More Cross-Subject Courses, Please
Interdisciplinary courses are catching on at high schools across America. Such offerings as Science, Technology, and Society; Multimedia Technology in the Arts; and History and Art of the Pacific Rim all demonstrate that courses can not only have long names but can also fulfill requirements in a variety of subject areas. The only problem with these courses is that there simply aren't enough of them. Interdisciplinary studies are the hottest thing to hit education since detention, but even the largest schools rarely offer more than a handful. To help teachers and administrators extend their thinking to areas they may not have considered, I have devised several new cross-subject courses for the 1996-97 school year. Here are a few that belong in every high school curriculum:
Beginning Acting in Algebra
All grades; 2 credits
Meets the fine arts graduation requirement. Credit earned may be applied toward the mathematics graduation requirement by taking Algebra 1.
A course designed to help aspiring actors depict an understanding of algebra. Students use improvisational techniques to develop excuses, false impressions of knowledge, and outright lies. Students learn to act as if they did their homework, act as if they're listening, and act as if they know what they're doing. The course ends with a comprehensive project in which each student must act his or her way out of taking the final exam.
Grades 10, 11, 12; 1 credit
Students learn essential life skills using advanced theories of economics. Topics covered include cyclical approaches to menu planning, deficit housekeeping, allowance arbitration, monetary dating policies, and grade inflation. Those taking the course for honors credit will complete a study of either the stock market or the supermarket. Registration may be limited.
The Biology of Lunch
Grades 10, 11; 2 credits
Prerequisite: Honors Biology
Five periods per week. (Early-bird course covers the Biology of Breakfast.)
Extends the skills and knowledge learned in Honors Biology into a mastery of the biological analysis of lunch meat. Students examine basic lunchtime biological questions, such as "Is the meat on my plate dead?" and "If so, why is it moving?" Develops fundamental concepts of life science, using the inquiry approach every day around noon. Field trips to local fast-food restaurants may be required. Students not wishing to become vegetarians are advised not to take this course.
All grades; 1 credit
Prerequisite: Department Recommendation
Credit may be earned in one of two areas: English or foreign language.
In zees coors, students learn ze baseeks of speeking Anglesh weed a French accent. Topics covered include embarrassing cultural gaffes, the vocabulary of Painter Smurf, and the many mispronunciations of the word "the" by native French speakers. The course culminates with a student translation of the Bible into modern French English. As you Americans say, "In ze beginning . . . ."
The Physics of Gym
Grades 11, 12; 2 credits
Prerequisite: Junior or Senior Standing
Credit earned may be applied toward the PE or physical science graduation requirement.
Teaches young scientists the basics of physics through examples in physical education. Units include "Rope Burn: Learning Friction the Hard Way," "Dodge Ball: Action-Reaction Pairs at Work," and "Gravity: So That's Why the Ball Comes Down." Students select four or more lab activities each semester. Navy-blue shorts, a white-and-blue reversible T-shirt, white socks, gym shoes, and a graphing calculator are required.
Free Period Independent Study
Grades 10, 11, 12; 0 credits
Prerequisite: Study Hall or Independent Study
For students with a very high ability in almost nothing and a strong motivation to maintain that status. This is the second in the four-year Accelerated Blow-Off-School Sequence. (Students who enter this program finish nothing and start less.) The major concepts of calling in sick, memorizing local restaurant menus, and taking full advantage of the five-period lunch break are developed, stressing the investigative approach. Plan to spend at least 10 years after graduation working at McDonald's.
The author is a senior at Evanston (Ill.) Township High School.