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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, April 26, 2010

-30- for for high school journalism?

High school journalism appears to be another casualty of tightening budgets and closing minds and it's a trend we should all worry about.

I had a rush down memory lane reading Peter Funt's column about the disappearance of high school newspapers and the courses that support them (whatever happened to civics classes?) My life choices were shaped by experiences as a reporter and editor for an award-winning school newspaper.

And that includes walking away for four years in college to pursue a political science degree because of a young, immature adviser who selected editors based on personal favorites instead of qualifications.

It's a sad but inevitable truth that journalism classes -- along with music, art and physical education -- are victims of the twin scourges of tight budgets and the need to teach to the standardized tests students need to graduate.

Yes, we all need to know how to read and write, add and subtract. But what about those students who answers to different muses?

Obviously I have a bias toward journalism -- working as a reporter and then teaching it. I can say it made me far more aware of the world around me and provided me with the tools I needed to make a successful and comfortable living. And it has blessed me with a wealth of great experiences and connections to good and fascinating people.

And yes it is true that journalism remains a lucrative and popular course of study in college -- undergraduate and graduate.

But I am here to argue that the high school experience -- putting out a weekly newspaper while juggling a lot of other classes and responsibilities -- was the right experience at the right time. Not having that opportunity would have changed my life path and I venture to guess, not for the better.

In addition to learning how to write and opening my eyes to the world around me, I learned hard lessons about people and disappointment. I gained the experience of a broader education in college and learned not to let my own immaturity stand in my way when I gravitated back to journalism.

Journalists and the media have long been among society's favorite things to kick around -- and I've done a fair bit of it in this space. But to cut off the option to learn how to observe, analyze and write -- either because it is a "luxury" or we don't like the medium or message is beyond foolish.

It's a sure sign we are giving in to our own worst impulses. And I can see that by watching and reading the very media many have come to loathe.

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