The Irony of Knight School and Yes, May Term

The administration's recent decision to switch from Knight School to May Term has prompted buzz around Menlo's campus. Social Media and Outreach Editor Ellie Lieberman discusses her thoughts on the switch and the philosophy behind specialized classes.

Photo by Erik Wessler

By Ellie Lieberman

Yesterday, I went straight from school to an after school meeting to Menlo tennis to homework. I ate lunch as fast as possible so that I would have time to study and crammed as many teacher meetings into my free period as possible. Just another extremely scheduled Menlo day.

When I was falling asleep, it occurred to me that the only time I had that day to do what I want, or as cliché as it may sound, ‘follow my interests’ had occurred just five minutes earlier as I read my Sports Illustrated magazine. I absolutely love sports journalism and it struck me as a problem that reading to fall asleep was the only time out of my day that I could do something for the simple pleasure of it. In my case, that something was reading for fun.

Some argue that Menlo tries to incorporate students’ hobbies into our everyday schedule. For example, writing for The Coat of Arms and playing tennis could be considered ‘following my interests.’ True, they do help me follow my passions, but long gone are the days of developing hobbies. It is undeniable that clubs are going extinct at Menlo and students no longer take the time to collect coins or bake for the sake of having fun. Following our passions in a school setting are tainted with the Silicon Valley ideas of high performance and competition. Sports, for some students, are more about filling lines on résumés and getting into college, than meeting kids and building a team. Short of senior projects, the only time that we have to explore our passions is the week of Knight School and for future generations of students, May Term, a month where students participate in a seminar style, non-course class curriculum.

The irony of this situation is that Menlo praises itself on teaching us to explore our passions. It’s even in Menlo's Mission and Values which state that “faculty and staff are passionate about encouraging students to discover the joy of learning.” But amongst our packed schedules, always on repeat, all we currently have is a week of “hobby time.” This raises one major question for me; if helping students find a joy of learning outside of the classroom is so important, why do we focus on it for one week of the year during Knight School? In my mind, it would be more beneficial for students to have carved out time each day because all said and done, students are less likely to develop a lifelong passion in one week of learning than over time during the school year.

Of course, this isn’t a problem that can be remedied immediately. But, rather than the school spending resources on one week or even one month during the year, I think it would be more valuable if Menlo focused on students’ quirky interests during the school year. Currently, there’s so much stress about core classes, AP’s and beneficial extracurriculars, but what happened to taking classes that just sound cool? We need to expand the course catalog, especially in the humanities, so students can explore these rather off-the-grid interests that would usually be forgotten.

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