The following is an op-ed by columnist Elizabeth Porter for her column, “The Final Word.” All of the opinions and viewpoints expressed within the article are solely that of the author and may not reflect the beliefs of The Forest Scout newspaper.
During the March 12th League of Women Voters School Board Debate Final Four candidate Jennifer Neubauer asserted that students should not be allowed to take classes they are not “entitled” to.
As I have chosen my classes the past three years, I have considered many factors– rigor, amount of homework, teacher recommendations, sibling’s experiences, parental pressure, my own interests, graduation requirements, college preparation– but never once has the issue of entitlement crossed my mind. Until now.
Since you have such a clear idea of my, and every student’s capabilities, enlighten me. What makes me, or doesn’t make me, AP material? Which classes should I take? What are my limits? At what point will you say “That’s enough, Elizabeth. This class wasn’t meant for you?” I’ve been wondering that a lot myself lately. What classes should I take and which will be too challenging? Since you have already decided for me, please let me know, because I’ll need to schedule a meeting with my counselor to alter my class selections for next year. But it’s worth it, because God forbid I enroll myself in something to which I am not entitled.
To what education am I entitled? To what education is your child entitled? To what education is my friend entitled? How about my siblings? The girl who sits next to me in chemistry? What about that boy I always pass in the hallway?
What quality and rigor of classes should we be allowed to take? Since the answer is apparently not, “whatever you are willing to work for,” I’d like to know the answer. I am genuinely confused about what you suggest should be said to a student who has decided they’d like to take AP Language and Composition even though they were tracked into English 3. Are you going to say “no”? Sorry, you’re not smart enough. No, sorry, don’t even bother trying. This test score clearly shows that you’re not AP Lang material. No, it wouldn’t be fair to the actual smart kids in the class –the entitled ones– to let you take it because you’d drag them down. Have you thought about that? How are you are going to look a teenager in the eye and tell them they are not good enough for a class?
You want me to be on a track. Maybe a different track than your child, my friend, my sibling, the girl that sits next me in chemistry and the boy I always pass in the hallway, or maybe the same one. But I don’t understand why. Why can’t I be allowed freedom in deciding my own courses, along with the guidance of my counselor and parents? Are you afraid I’ll sign up for a bunch of classes that I’ll eventually fail and make the school look bad? I have a memo for you: students are not inclined to sign up for classes they believe they will fail. Maybe I will fail, but don’t assume that before I am given a chance. When you put a little faith into a student, you may just find that they’ll surprise you.
Students are not test scores. Students are a bundle of aspirations, weaknesses, strengths, failures, successes, talents, interests, hobbies, experiences, and characteristics. Students should be encouraged, appreciated, and challenged, not told “No, you aren’t good enough.”
Our brains are developing. We are maturing and discovering who we are. I would hope that the student we are at 13 is not the same student we are at 18. Why condemn an 8th grader with a bad test score to 4 years of classes that aren’t the right fit for them?
While I’m waiting on your answer as to what education I am entitled to, here’s mine.
I, along with every student at this school, am entitled to the best education LFHS has to offer. I am entitled to whatever AP classes I feel that I can succeed in and am willing to work hard in. I am entitled to making my own decisions and not being confined to the outdated and restrictive concept of a “track”. I am entitled to doing my best and challenging myself, despite what you think I am capable of.