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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

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Without state standards, Sub-Saharan studies’ future is uncertain

Not many classes at Grady have a worse reputation than Sub-Saharan Studies.

“From what I’ve heard, it sounds like it’s a kind of pointless class,” junior Zoe Schneider said.

A reason why this class gets criticized is that it isn’t governed by any state standards that tell the teacher what the students need to know.

“Teachers need to know what the state objectives are, and what is the purpose of the course,” Sub-Saharan Studies teacher Paul Ware said.

Despite the lack of structure, Ware is trying his best to make the class meaningful. He said the class looks at Sub-Saharan Africa from geographic and demographic, as well as political and economic standpoints.

Several students in Sub-Saharan Studies appreciate Mr. Ware’s effort.

“I like Mr. Ware,” junior Rachel Klika said. “I think he’s trying as a teacher.”

Senior Ed Rollins shares Klika’s sentiment. Rollins appreciates that Mr. Ware actually teaches the class, and enjoys his humor.

However, many students see the lack of standards in the class as both a good and bad thing. One positive thing, Rollins said, is that Ware can do whatever he wants as a teacher, and there are no limits. As Klika points out, however, classes do need some kind of structure.

“We have goals that [Ware] wants us to meet, but I wish they were more well-defined,” Klika said.

Though Sub-Saharan Studies is the only social studies class at Grady that isn’t governed by state standards, that is simply because it is the only social studies elective offered this year, said Lee Pope, the social studies department chair. Pope said only the core social studies classes have a set curriculum.

Pope also said, in the future, the social studies electives offered at Grady might include Latin Studies, Asian Studies, and Comparative World Religions. These classes were not offered this year because too few students signed up for them.

Pope proposed conducting senior surveys to see which electives students wanted to take, arguing that if classes don’t have standards, they should be based on student interest.

“If students do not show any interest in it, then what’s the point of offering it?” Pope said. “Kids aren’t going to learn in a class that they aren’t interested in taking.”

Ethnic studies courses like these, however, have recently come under fire in other parts of the nation. According to the Los Angeles Times, in January of this year the governing board of the Tucson Unified School District eliminated its Mexican American Studies program after pressure from the Arizona state Attorney General, who claimed the class promoted division and hatred.

Both Ware and Pope said they were not aware of this, but Pope disagreed with the decision.

“I don’t think it’s divisive; I think it’s enlightening,” said Pope of ethnic studies classes. “I think it opens our eyes to other people’s cultures.”

As for the future of the class, Ware emphasized Sub-Saharan Studies may still be offered even if social studies electives change. It appears that the fate of the class will be up to the students, however, and what that means for it is yet to be known.

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Without state standards, Sub-Saharan studies’ future is uncertain