South Eugene International High School is a program that often gets overlooked. When discussing the merits and drawbacks of IHS, students are quick to cite the lack of final exams in IHS classes and an overwhelming bulk of colored maps. That, however, just scratches the surface of the real problems and advantages of IHS. Because the school is largely marginalized, students and administration that are part of classic South are unaware of some unexpected problems that students and teachers in IHS face, as well as some of the changes being put in place to reform the curriculum.
Junior and senior year for IHS students is often daunting, with a reputation of having a burdensome load of homework and IB testing. Many IHS students find the transition from sophomore year to junior year to be shocking. In response to complaints of the expectations of junior year, IHS administration has been vamping up the curriculum for sophomores and freshmen to create a smoother passage from underclassmen classes to upperclassmen classes. Particularly, the literature department has incorporated more difficult texts and research papers to prepare students for the rigor and pacing of junior year. Although the last two years of IHS remain demanding, the departments have worked to help the students anticipate these years more adequately.
The purpose of International High School is to refine students into educated global citizens. To do so, much of the curriculum prompts students to discuss cultures and their practices. Because classes discuss so many continents, often students of these cultures can get offended by the manner in which their culture is regarded by another classmate. There have certainly been incidents in my classes where a student has made an ignorant comment in a controversial discussion. To be an impressive global citizen, it is integral to be as sensitive and respectful as possible. Students and staff of IHS need to acknowledge their mistakes if they have inadvertently said something offensive, apologize with sincerity, and do better next time.
Another challenge presented in the IHS curriculum is teaching continents equally. This is a prominent concern of staff members, as well.
“We often talk about how we need to include more history and literature from Africa—it is such a huge continent with so much diversity in language, culture, and history, and a lot of us feel like we could do a better job of bringing in more African resources, authors, etc…,” IHS staff member Courtney Dearinger said. “There are always more things we wish we could cover—it is impossible to adequately teach about every country, every major historical event, and every culture in the history of the world! What we have to settle on is that we cover as much as we can, and we do it in a way that teaches students what questions to ask, how to make connections, how to view history critically, and then we trust that we have given you all the skills to leave high school and be life-long learners of the world around you.”
Every program has its problems. The ones that IHS faces does not stop at the few problems mentioned. Most of their curriculum is based on teaching in parallel with standardized tests, and there is a lack of artistic subject areas. These issues are difficult to address because most of them rely on budget or the set international standard. I think what really captures the spirit of IHS and its willingness to work toward an exceptional program is the actual people involved and not the issues that it attempts to deal with.
“My impression of IHS when I started was that this was a very dedicated and energetic group of teachers who really love their school and want to see it thrive and improve, and that opinion has not changed,” Dearinger said.