Education Commentary

More Interdisciplinary Courses, Please

By Jeremy Smith — November 15, 1995 4 min read

Interdisciplinary courses are catching on at high schools across America. Such current 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 they 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 school 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

 IN2000 All grades No prerequisite 2 credits 

Meets the fine-arts graduation requirement. Credit earned may be applied toward the mathematics graduation requirement by taking Algebra 1.

A course in depicting an understanding of algebra, designed for aspiring actors who do not view math as necessary for their careers. 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.

The Biology of Lunch Honors

 IN3000, IN3100--early bird Grades 10, 11 Prerequisite: Biology Honors 2 credits 

Seven periods per week. Early-bird course covers the Biology of Breakfast.

Extends the skills and knowledge gained in Biology Honors into mastery of 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.

French English

 IN4000--1st, IN4100--2nd All grades Prerequisite: Dept. recommendation 1 credit 

One 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

 IN5000 Grades 11, 12 Prerequisite: Jr. or Sr. standing 2 credits 

Credit earned may be applied toward the physical-education requirement OR the 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.” Each student selects 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.

Logic: Inquiries Into Automotive Body and Fender Refinishing

 IN6000, IN6100--honors Grade 12 No prerequisite 1 credit 

Credit earned may be applied toward the senior history/social-science graduation requirement OR the applied-arts requirement.

Teaches such topics as: How can we best mix, match, and apply automotive paint finishes? What are the common fallacies in detailing? What is the nature of the fender? What were they thinking when they came out with the Yugo? How do I get one of those neat purple lights under my car? When does this period end?

May be taken for honors credit with department recommendation.

Home Macroeconomics

 IN7000, IN7100--honors Grades 10, 11, 12 No prerequisite 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.

Free Period Independent Study

 IN8000 Grades 10, 11, 12 Prerequisite: Study Hall 0 credits Independent Study 

For students with a very high ability in almost nothing and a strong motivation to maintain that ability. This is the second in the four-year Accelerated Blow-Off-School Sequence. (Students who continue this program finish nothing and start less.) Students recommended to drop out should complete this course first. 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.

A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 1995 edition of Education Week as More Interdisciplinary Courses, Please