Declaring a Major in 9th Grade?

Florida ninth graders may soon be declaring a “major” as a requirement of entering high school. This idea, designed to bolster those students who know they want to focus on a given area such as engineering, science, languages, writing, or the arts, is supported by Governor Jeb Bush. Many gifted and talented students are interested in this new way of doing things, as they hope that more challenging courses will be made available to them in their areas of interest. This is particularly critical for those students who wish to study math and science, as advance courses are not always available in all schools. But it can apply to students who are gifted in the arts, who need to learn more about design, and to students who study languages and may have a future abroad in business or diplomacy.

So far, educators appear to be cautiously optimistic, although I am sure there will be debates galore. Professional high school teachers and administrators want to see flexibility built into the program for a student to change their mind. Also, a student should not be shortchanged on the opportunity to acquire general knowledge and develop new interests. Florida would be the first state to have high school students declare a major area of study.

My question about this also has to do with the word “requirement”. What if you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up by the time you are 14? I asked my resident expert, my 15 year old son Joe, the A student who takes two languages (Latin and Spanish), plays baseball, and has an interest in world conquest. Joe’s answer was “Sheesh, who knows what they want to do in 9th grade?” Spoken like a true 10th grader who is not looking forward to the college search.

Kids like Joe who are bright but need to be exposed to new things before they figure out their college choices are very different from the type of student who just always knew they would be going to Rennsallear, Georgia Tech, MIT, Cal Tech. My boys have one friend who always knew he would be a bio chemist – and now that he is in his junior year of college, that is just what he is doing. They have a friend who was always interested in the environment, became an expert in certain types of birds, and in high school was actually able to get a summer internship with a college professor in that field who still mentors him. Joe is a different sort of kid. Joe’s future plans include “Foreign service maybe, or something with criminal justice. Nah, not a lawyer. Something where I get people to do strategy, solve a problem, or agree to do stuff.” My son the ambassador, the hostage negotiator, the advisor, consultant, teacher or cop.

I asked him if he wanted to be a senator or president, since he is so interested in foreign countries. He said he only wants to be president when he is old, after his chain of international resorts makes him very rich.

My son the Sultan?

My son the wealthy developer? The next generation “Apprentice?”

I have a feeling that law school or an MBA is in this boy’s future. But he is 15. He still has time to decide!