Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Downside of Attending a (self-)"Designated Academic High School"

I completed all of the courses required for graduation and University of California admission just over two semesters ago. If I had normal parents, right now I could either attend college or work until time for college. Anyone who is not a new reader is already aware that my parents are anything but normal. If I were attending a normal high school, I could take whatever courses I desired to take since I have finished the courses required for graduation. Unfortunately for me, I've not only been stuck with parents who are abnormal, subnormal, peculiar, or whatever label one would desire to ascribe to them; I also have the misfortune of attending a high school that is non-mainstream.

My school is a (self-)"Designated Academic High School." One of my teachers who has worked at the school since roughly the Eisenhower administration told me that in the early days of its reigning administrators' delusions of grandeur, my school tried to bill itself as a "college preparatory school" and set fairly rigorous requirements for admission and continued enrollment, but that the State of California found these requirements consistent with the practice of "tracking," or placing students into inflexible groups according to ability. The State of California allows tracking only on an exremely limited basis in its public schools. An entire public school cannot be on a fast track to university acceptance while one across the city in the same district is on a fast track for gang membership acceptance in the Golden State. Even if one establishes a charter school, which lifts some of the requirements to which the state holds all public secondary schools, measures are taken to ensure that children of the wealthy and educated aren't given a more academically advantageous education than those from less privileged backgrounds. (The state's primary method of accomplishing this is to ensure that education for the children of the welathy and educated is every bit as screwed up as is that for the lass privileged, but this will have to be a subject for another day's blog.)

Hence the (self-)"Designated Academic High School." My high school has designated itself as such so that if any student requests to do anything out of the ordinary by way of attendance, course undertakings, or anything else, the response is always, "This is a (self-)'Designated Academic High School.' ------ is not allowed here." The bottom line is that students with reasonable parents who are in situations similar to mine opt out and attend Gang Central or another high school so that they can take the courses of study they would choose to take for the remaining semesters (my parents are incredibly fixated on high school being an eight-semester experience) while I am, instead, having the academic experience of my life at my (self-)"Designated Academic High School."

I've completed or challenged every English course that a non-remedial student would ever need or want here, yet I'm required to be enrolled in an English course each semester of enrollment. I've completed civics and economics, as well as all other social science courses offered here, but I'm required to enroll in a social science course in each semester of attendance. I'm also required to enroll in one science and one math course during each semester of enrollment, although greater course offerings are available in these areas, and I would have chosen to take the courses I'm taking even if enrollment in such academic areas were not required.

The bottom line is that I'm taking one independent study course for English and one for social science. This is in addition to APAIS (Advanced Placement Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies), in which I am to choose and complete at least one project spanning at least two academic areas. Communication between staff members isn't a given at my school, but I can't count on getting away with completing one identical project that would suffice for all three courses. It would be interesting to try, and theoretically anyway, if I came up with a topic that fit the bill for English and social science, the project would by definition be sufficiently broad for APAIS.

Can one project topic relating to "Judge Alex" and other TV courtroom shows be tied in to English and social science as well? The social science tie-in is easy, as small-claims court, which most courtroom TV shows are or purport to be, represents a part of the judicial branch of government. The English connection is a little more difficult for which to find a link, beyond the obvious fact that the shows are in English and any project or presentation relating to such would certainly be written or spoken in English. My course supervisor for the independent study English course has expressed a preference for a literature-based project, but could possibly be persuaded to accept a more linguistically-oriented project. Perhaps a topic such as "The Disappearance of Standard English Syntax by Litigants in Daytime Courtroom Shows" would be accepted. If I used the same topic for social science, I could use the same research and some of the same writing for a paper detailing how those who use standard English syntax are or are not favored by the small claims court system. I could find a statistical angle and use it for the Statistics project as well. (My only other for-credit courses are Human Anatomy and Physical Education, neither of which requires or even offers projects as coursework options.) I'm liking the idea more and more as I type.

In this particular case, I would be using the same research to write different compositions (which mysteriously happened to contain large verbatim chunks in common), but still, it raises the question: Is it cheating for one to submit a paper that one has authored for more than one class? Both of my parents are of the opinion that it is, although they are vague when pressed for grounds on which re-submitting one's own work should be considered cheating. My conclusion is that unless a school has a specific rule against re-submission of previously authored and submitted compositions, doing so cannot be considered cheating. I haven't asked the opinions of my teachers about this, as asking such would be exposing oneself to greater scrutiny. Our regional newspaper has a syndicated ethics column. Perhaps I should submit a question relating to this topic to the author of the column, although odds are against the question being addressed in the column. In the meantime, I would love to hear others' opinions regarding this subject -- even those differing from the one I have expressed.


  1. Hi Alexis!
    The question has come up before. While re-submitting one's own work cannpt be considered plagiarism, at many institutions it is considered "academic dishonety." In order for you to be penalized for the re-use of your own work at your particular school, a stand against re-submission of one's own work would have to be explicitly stated in your school rules or governance, code of honor, handbook, or similar document, or the teacher for a particular course would have needed to explicitly state that he or she would not accept re-submitted work. In your case, however, you know that your parents would be unlikely to come to your defense to get you off the hook on a technicality. Final conclusion: use the same research for as many papers as you want, but the written assignment turned in for each course needs to be a separate composition. It would be understandable that the compositions would share some quoted material, but "large verbatim chunks in common" would be beyond acceptable.

  2. Re-using your old papers is considered cheating by most schools. Sorry.

  3. Schools and colleges the world over resent students who are different and/or who are more clever that the teaching staff.

  4. I don't think it should be considered to cheating to reuse a previously written paper, but it usually is.