Graduation demands ample, few benefits

Avantika Khatri

High school graduation requirements in Missouri prevent students from reaching their full potential. Students spend four years working through the 24 credits, six a year. The number isn’t so absurd that people stress over it, but the specifications block so much potential.
After suffering through nine years of schooling and nine years of following rigid schedules in elementary and middle school to explore all the subjects, high schoolers then get to “choose” what classes to take throughout their four years. But we don’t. The credits have rigid specifications, and there is little choice.
While Columbia Public School boasts a wide selection of classes, students can choose only a few, at the cost of exploring other classes. As a result, students enter the work field with little idea of what they are interested in. Students enter college, where they can spend upwards of $50,000, discovering what they should already know from high school. The requirements leave no opportunity for discovery.
The state necessitates four language arts credits for graduation, a reasonable request. (But CPS decided exploring the language arts isn’t enough. No, of these four credits, three needed to be specifically for English classes.) English classes through the years regurgitate the same things, and none can teach practical application as well as the other language arts classes. The intent of the classes is to provide students with necessary communication and analytical skills for life. But communication skills are better taught in public speaking or debate courses, while analytical skills are a part of every class.
People interested in fiction writing can take Creative Writing for a language arts credit, while those fascinated by journalism should actually take the class Journalistic Writing. By restricting three of the four credits to English classes, few students explore the other language arts opportunities, thereby eliminating the field as a potential career path.
Students cannot take these lasses because the requirements so severely limit them. Still, the district isn’t completely at fault for the students’ oppressed dreams.
The physical education credit should help reduce the obesity rate, a good intent. Forcing athletes to fulfill a credit, though, makes no sense. Competitive athletes already spend most waking hours training. They don’t need the credit of P.E., but they might need a credit elsewhere. The band walks as much as the fitness walking class, if not more, and the band students carry huge instruments. Yet they don’t get any physical activity credit for it.
If P.E. reduced obesity rates, the battle would be worth fighting. But for half a credit, a student can pay Mizzou Online $240 to take Fitness for Well-Being. Based on the honor system, the course allows students to say they have completed the requisite amount of exercise (and their parents sign, as if that makes a difference).
But a student desperate enough to pay money to avoid taking an actual P.E. class, either for time issues or for more personal ones, would have no reason to do anything in the online course. The only difference between taking the online course and not taking one at all is the $240 to etch another .5 credit on transcripts.
Should Columbia Public Schools have local control over P.E., administrators could allow P.E. to be fulfilled in more ways. Instead of making students who are not at risk of health problems take the course, the district could create a fitness test. Students who meet this test would not have to take P.E. If the district offered independent course offerings for students involved in sports or marching band, that would be another logical solution to the ill-conceived structure in place.
Though it is a great program at RBHS — winning numerous recognitions at the state and national level — Personal Finance has little practical utility. With the economic recession a growing issue, giving future citizens knowledge about investing and saving seems reasonable. And the course teaches students useful information, but it’s nothing anyone would remember.
The information is skills learned practically. Until an individual actually interacts with the different types of banking accounts, credit cards and stocks in real life, he or she will never retain any of it, not beyond a week of the class’s completion.
Eliminating such credits only solves the small part of a larger issue. President Ronald Reagan wrote “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, a time when the U.S. feared dropping behind other nations in education. Because of this generation, Missouri now requires 24 credits for graduation. However, different issues plague high schools today. Rather than lacking academic focus, the excitement and exhilaration for learning are absent in schools.
After spending kindergarten through tenth grade in classes chosen by administrators, students should have the opportunity in their junior and senior years to explore other options and find their interests, or this generation’s high schoolers will enter the workforce simply to complete more requirements rather than following their passions.
By Avantika Khatri