Journalism Courses Often a Dumping Ground in High School Curricula

Article excerpt

TO NURTURE A love of journalism in young people is what keeps me and others like me going in education.

To get the best and the brightest students involved, we must make everyone aware of the value of journalism education.

According to a study published last year, Dr. Jack Dvorak, director of the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University, found that 75% of all high schools have journalism classes, with more than half a million students enrolled.

Too often, though, journalism becomes a dumping ground because, in most cases, it is not included on the college prep track. Dvorak's study also showed that only 13% of those schools accept the classes as English requirement; 73% accept it in other categories, and 13.5% do not grant credit for media labs at all.

Ironically, a Journalism Education Association study indicated that college freshmen who had been involved in high school publications had significantly higher ACT scores and higher grades in their first year of college than did those not involved. Journalism must be recognized within the college preparatory curriculum.

To accomplish this, we must work together to strengthen the training of journalism teachers. Dvorak found that 43% of journalism educators had never considered journalism involvement until they were assigned the job by an administrator. Only 39% had made their initial consideration before college graduation.

Because most advisers did not start out with journalism or journalism education as a career goal, you can help them to understand better how a newspaper works. By doing this, these teachers can better train their students. Meeting editors and reporters will also create an important network for advisers.

An important step has been taken by the Journalism Education Association. In 1990, the JEA established a national certification exam and recognition program, which shows a concern for making journalism courses a valuable part of the high school curriculum. We must encourage advisers to become involved in this important activity.

Building strong writing program is important. Under the auspices of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, summer Intensive journalistic Writing institutes help teachers prepare to teach an English composition course using journalistic writing techniques. Sponsoring a teacher for this program would help more students develop an appreciation for journalism.

As the Freedom Forum insert in the March issue of American Journalism Review pointed out, high school papers are struggling for existence. When administrators see publications as extras, they more readily cut them to save money, but they cut them for another, even more ominous, reason.

Student journalists today are concerned with the issues that face them: teen pregnancy, AIDS, substance abuse, suicide. This coverage makes administrators very nervous. I know that well.

The 1988 Supreme Court Hazelwood decision gave schools broad power to censor student expression. Since then, censorship calls to the Student Press Law Center have increased two and a half times.

Established advisers like me are standing firm in our quest for solid, responsible student reporting. Young or inexperienced advisers find it more difficult to tackle sensitive issues when they feel uncomfortable - or when their jobs are at stake.

Student journalists can tackle those tough issues responsibly. Many of us believe that where censorship lives, the quest to become a journalist falls, but, as Dr. Stan Soffin, journalism chair at Michigan State University, has pointed out, this is a research question. …