I was a teen at Walt Whitman High School in the 1980s. We watched movies like “War Games” where far-fetched sci-fi A.I. devices disguised as blinking-cursor computer games threatened to launch global thermonuclear war. Families were starting to own home computers and universities were recognizing the need to bring “computer science” programs to their campuses.
When students attended the University of Albany in the ’80s, the college had just begun to invite them to receive a B.S. in Computer Science. Today, Albany’s computer-savvy students can choose from degree programs ranging from Cyber Security to Electrical and Computer Engineering to Informatics to Bio-Instrumentation with minors in areas like Geographic Information Studies and Neuroscience.
And this is just one area in which my perception of the college experience is vastly different from that of my children.
Another is the complex and competitive nature of gaining admission to college. Another is the exorbitant cost. Another is the lack of fluidity to change majors in many colleges. My husband was a history major turned guidance counselor major turned computer science major, and all he had to do to make those changes was file some paperwork. 20-something years later, when my son sought to transfer from the Binghamton University School of Arts and Sciences to the Binghamton University School of Management, he was told by the admissions office that he would need to take 12 pre-requisite credits in courses like calculus and statistics, and that they highly recommended he strive for a 4.0 if he wanted to be accepted into the other school.
Reflecting on my high school and college years is fun and nostalgic. However, assuming that the education I received then would adequately prepare me for the careers our young generation face now is naïve.
First of all, students exiting high school need a much more specific understanding of what they want to study. College major-hopping is not the simple process it once was. Military pathways are far more specific and skill-focused.
Second, today’s high school students need a much deeper understanding of the world – one that progresses way beyond isolated core subject learning – because the job market they will enter offers careers with names like “Telepresence Designer,” “Penetration and Vulnerability Officer” and “Holography and Optics Technician.”
Therefore, students need to see biology combine with coding; they need to learn video and media application in research and writing. And, yes, we still need to make sure they can find the volume of a cylinder and use a semi-colon appropriately.
High school education is changing. And, necessarily, high school learning environments and programs must also change. This is why I find the South Huntington School District’s Vision 2020 capital improvements bond so exciting.
A YES vote supports the expansion of incredible programs and the reshaping of learning spaces that will help our students be ready to make clear, smart post-high school choices. A YES vote acknowledges that we cannot educate today’s children the same way and with the same coursework that of a 30- or 40-year old world. A YES vote moves South Huntington students toward a very different future, with a far greater level of preparedness and vision.
Kimberly Eagen Latko is a South Huntington resident, parent of 3 Walt Whitman alumni and an English teacher at Walt Whitman.