"Tipping The Scale" - by staff artist Brynne Barnhard-Bahn

EDITORIAL: Country Day should add more humanities classes

Since the 2001 coining of the term STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — schools, including our own, cannot get enough of these classes. But, while everyone’s attention has been turned toward the new and shiny STEM curriculum, it appears the humanities have been neglected. It’s an inattention that cannot continue, due to the uniquely beneficial nature of the humanities.

Next school year, Country Day will offer nine of the College Board’s 13 Advanced Placement math, computer science and science classes. In addition to those, there will be seven honors STEM classes including four Advanced Topics courses.
In contrast, the school will offer only three of the College Board’s 10 Advanced Placement humanities courses in English, history and social science classes and two Advanced Topics humanities classes.

The discrepancy between the number of advanced STEM classes and advanced humanities classes is obvious — but why is it the case? After all, it has not always been this way.
“Five years ago, there was no com puter science program at all, so we wanted to build that. That became sort of the push: to develop a real robust computer science program,” said Head of High School Brooke Wells.

But, as the computer science program was being fleshed out, the school was cutting back on its history department.

AP European History, which was last offered during the 2018-19 school year, was cut as it did not align with the school’s mission of diversity and inclusion. Just two years later, the school stopped offering AP Human Geography after its teacher left the school.

Now, the removal of these classes alone is not the problem; rather, the issue is in the fact that these classes were never replaced within the curriculum.

Country Day prides itself in its commitment to intellectual discovery, diversity, critical thinking, creativity and compassion, but that cannot be accomplished without providing opportunities for advancement in the humanities. Courses in writing, analysis and history provide countless opportunities for students to explore these skills.

These courses do exist at SCDS: the new Creative Writing class, taught during Elective II, is a place where students can strengthen their writing skills while exploring their imagination.
However, more courses are needed in order to provide students with options. Whether it’s through writing an argumentative essay or studying historical context, the humanities allow students to expand their analytical skills. The ability to contextualize and parse texts is paramount in modern society.

While STEM education provides students with the skills needed to solve important problems, those problem-solving skills are strengthened with the liberal arts. High school history teacher Christopher Arns emphasized the importance of humanities education in developing students’ abilities.

“Nowadays, there’s a lot of focus on STEM education, which is absolutely im portant,” he said. However, it cannot exist in isolation.
“STEM education is meant to solve some issue or problem in the world. If you don’t know what those issues are, then how can you truly apply it?”

Colleges and universities around the country also require STEM majors to take humanities courses. MIT, famously known for excellence in STEM, requires students to continue exploring social sciences.

“(STEM fields) can serve the world best when informed by the cultural, political, spatial and economic com plexities of human existence, beliefs, and ways of inhabiting the earth,” MIT’s website states.

Even the most complex physics or biology problems cannot be done in a vacuum; rather, they require conversation and communication — which the humanities develop. Senior Ryan Paul, who plans to major in economics, recognizes the importance of liberal arts in his college career.
“It helps me understand how you know the world works, and it’ll definitely expand my views and my knowledge,” he said. “So I think that’ll be very helpful going forward, especially in the professional world.”

However, he said he would have benefited from social science courses at Country Day, such as AP Psychology or AP Government.

“It’s essential to your understanding of the country and understanding of people, which will definitely help in the future,” he said.

Other possible courses could include Gender Studies, the new AP African American Studies course or another political science class.

It’s not only students who are interested in expanding the program; teachers such as High School English Department Chair Jason Hinojosa have also expressed interest in teaching subjects they are passionate about.

“Queer Studies, African American Literature, Latin American Literature; I would love to see those,” Hinojosa said. “I have spoken to a number of teach
ers who say they wished they could do that.”

However, Hinojosa cited a lack of teachers and space as reasons these courses have not materialized.

While these are important concerns, it is clear that both student and teacher interest in these courses is present. If new classes in the sciences can be added, why not in the humanities?
Country Day’s academics and our STEM program can only be strengthened by a robust liberal arts program; it will be worth the effort to get there.

2023-24 Classes

13 Advanced STEM Classes

5* Advanced Humanites Classes

*including AP Microeconomics

This editorial, written by multiple staff members on The Octagon, was originally published in the April 18 issue of The Octagon

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