Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Mandatory Electives" in High School

By Sean Scarpiello

By the time we enter high school, many of us have different outlooks on our future. Some of us know that we definitely want to move onto college, some of us know that they want to enter the working world right as they graduate, and still others have no idea what they plan on doing upon graduation. The majority of people probably fall into this last group where many of us enjoy the thought of going to college, but we simply do not know what we would be studying when and if we get there. Many freshmen in high school simply have not found their passion in life just yet.

When I was in high school, everyone needed to take 4 years of math, science, English, history, and physical education. Each student had to take 8 classes total, so each year students could pick three electives of their choice. Many students fill these three classes with throw away classes such as cooking, typing, and fashion. Now it is fine if you have a true passion for cooking or fashion, but these classes were notoriously filled every year by students looking to get an easy A. Part of the problem with this is that students are seeking these easier classes when they could be studying more difficult topics which they may find to enjoy.

One way high schools may be able to improve their curriculum is by creating a new set of required courses. Each year, students could be required to take classes that they could major in at college. These “mandatory electives” could include classes in business, psychology, sociology, and philosophy/law. These social sciences are some of the most popular majors in colleges which high school students never get a chance to learn. There are tons of psychology majors in college who never took a psychology class until their freshmen year in college. In high school, there may be a lot of students who are extremely interested in a class like philosophy, but since they are never exposed to it, never find their passion in the field. If these types of classes are made mandatory by schools, many students may take a class and find that they like it enough to push them to go to college and study it further.

This kind of “mandatory elective” option would also allow for students to pick other electives, such as art, music, foreign languages, and other upper level classes. Therefore, students would not be given a list of all of the classes they need to take in the next four years. By allowing for some flexibility, students could pursue upper level business courses if they find they enjoy them. If they find that they still do not like any of these mandatory courses, they still have the option to seek out even more subjects such as graphic design, politics, economics, wood shop, and more.

Overall, this option would work well in high schools at introducing new fields of study to students in a way that forces them to become engaged in the material. While there are many math, science, English, and history majors in colleges, there are just as many business, psychology, sociology, philosophy, arts, and more. By exposing students to these fields early, they may find a true passion and become motivated to succeed in these fields as an adult.

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