It is customary for educators to initiate their new fads in poorer schools where they feel they have a better chance to con parents and students into believing that they are getting the most modern improvements in education. The Dwight Morrow classrooms are ridiculously labeled "Harvard, Yale and Rutgers." Dwight Morrow is a high school with low test scores and racial tensions. Three-quarters of the student body is black or Hispanic, and 60 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches.
This "choose major" fad seems to have spread nationwide under the radar without prior publicity. Apparently, hundreds of high schools now require students to specialize, but most are not so rigid as to require a major.
Florida requires every ninth-grader to major in one of some 400 state-approved subjects ranging from world cultures to fashion design. South Carolina requires students to designate one of 16 career clusters from agriculture to architecture.
Mississippi has a pilot program to have ninth-graders choose one of seven career paths from construction to technology.
Like any new school fad, "choose major" of course requires more taxpayer funding. The New Jersey district has hired five new teachers, and set up advisory boards for each track that include performing artists, doctors, and lawyers.
Public schools should teach all first-graders to read by the time-tested phonics system, and teach all schoolchildren to know and use the fundamentals of arithmetic by the end of the third grade. This would end the shocking epidemic of illiteracy that now permits students to get into high school and even graduate without being able to read, write or calculate change at the grocery store.
Choosing a major won't solve the problem of high school dropouts who can't read, write, add, subtract, multiply, or divide. Public schools will remain a national embarrassment unless and until the fundamentals are taught in elementary classes.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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