Semester Long vs. Biweekly Engineering and Philosophy

Jeanyna Garcia, Reporter

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Columbia Secondary School students have noted many curriculum changes since the start of the school year. As juniors thoroughly inspected and exchanged their schedules with their friends, they discovered that they were either taking Political Philosophy or Engineering for the fall semester. This schedule change marks a new period for CSS as students formerly had each engineering and philosophy classes twice a week. This has been the case for around five years.

However, this isn’t the first time that CSS staff have shifted former biweekly courses to semester-long courses. In 2016, the staff divided art and engineering class into two separate semester courses. That meant middle-schoolers didn’t have to switch back and forth from art to engineering throughout the week. This change also allowed professors to more effectively plan out their lessons and it gave students more time to complete projects. In the previous program, there were two art classes per week– or three– depending on the week. Yet, this placed a limit on teachers because they had to work around holidays that conflicted with their classes. Not only did overlaps with holidays lead to fewer classes, but it also made students fall behind in their projects.  

How did the faculty react to the new modifications in the program regarding philosophy and engineering?

Professor Valenti, who teaches engineering and physics for high-schoolers, shared her thoughts towards the new schedule change.

“I was unhappy at first,” stated Valenti. “However, I understand that this is a good opportunity for CSS to improve the program. Teaching engineering four times a week for a semester helps me identify the strengths and weaknesses of the course so that I can improve the curriculum for the next group of students. I’m a little worried about the transition when the semester is over because I don’t know how the students will react to a new setting. In a philosophy class, students are accustomed to class discussions and independent work. Meanwhile, in an engineering class, the work is more hands-on and less of class discussions.”

Professor McGuiness, a middle-school history and high-school political philosophy professor, shares a similar view as his fellow co-worker.

“Conceptually, I believe the change is a positive idea because there’s more fluidity among classes” said McGuiness. “There aren’t large blocks of time between classes. Nonetheless, the negative aspects to it are that there is less time to read and fully comprehend complex texts. The students dive right into the texts upon the beginning of the semester. Overall, the change is interesting and I’m looking forward to the rest of the school year.”

I interviewed a handful of juniors and based on their remarks, the majority approves of the decisions of the staff.

“I honestly think that this system of dividing engineering and philosophy into two separate semesters is successful” stated Estefano Garcia. “I manage time more efficiently, I have less homework, and it reduces my stress level because I don’t feel the pressure to be successful at both classes simultaneously.” Estefano is taking engineering during this first semester.

      Alicia Alvarez, junior, praised the new changes in the program who is enrolled in Political Philosophy with Prof. Flaherty until late January.

“I really like that the two courses are divided because this enables me to prioritize one of the courses” explained Alvarez. “I’m able learn more when when I’m focused on one specific course instead of two. Also, the perks of this change are that more study halls fit into my schedule. The time I have left over is focused on school work or SAT prep.”       

Similar to Alvarez, an anonymous junior who takes philosophy with Professor McGuinness, likes the program modification.

“However, I wish we were able to choose which course to study first.”

     A junior, who prefered to go anonymous, replied to my inquiries in a rather enthusiastic tone: “I think it’s amazing! There’s less work!”

When asked if they found any problems or challenges with the new program, they replied, baffled: “Are you kidding? No!”

Despite the changes that have arised in programs, CSS faculty and students have been  successfully adapting. These modifications — in this school year and in the past — are geared towards achieving a common goal: to improve every student’s learning experience at CSS.

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