School Curricula….A Choice for the Student or the School?

I love the opinions section of a newspaper.   The facts are still true but there is a real voice behind the words.  This particular article Let Kids Rule the School from the New York Times really caught my interest because I think everyone, well at least those that have been in school for a majority of their lives, can relate.  The article describes the advantages of allowing students to make their own curricula and learn in a different way than that which is set by a school district or a state.  The high school students in this article are from a Massachusetts school that took a risk in allowing a group of students, known as the Independent Project, to explore what interested them the most and focus on those studies for an entire semester.  The students’ rankings  ranged from practically dropping and/or failing out to those on the honor roll.  Each one of them succeeded in the program and became re-engaged in school and learning.  The problem with strict curricula is that if a student falls behind or becomes disinterested they are bound to lag behind the other students when in fact it may not be their intelligence that is truly the problem.  I found a similar problem in college.  I went to a large state university and was a student in the college for arts and science.  To be eligible for graduation I had to take  general education requirements on top of the requirements for whichever major I chose to pursue.  I knew that I wanted to go to law school since the day I walked into college and as most of us know, law students do not excel at mathematics.  So why did my University force me to take mathematics and hard science courses when I knew exactly where I wanted to go after graduation? Isn’t the purpose of post-secondary schooling to allow an individual to follow their own path and make their own mistakes?  If I knew biology or calculus was necessary, it should be my responsibility to take those courses….but I should not be forced to enroll in classes that will not benefit my future or my ego.  There are of course difference between academic freedoms awarded to college and high school students, without a doubt.  But the same basic premise is involved…if a student works better in a certain academic setting or in certain subjects, shouldn’t schools be helping them excel in those rather than forcing them to engage in courses that will only frustrate and therefore disinterest them?