Quirky classes are the future of the NYC public education system

With the increasing number of after-school options, New York City public education is changing in a positive way. Students, while developing creative potential, are now exposed to more diverse classes, such as service dog training, comedy improv, costume design and filmmaking. David Simpson, one of the students who attended Frolic — an after-school program that teaches children how to bond with dogs properly — told The Wall Street Journal that the program helped him interact with his Sheepadoodle, Nash. Children learned practical skills such as staying calm and attaching the puppy’s leash.

"When everyone at school is speaking one language, and a lot of your classmates' parents also speak it, and you go home and see that your community is different — there is a sense of shame attached to that. It really takes growing up to treasure the specialness of being different," said U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

In the summer of 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio strongly underlined that NYC specialized high schools — Bronx High School of Science; Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College; High School for American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for Sciences at York College; Staten Island Technical High School and Stuyvesant High School — should eliminate the exams to create a diverse population and to increase the efforts to give equal opportunities to students in elementary and middle school.

Many parents are outraged at the mayor’s plan to remove the entrance exam — called the Specialized High School Admissions Test — and even claim that the state is punishing hardworking students.

"The exam tests students' potential to perform well in a specialized high school based off of their English and math skills and is the only determining factor in admission," said Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech in a Times-Ledger article.

These new changes are expected to mark a turning point in the NYC education system. Starting this fall, all New York students started learning about mental health. In particular, students are learning how to describe and cope with their feelings. According to a new law mandated on July 1, school districts must "ensure that their health education programs recognize the multiple dimensions of health by including mental health and the relation between mental and physical health in health education."

As the bill espouses, health education, in fact, should be prioritized over any other education. This new bill will be implemented in elementary, middle and high schools across the state of New York.

New programs relating to mental health will get rid of the stigma associated with mental illness, thus making it easier for students to open up about their mental issues and also focus on their academics. Although New York is the first state to put the law into practice, it is predicted that the other states will follow the steps of the NYC education system.

"It is the mark of a great democracy to support the arts, which are an expression of what makes us human," said the Association of Art Museum Directors in a statement to The New York Times.

Another quirky course includes the bagpipe, a musical instrument that forms sounds with the pressure of wind emitted from a bag squeezed by the player's arm. Madeline Bender, who is a founder of Creative Stage, said, "The bagpipes were so loud that we’ve been kicked out of numerous rental studios."

Nevertheless, the core value lies in the fact that the class promotes the arts and increases children's creativity. A lot of millennial parents are now raising their children differently; most of them are looking high and low for quirkier classes in order to gift children with new experiences.

Rather charmingly, class ideas can even be brought up by children. Not all children are the same, meaning that it is crucial to form an education system that assists students in finding their own interests and talents. The NYC education department took its first step.

The new system, if it persists, will produce creative and independent individuals in society. In order for NYC's public education to be improved in all boroughs, people should be prepared to accept diversity and be open-minded about the new opportunities awaiting their children. Being different and paving their own way should be what is expected of children educated in the city.

-Stacy Kim

Journalism ‘20

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