Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On The Proper Subject Order in High School

Several years ago, a major organ of our professional society raised a troubling issue: namely whether the three major subfields were being taught in the proper order at the high school level .
A furor arose in the letter pages, debating the merits endlessly. Which first, which last? (also here).

Now, I think we can all agree on the basics - there are not enough resources to teach all subfields each year of high school, and I am told scheduling is also impossible if people are taking subjects for more than two years (one year intro, one advanced for college hopefuls). So, decisions have to be made.

I have thought about this, and I think that having general phys ed as grounding in the first year is essential; then basketball, because it requires the least amount of equipment to set up; then baseball; and leave football to the final year. Your typical high school student is not ready for football before their final year anyway, playing it earlier just invites injury.
Now, people argue that the final year should be general phys ed, and that football should be taught first, no later than sophomore year, so that the top players can do a second AP year to prepare for college, which they must do no later than junior year for consideration by the top programs. Now this may be fine for private prep schools, but the realities of public education, and the difficulty in finding qualified coaches clearly precludes this. Maybe the largest schools can do junior level football, or allow exceptional players to play a year early, so they can get a second year before college, but realistically the fraction of players which have the innate talent to compete at the next level is so small that it is simply not an issue for most schools.

A friend of mine suggested leaving general phys ed to the middle schools, and moving all athletic classes up a year; then the advanced students aiming for college would have time to take senior AP classes, maybe even two or three sports for the absolute top athletes, in schools with the resources to offer that. Then, the regular students could take Driver's Ed in their final year, which is when it is most needed anyway. This could be a good compromise, particularly for the larger urban schools.

What puzzles me is, having come through the European system, how they managed to do everything from shooting and archery, to yoga, through soccer, hockey and rugby, and still manage the scheduling. Even in a relatively small school. Must be some ineffable structural difference in the education management system.


Blogger Sean Carroll said...

Genius. Those Europeans baffle me, too. And the Asians somehow manage to fit in some serious martial-arts training. I suspect it's because they're neglecting Home Economics.

2:57 PM  

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