Lovin’ the Student Gov

Several weeks ago, I spoke to the Academic Council about what students think about the current curriculum, and about the possibility of changes. As Flagstaff Senior Representative, I am a member of Student Council, and over the summer I thought about what projects I would want to work on as an elected official of my illustrious cluster. I was pretty frustrated that in my Senior year I would have to complete what I thought were pointless diploma requirements. Once the school year resumed, I pitched a project to Student Council President Daniel Adler to reevaluate diploma requirements and work to change them. He approved it, so my work began. Knowing that it is not that simple or easy as a student to effect some change in any of the academy’s policies, I first tested the water with the administration. I wanted to see if I had any real chance of helping change our curriculum, else I might struggle my Senior year away for a reform that would never materialize. To my pleasant surprise, the academy had already thought of reevaluating the academic curriculum and expressed their desire to do so in the Strategic Planning recommendations presented earlier this year. It was a moment when I had pure satisfaction with my school, where it realized the true needs of its students, or at least one of mine. We “need to retool our academic program to be flexible enough to serve our students. We need to allow students with a particular talent to pursue that talent in depth,” read the Strategic Planning recommendations. I found utter elation in the new commitment of the Trustees and the administration to reforming the curriculum. My own endeavors to fix it had matured from a selfish desire to a genuine concern for our personal education, making it all the more important to work on. Once the wheels of change had begun to spin, the bigger concern became how the student voice would be heard effectively in curriculum reform process. I hesitantly walked into Dean of Studies Margarita Curtis’s office to ask her how the Student Council can be involved, and she was extremely receptive to the idea. Dr. Curtis and I decided that we should collect suggestions and ideas from the students on the academic curriculum and present them to the Academic Council, which consists of all the academic department heads. Student Council was very excited that we were given this opportunity to have direct discourse with the administration, to effectively clue them in on what the students thought. I personally consider such a close relationship between Student Council and the administration next to sacred.We created the Academic sub-committee on Student Council to research and come up with what was the consensus, amongst the students, on the academic curriculum. From meetings with this sub-committee, and collecting the many responses I got from the students replying to the all-school e-mail asking them for their opinions, I had compiled the information I would present to the Academic Council. Many students and faculty alike agree that there should be more flexibility in the curriculum. The bigger question is how will we achieve this; unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Most students see the Arts requirements – Theatre, Music, Art – as the most unnecessary weight in their already heavy schedules. We don’t see how if you were in a Theater 520, you still have to take the introductory course of Theater 200. We don’t understand that if we are already proficient and talented in music and art, why do we have to mess around in a class we could capably be teaching? In my presentation I suggested that department heads in those fields should be more flexible in granting students completion of an introductory level requirements so that they can go on a take more advanced courses that they would be interested in. However, the problem is not just in the arts. Students feel that the core curriculum does not allow them to take courses that they are genuinely interested in. Requirements in all subjects clog our schedules with classes we do not want to take, which makes it essential for us to lessen all of them if we want to achieve flexibility.What is more important for our education, that we learn what we want to learn, or that we are taught what the school thinks we should know? Students complain that it is truly a waste of time for both the student and the teacher to be in a class that the student is not interested in. The passion is not there, nor is the honing of skills the student finds pertinent to his or her future. We are, however, a college preparatory school, and for the administration, this fact is probably more important than students’ preferences. However, how effective is it, for admission into college, that all applicants from Andover have basically the same transcript because of all of the requirements we have to fulfill? Students are concerned in rendering themselves as individuals in the courses they take, so that colleges can discern Andover applicant 56 and Andover applicant 14. In the end, the presentation to the Academic Council was successful. Student Council will still be submitting ideas to Dr. Curtis so that the student voice is kept in mind when task forces delve into implementing the reform to our curriculum over the summer. The best part of this whole project, however, was to see the effective communication between students and the administration. After my presentation, Chair of the History Department Victor Henningsen told me that it was very helpful to hear what the students thought. He, along with other department heads, finally figured out that we were all on the same page for the most part, allowing them to go forward in making necessary administrative decisions because they cannot solely run on their personal thoughts. My experience on Student Council working with the issue of curriculum change has been fantastic. The depth and clarity of communication between students and faculty was as good as I have ever witnessed. If we could emulate this level of cooperation as we move forward into the years ahead, there is no telling what we can accomplish for the benefit of students and faculty alike.