Angela Poe Russell: The bold policy every school should adopt now

Mar 20, 2024, 7:43 AM | Updated: Mar 27, 2024, 1:52 pm

school students cliques...

Mercer Island High School marching band (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

It’s a theme in movies that’s so cliché: Teenage students in cliques. The jocks, the drama kids, the band geeks, the nerds and then the dreamy guy or girl.

Last I checked, most kids actually don’t fit into a single box, and the problem with putting them there is it can be hard to climb out of.

What’s most infuriating? The schools themselves and the systems around them perpetuate these silos.

Yes, schools are part of the problem

The good news is schools also have the power to fix it, if they are willing to put aside their own agendas and prioritize students. The solution? Stop forcing kids to choose and specialize.

High school is when this pressure to choose really ramps up. But a kid’s teen years are supposed to be a time of exploration. But the experience for the majority of kids is that they have to find “their thing” and work on “that thing” so they can be the best at “that thing,” so their school can compete and win using “their thing.” As a result, they never get to try anything else.

More KIRO Newsradio opinions: ‘Gee and Ursula’ discuss how Bonney Lake’s mayor search revealed candidates ‘past’

Now look, it’s awesome when kids have their thing — their skill, their school subject, their sport, their hobby they can obsess over. But what if trying something else actually made them better?

There’s a book out on this topic with a ton of research behind it called Range, written by David Epstein. The premise is that keeping a broad range of interests improves performance later in life. He points out the most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area.

It made me think about Albert Einstein, a musician himself, who said the greatest scientists are always artists as well. The great painter Leonardo da Vinci contributed to the study of the nervous system. And the man behind the Morse code and the telegraph was also an accomplished artist.

One of the hottest comedians right now, Trevor Noah, talked about this concept in a recent interview.

“I always feel that every discipline, whether it’s art or otherwise, can contribute or touch other disciplines in some shape or form,” Noah said in an interview with Esther Perel. “I don’t think you can talk about comedy without talking about psychology.”

You may be thinking that, with club sports and the rigor of high school, having more than a main interest just isn’t practical or possible. Trust me, I’ve heard it. But as the saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way.

Schools adopting this practice

My daughter’s high school musical just wrapped and I was struck by the number of athletes who participated. I wanted to understand how this worked. Well, it is the school’s policy to encourage exploration as long as possible. I was told the theater department works with the athletic department to sync up schedules. And the coaches are flexible for important rehearsals and performances and vice versa. It’s adults working together for the benefit of the students. Imagine that.

This isn’t the only school to operate this way, but honestly, every student should have an opportunity to explore a wide range of interests. Think of it like cross-training for life. I totally get at some point in high school a student may need to specialize.

More from Angela Poe Russell: Russell Wilson, Ciara’s Oscar Party photo just what our culture needs

But keep in mind, at least when it comes to sports, only 7% of high school students will play in college. What do we want the others to take away from those years? And how do they want them to show up in life?

Keeping kids in boxes isn’t a strategy that’s going to prepare them for a rapidly changing world. They need adaptability, critical thinking and resilience that develops when they step out of their box and ultimately out of their comfort zone. That’s where true learning begins and isn’t that our job to push them there?

Angela Poe Russell is a longtime Seattle media personality and a fill-in host for KIRO Newsradio.

KIRO Newsradio Opinion

trump shooter motive...

Dave Ross

Ross: Motive of Trump shooter not important, how he got an AR-15 is

As much as we would all like to understand the motive of the Trump shooter, I don’t see us doing much with that information.

2 days ago


MyNorthwest Video

Video: Membership Fees at Costco Are Going Up!

Ursula Reutin joins the SMN crew to discuss some changes that Costco is making to its membership fees and the rewards it is giving back to members. Listen to Seattle’s Morning News w/ Dave Ross & Colleen O’Brien Show every weekday at 5am on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM or go to to learn more! […]

5 days ago

thirtymile fire...

Travis Mayfield

Mayfield: I will never forget Devin, Tom, Karen, Jessica in wake of Thirtymile Fire anniversary

This week marks 23 years since the The Thirtymile Fire, a massive wildfire burning north of Winthrop Washington killed four firefighters.

5 days ago


MyNorthwest Video

Video: What do Sting and tantric sex have in common?

John shares an incredible story about a Sting concert at the Gorge… and then somewhere along the way, we (and by “WE”, we mean Jake) landed at tantric sex. Listen to the John & Jake Show every weekday at 3pm on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM. Listen to KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM, or visit to […]

7 days ago


Angela Poe Russell

Angela Poe Russell: The lesson we all can learn from President Biden

As disturbed as I am by the state of politics right now, I do have President Biden to thank for giving me a new perspective on a personal matter.

7 days ago


MyNorthwest Video

Video: Should President Biden drop out of the race?

Ursula Reutin and Dave Ross have a very spirited conversation about our state’s Democratic response to President Biden. Listen to Seattle’s Morning News w/ Dave Ross & Colleen O’Brien Show every weekday at 5am on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show every weekday at 9am on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM […]

8 days ago

Angela Poe Russell: The bold policy every school should adopt now