By Maya ’22
Twice a cycle, I trek up all of the stairs at the upper school to the Brendan Kutler Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research for my directed study, Public Education in America. As I sit down, I am surrounded by students that are passionate about learning and motivated to grow as people, adding a new layer to my Harvard-Westlake experience.
At Harvard-Westlake, there are over 20 directed study programs offered to students, ranging from The Aesthetics of Resistance, which allows students to explore the importance of graphic design in society and culture, to Dance, allowing students to discover their passion for dance or just try something new. There are also opportunities to explore a new language through the Latin, Ancient Greek, and Italian Language and Culture directed studies, or make an impact on the community through the Environmental Service at Harvard-Westlake directed study.
The directed study classes are mostly discussion based, allowing students to express their opinion and learn from others in a non-traditional subject that interests them. In the Public Education in America directed study, we have learned about how class, race, politics, geography, and legislature affects the education system in the United States. We have also explored the history of the nations’ schools to learn about how the past directly affects the present.
After gaining a general foundation in the history of schools, we heard from a variety of local and national experts in different aspects of the education system. We learned about the challenges of promoting reform from a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as different styles of education in various places around the world from the Johns Hopkins Director of the Institute for Education Policy.
I was initially hesitant to join the directed study, as I am usually more interested in math and science than social studies. But, I decided to explore something new, and I am so glad I did. The directed study has made me more aware of the challenges that government officials and leaders face when trying to improve the nation’s schools. I feel that I have become a more active and engaged citizen as I have become aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the educational systems of the United States.