KHUDYAKOV: Fragility of programs inescapable

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KHUDYAKOV: Fragility of programs inescapable

(JASMINE LUNAR / EYE OF THE TIGER)

(JASMINE LUNAR / EYE OF THE TIGER)

(JASMINE LUNAR / EYE OF THE TIGER)

(JASMINE LUNAR / EYE OF THE TIGER)

NICOLE KHUDYAKOV

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Last school year, the club members of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) met for the first time that school year to discuss their plans for the club. Tensions ran high as they realized that their mother company, FBLA-PBL, had recently begun to enforce the rule that all students participating in FBLA-related activities had to be part of a business class.

The issue? Ron Volk left in 2016 and took the entire business program with him. This both limited existing extracurricular options for students and pinned those he left behind between a rock and a hard place.

Who would replace Volk in running the program after he left? 

The answer: no-one. And we’ve been throwing out unused business textbooks from 2007 ever since.

While new classes constantly flit in and out of the periphery of the school, leaving little to mark their passing but an empty classroom and dated, old equipment, the emotional impact on the students left behind is something different altogether. 

FBLA was dependent on the existence of a business program in order to survive, let alone thrive. After Volk’s retirement, the club bounced aimlessly back and forth between advisors and risked dissolving, caught in a sea of chaos and uncertainty.

It’s common for the class hit list to disproportionately target smaller programs and only ever touch classes that aren’t traditionally necessary within the curricular – math, sciences, and social studies classes tend to guarantee a greater degree of safety that we wouldn’t find in an extracurricular program. 

In this way, students are expected to rely on a single teacher to keep a program afloat. These teachers serve as the linchpins to tenuous programs that could be turned against their students at any time. Tenured or un-tenured, if small enough, and the teacher in charge – and there is only ever a single teacher in charge – leaves, then it’s time to say your farewells. 

There is never a heroic replacement in the wings, waiting to swoop in at a moment’s notice. If a teacher leaves, so does the rest of the program. There is no guarantee of stability and the transient nature of these classes suggests a disproportionate focus on maintaining the core curriculum, leaving students little room to establish themselves as individuals and as holistic people outside of the mandatory classes we choose between each school year.

If we encourage students to explore in high school, to put down roots, and attach themselves to whichever classes they choose, where is our back-up plan and why is it that we expect students to have to take the fall?