"Shift the Focus" by Emma Boersma

EDITORIAL: STEM improvements laudable; now expand humanities

Prioritizing the expansion of the STEM curriculum in recent years, Country Day established itself as one of the top science, technology, engineering and math schools in the country. At No. 680, SCDS ranked in the top 2% of 37,000 high schools nationwide.

Country Day set out to build a strong STEM program, according to head of school Lee Thomsen, and succeeded, trailing only Mira Loma (No. 638) in the Sacramento area. 

This is an impressive accomplishment, especially considering that SCDS isn’t formally a STEM-focused school. It offers three foreign language tracks while giving students flexibility within the English, history and math departments between advanced and regular coursework. The small high school classes have contributed to success as they allow students to work more effectively in groups and receive more individual attention.

Not to mention, there’s a clear initiative to increase STEM opportunities to students either via electives or partnerships with local universities. Real-world experience through internships or volunteer work is valuable for driven students who hope to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM fields. These experiences provide research opportunities for students — some have even co-authored research papers — and can be differentiators in college admissions. 

We also recognize and praise the school for ongoing efforts on the middle and lower school level in STEM — such as the computer lab in the middle school and the dissection labs in the lower school — that will not only inspire young students about learning but also attract and retain more students in the high school.

Overall, we appreciate the expanded STEM program at Country Day, but we hope the school also carries this focus into the humanities. While the current curriculum allows STEM-oriented students to advance, it could lead to more artistically inclined or humanities-focused students to feel left out or forced into taking classes that don’t align with their interests.

Now that SCDS has established a high-ranked STEM program, the focus should shift to the humanities and arts. While we do see the preliminary steps being taken in this direction through initiatives such as the plans for the two-story arts center, even more opportunities are available.

Adding classes in the humanities and social sciences would allow students to explore subjects outside of the traditional English 9-12 and history courses. For example, classes and electives such as Creative Writing and Social and Cultural Anthropology, both offered at Mira Loma High School, would give students the opportunity to deepen their interests and consider fields of study otherwise unavailable to them until college. 

Country Day also can take advantage of its location in California’s capital to broaden its internship opportunities to include government and law. While the biology internships and prospective computer science work opportunities are valuable for STEM students, a comparable humanities internship program would ensure that all students have the same opportunities.

Additionally, we hope the school continues to expand the STEM curriculum to include classes with no prerequisites, such as AP Psychology and AP Statistics, providing both STEM- and humanities-focused students with a greater variety of classes.

Lastly, making visual and performing arts electives, such as AP Studio Art, academic classes would allow artists to flourish within the high school curriculum and put more emphasis on nontraditional fields, while also opening their elective slots to even more course opportunities, creating more flexible schedules. 

Originally published in the Dec. 17 edition of the Octagon.