Although the month of June is now over and the senior class is long gone, students, teachers and administrators alike are already looking forward to what the 2014-2015 school year will bring. As always, students voted for the One Question through the Intranet in the last few weeks before summer.
Rising senior Brandon Kim submitted the winning One Question: “How can we strive to discover and pursue our own passions despite societal norms and external pressures that would compromise our aspirations and dissuade us from pursuing them?”
Kim was overwhelmed when he heard the news from Principal Evan Glazer and Assistant Principal Shawn DeRose, who walked into Kim’s fourth period class on June 17 to congratulate him on his winning submission.
“More than the fact that I won, I’m excited that the TJ community can benefit from my question,” Kim said. “Especially because I’m a rising senior, I wanted to make some lasting contribution or impact on the TJ community before I graduate.”
Kim developed his One Question after observing that an alarmingly high number of people try too hard to conform to social norms. As examples, he cites the traditional career molds for students who are pressured into becoming doctors and lawyers.
“Many people in our society are judged for wanting to pursue passions that are not deemed ‘normal,’ so they end up pursuing things that are acceptable and practical,” Kim said. “Being a student at TJ specifically, where STEM is encouraged, I observed that many TJ students have become myopic, solely focusing on STEM even when their passions lie in other areas.”
Kim also names other external pressures that hinder students from discovering and pursuing their passions, such as limited time and the social obligation to spend time with family and friends. He hopes that his One Question will prompt students to figure out how to work around these outside influences.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing for me is to discover and follow what I love, regardless of what the world dictates me to do,” Kim said.
For the upcoming school year, the One Question curriculum will be undergoing some changes. Most notably, there will not be a One Book, and students will not have a summer assignment pertaining to the One Question. Instead, students will be encouraged to participate in activities similar to those of this year’s experimental Flow Day. Russian teacher Betsy Sandstrom will be coordinating a student steering committee, led by Kim, to determine the nature and content of these activities. Students interested in being a part of the leadership team are encouraged to contact Sandstrom.
The current plan is that three eighth period blocks over the course of the school year will be dedicated to the One Question. Glazer views Kim’s submission as a very relevant topic, which will serve as a perfect springboard for assisting students in mapping out their futures.
“I think this question will lend itself to meaningful activities that help students recognize whether they can pursue passions as a college major or career, or pursue a major or career based on their talents and then use their high quality of life to pursue their passions as hobbies,” Glazer said.