This was forwarded to the West High listserve with the request that it be posted as part of the current discussion about changes at West High.
When I read the anonymous email from a current West freshman who is defined as “talented and gifted,” I could not help but feel that I should write about my own personal experiences. I am in the exact same position as the previous writer (a current freshman at West High, defined as “talented and gifted.”), but I have completely opposite views. My time at West so far has been quite enjoyable. While some of the core freshman classes are indeed rather simple, I do not feel that my assignments are “busy work.” While most classes may be easy, they still teach worthwhile information.
In my geometry class, for example, I am getting very high grades and do not always find the work completely challenging, it is important to learn the theorems and practice them before I can move on to a more difficult class. To get a more stimulating math experience, I worked it out with my guidance counselor to take an elective programming class, which is not intended fo r freshman, and that class stretches my mathematical limits. I am both learning the necessary theorems for math, and broadening my horizons. My english class I have also found enjoyable and plenty satisfying for a freshman class. I feel that it is necessary to point out that there is more than one freshman english teacher, and the anonymous freshman writer may very well have a far more mediocre teacher than I do. If that person is not finding their english class challenging enough, perhaps they could meet with their guidance counselor to switch teachers. The english curriculum in my class I have found to be quite interesting. As I will be a sophomore next year, I was rather concerned with the prospect of a core english curriculum and, I will admit, was not at all excited when I discovered that it would being going through. However, when I took the time to read through the details of this class, I was quite pleased. I am very excited with the literature that will be assi gned in this class, and I feel that this new curriculum may very well be more rigorous than any previous sophomore options. In addition, there are nearly a dozen elective english classes that sophomores will have the chance to take. Such classes should satisfy any sophomore’s love for literature. There is also the option to take the extra english honor’s classes. Yes, I am aware that these will be during lunch twice a week, but I feel that this is satisfactory. If a student wishes to continue to discuss their love for a piece of work they are reading, they most certainly can continue a discussion with the other honors students after the teacher has left. As a student, I feel that if I am truly dedicated, I ought to be willing to sacrifice any other club that would be going on at that time for the honors class. In the real world, choices need to be made, and they cannot be adjusted to suit a small group of people, no matter how “gifted and talented” they are. I also feel that the core english class is necessary to “shake things up.” If the school created one separate class for gifted and talented students to test into, then this would defeat the purpose of having diverse classes (which is important, as West High is a very diverse school). I feel that if there were a separate honors english class to take in place of the core class, then this class would separate students – it would be a huge step back toward segregation in a progressive city. I believe that having a diverse classroom can be one of the most enjoyable and enriching experiences for any student. As for the new english curriculum, well, the combination of extra honors classes and elective english classes seem plenty to give even the most literature-loving sophomore a wonderful english experience. There is also one more thing that I would like to point out. Simply because a student is not “talented and gifted” does not mean that a student lo ves literature any less than any “talented and gifted” student. The opposite is implied when I read and hear “talented and gifted” parents rallying for a more rigorous sophomore english class. As a student, I believe that Mr. Holmes is doing a superior job in turning West High into an academically excellent school, and I am extremely pleased with the changes he has made so far as principal. I would like to thank all of the members of this group for taking my views into account and I am hope that they have given you a different perspective on the current changes being made at West High.
– An Anonymous West Freshman