More than a blow-off class

Why World Area Studies breaks the learning norm.

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Haylie Stum, Sports Editor

You’re making your schedule for next year. AP English, AP Chemistry, AP History, and any other class you take solely because it’ll “look good for colleges” fill in the class slots. You think you’ve gotten it all figured out until you see it.
The ever-so-scary empty class slot.
“Do I take another high-level class to keep my GPA and my stress level up?”

“Do I take another elective so I can focus on my hard classes, but my GPA goes down?”

Those are the questions that swarm your head as you search for the right solution when it feels like there isn’t one.
As you scramble through the course description book, there it is. The beacon of light for the players of the GPA game.
World Area Studies.
World Area Studies, as defined by the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District course description book, is a class that studies current world problems and analyzes methods for resolving them. But for Megan Puckett, one of two World Area Studies teachers at Bridgeland High School, the consensus of the class is a bit more than that.
“It is getting to just expose kids to [the fact that] the world is such a bigger place than here,” Puckett said. “I think there’s this idea that so many Texans believe the same thing, that a whole generation thinks the same thing, that all Bridgeland kids think the same thing. And largely, I found that that’s not true. There’s a lot of diversity of thought.”
World Area Studies is a K-level class that has earned a reputation as an easy, or more abruptly, “blowoff” class among juniors and seniors. But, there’s a large trend of students that can agree the class has introduced more new knowledge and awareness than any other course ever has. Puckett thinks that the perception of the course is simply distorted.
“I think the reason kids think it’s a blowoff class is because I think kids have a really messed up perception of learning. When I say that, I don’t think it’s the kid’s fault. I think that the education system has created this thing that if a class is really hard, that means it’s a good class,” Puckett says. “The rigor doesn’t come from grades, it comes from the learning.”
The curriculum for World Area Studies revolves around fitting the needs of the students that take it. Whether it’s digging deeper into the situation in Hong Kong or the opioid crisis, what the students learn is what the students want to know. Puckett thinks that teaching with little boundaries is what makes the course so impactful on students.
“I like the freedom of the content. What’s cool is that we’re not held to any TEKS, so there’s not any state standards that we’re beholden to,” Puckett says. “So, I really tried to make [the class] in the same way that I enjoyed the course, which is because I got to learn about things I never would have seen otherwise.”
Although students are able to explore and form their own viewpoint on the world around them in the class, it doesn’t come without challenges. More recently, there’s been a stigma amongst some in society that teens should “stay out of politics” because of their lack of maturity and age. Puckett says that social awareness now will actually be more beneficial.
“It’s your future we’re dealing with here… it’s all of this stuff that’s going to impact you. There’s this huge generation gap between people in Congress right now that you have millennials stepping in. You even have active people in Gen Z, who are looking to promote change. I think that one of the important things about understanding the world around you is that you need to seek to understand before you want,” Puckett says.
Seeking to understand is something that is a huge global focus right now in a time where turmoil is the norm. Puckett feels that making sure her generation of students can apply that skill can help make up for the areas in which America is lacking.
“I feel like trust is a big thing that our country is missing. Trust in each other, trust in the government, trust in the media, trust in journalism. That lack of trust has spiraled us into a lot of very scary places…” Puckett says. “I want kids to think critically about the world around them and actively try to pursue truth in a way that is not demeaning to others. Because sometimes in the pursuit of truth, we demean others.”
Trust is one of the building blocks in creating a more unified society. More than that, being able to trust people individually and not categorically. Puckett hopes that her class can be a starting point for that process in putting humanity first.
“I would hope that [the class] builds trust in the fellow man and the people you know…One of the things I always say in this class is nobody [is to] make a generalization about an entire group of people and say they all must believe this. That is a wildly unfair thing to do because people are not monoliths,” Puckett says. “We shouldn’t speak about people in monoliths because it takes away the idea that people have freedom of thought and that they have their own brains.”
Being proactive. Being informed. Being outspoken. All of these elements can help set up our country and even the globe for achieving serenity and stability. Puckett says that World Area Studies is not only a place to learn these traits, but also an opportunity to spark positive change.
“The most dangerous thing to democracy is an ill-informed electorate. See the world as an opportunity to learn and see those that are different from you as an opportunity to learn from them…” Puckett says. “That’s what I would want people to get out of the class- that learning should be joyful and there’s so much more that brings us together than what divides us overall.”