LAUSD college track a step in the right direction

Kristen Prescott

Let me start with a confession: I dropped out of high school in 1985 when I was 17.

I was a good student when I wanted to be, but I couldn’t see any value in learning algebra, among other subjects. It was boring, difficult and useless, I thought. “How is this going to help me later in life?” I asked. It’s a question I have heard escape many others’ mouths.

Now, preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree at the age of 37, I understand the value in all the subjects I was expected to learn back then.

The Los Angeles Unified School District school board recently approved a plan that will require high school students to take classes that will qualify them for admission to the California State University and University of California systems — whether they want to go to college or not.

Some argue that students who do not intend on going to college will not benefit from taking an extra year of math or learning a foreign language prior to graduation.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Telling a student that she won’t benefit from taking that extra math class because she wants to be a plumber sends her a message that only scholars can appreciate the problem- solving skills developed while learning algebra.

Starting with the class of 2008, students “will be required to take four years of English, three years of math, two years of history, science and foreign language, and a year of visual and performing arts and advanced electives,” according to a Los Angeles Times report of the new plan.

In order to become a “well-rounded person,” as the clich? goes, it’s important to study a broad range of subjects. For students who choose not to attend college, high school may be their only opportunity to do so.

There is value in learning a foreign language, because it will teach you more about your native language than any native language class ever will. It will also teach you about another culture, which is extremely important considering the global society in which we live.

There is value in learning algebra, because it helps you approach problems in a way you may never have thought of before. Auto mechanics and physicians alike must solve problems every day.

There is value in understanding politics if you’re ever going to vote or understand important issues in your community. It’s difficult to make intelligent decisions when you don’t know how the system works.

There is value in learning English because no matter what job you end up doing, you will have to communicate with others. The more articulate you are, the more credible you will be.

There is value in learning science because it helps you make sense of the world.

There is value in learning history because understanding the past is the key to understanding the present.

There is value in learning critical thinking skills because they allow you to deconstruct what you see and hear and get at the root of what’s really happening around you.

These basic life skills allow children to become articulate, productive members of society no matter what path they choose.

When they can’t see the value in what they’re asked to learn, they’re not motivated to do well. If adults don’t see the value, how can children be expected to see it?

So, thanks to my high school and college French classes, I can say, Chapeau! (hats off) to the LAUSD school board for doing the right thing.