropout rates in Florida after the adoption of Senator Bush’s A++ Plan proves that it keeps students engaged in their studies and provides them with the needed education for each student’s postsecondary school plans. Not only this system gives students control over their curriculum, but it also allows them to determine the amount of academic rigor that they desire or that they are able to handle. While majoring seems as though it is a large academic commitment, the word evokes more rigor than the requirements demand. Majoring would simply require students to take four electives concerning their area of interest. This would leave students with three other options: 1. They can take five elective credits. 2. They can concentrate three electives in one area to acquire a minor and have two extra electives in another area, or 3. They can choose to double major and have one elective class. This system gives students a variety of options and ways to explore all of their interests during the four years of high school. Furthermore, students have the option to change their majors. If a student were to change his or her major, the student can then put those elective credits towards a minor if he or she desires to do so (Schweiss and Fennell). Students also become more involved in their course selection. This education system allows students to directly take action in creating their path to either college or the workforce.
With a major requirement, students begin to immerse themselves deeper into their area of interest. Learning becomes less about grades and more about gaining knowledge as students enjoy their curriculum which is based on their interests. As students specialize in a subject, they are more prepared for what comes after high school. Students planning on entering college understand the process associated with a major and have gained more knowledge on a subject they most likely plan on studying in college. Students who major in high school gain an advantage on students with the conventional because they are better prepared for courses they will take and have more education in their major (Hu). Students who plan on entering the workforce will be more skilled in their area of study as well. Students with vocational training or vocational specialization during high school are more appealing to employers and are generally more prepared to enter the workforce (Castellano et al. 249). The A++ Plan begins to fully prepare students for life after high school, whether their path is postsecondary education or a vocation.

Requiring high school students to select and fulfill a major would increase the effectiveness of the current educational system by increasing graduation rates and fully prepare students for college and the workforce. Giving students the ability to pursue their interests in school allows them to become fully engaged in their material. When students enjoy and take interest in their learning material, they are less likely to drop out of high school and are more likely to graduate. This increase in interest also prompts students to be more successful in their studies (Hu). The requirement of a major during high school urges students to begin to consider their future earlier than the current education system does. This could result in the percentage of undecided majors in college to decrease as students begin to set their paths to a career as early as eighth grade. As students begin to lay their own course towards their desired major and career, the phrase “I’m never going to use this when I grow up,” becomes irrelevant (ibid.). College admissions officers have admitted to favoring “students with expertise in a certain area because it demonstrates commitment and passion” (ibid.). Students who major during high school gain an upper hand when applying to and entering college. As students become experts in their major, they will be more prepared to continue in this major and will have more knowledge than their peers entering said major who have not received the additional knowledge they would have gained had they majored in the area. While some students may not be fully prepared to make a commitment to a major, there are options that allow them to change majors if desired, to minor, or to take any five electives of their choice. In order to increase the effectiveness of the current educational system, increase high school graduation rates, and prepare students for college and the workforce, it is necessary for the nation to require high school students to fulfill a major.





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