No, not as in the Cavs and Warriors or Celtics and Lakers but hoops as in those we have to jump through and more specifically those students have to jump through when trying to meet graduation requirements and, of course, position themselves for college.
Whether a total number of credits or even a specific course, the vast majority—in fact, the overwhelming majority—of schools require students to complete a set program to earn a diploma. While some will occasionally allow exceptions, they really prefer not to. This is not out of spite for or ignorance of an individual's needs but rather properly rooted in the philosophy, research, and experience of the particular school.
At FA, we believe a liberal arts education, with its rock-solid and interconnected foundations in all the academic disciplines, in combination with a healthy mix of artistic, athletic, service, and leadership opportunities is the best possible program for preparing students for college and for life. Every decision we make is born of the continuous effort to make our eclectic program meaningful and manageable—for every student.
In practice, this means balancing what we know is generally "right and good" for all students with what we know is specifically "good and right" for the individual student. We "know" the former from our twenty-five years of experience as an institution and we "know" the latter from our daily experience with each student. The amount of individual attention each student at FA receives teaches them to reflect on and decide what type of learner-citizen they want to be. As a result, FA has to be willing to listen to each student's hopes and dreams and adjust when and how appropriate.
Right. Hoops. Almost forgot.
This means that we'll lower, raise, enlarge, shrink, eliminate, and/or add hoops if needed. Ask politely, and we'll even set 'em on fire too—the low temperature fire they use in the circus, though, and we'll have a fire extinguisher handy.
Those schools that are larger and wedded to the Governor's School, AP, or IB programs for example just don't have that luxury. Not their fault. (Well, kind of their fault). The scale on which they have to operate mandates more rigid policies but the programs they choose to follow are not about individuals seeking and setting goals for themselves. Those programs are about state or globally set standards that must be maintained or they run the risk of losing credibility. They are about categorizing students into "achievement groups"—you made the cut so you belong here, you didn't make the cut so you belong there.
Quite the contrary, FA's credibility is enhanced every time one of our students picks a path that makes them the best learner-citizen they can be—categories of one, where each student is assessed first and foremost on individual merits. Sam, the author of the blog post previous to this one and member of the Class of 2018, is simply and powerfully Sam. (No, we don't rank our students either.)
I'll be the first to admit that we can't do it all but I'll also be the first to declare we are sure going to try. Well prepared because they have discovered, engaged, and imagined the limitless nature of themselves and the world around them? You betcha.