An examination of the humanities curricula in secondary schools emphasizing mathematics and science as the predominant disciplines

Rhonda Collum Quam


A new educational opportunity for gifted/academically talented students was conceptualized more than twenty years ago with the establishment of the first specialized residential high school in the United States. The first mathematics and science high school was established in North Carolina to educate that state's eleventh and twelfth grade students who have special gifts in mathematics and science. The founding of other residential high schools soon followed. To date, legislatures in eleven states have mandated the establishment of mathematics and science high schools. The predominant disciplinary focus of most of these schools, as indicated by their names, is on mathematics and science. The question is "What happens to the humanities curricula in these specialized residential high schools that emphasize mathematics and science as the predominant disciplines". This phenomenological research study examines the humanities curricula of two mathematics and science high schools in the Southeastern United States. By utilizing data obtained during site visits at the two schools, this study answers questions concerning these schools' humanities curricula. Data collection methods included on-site observations, administrator and teacher questionnaires, formal and informal interviews and a curriculum audit, which included analysis of artifacts, such as school mission statements, course catalogues, and school vision statements. The research answers questions about the humanities curricula and how these essentials are being taught in the mathematics and science high schools. The humanities educators in these specialized educational settings employ a variety of teaching methods, such as Socratic questioning using educative questions, cooperative learning, individualization, and discussion seminars, by which they deliver the humanities curricula. The essentials of the curricula include thinking skills, problem solving, and metacognition skills and the humanities instructors deliver these essentials through fast paced, high level curricula.