With more and more students unable to be successful in the present high school system, with many more not passing the SAT for graduation, it is no wonder students are tuning out and dropping out. High school students see little relevance to what is being taught in school to the world outside, which seems quickly to be passing them by.
Traditional subjects such as English, Math, Science, History and Geography will always have their place in academia, but need to be tweaked to be more applicable and practical toward everyday living. In addition, introductory courses should be taught which will prepare a student to better handle an independent life after graduation, whether it be the world of work, community college, or university. The following are courses which should be necessary for completion of high school.
With advent of all the high tech gadgets, students have lost the need to effectively communicate verbally or written-wise and the English language has gone through the back door. Back to basics has always been a battle cry for teachers but life for students is too fast to focus on grammar and correct styles of speaking or writing. Clear and understandable communication for the workplace needs English classes to guide students in professional speech and at least have some idea of how to spell and have a vocabulary. Of course, that means getting them away from twitter and tweet.
Unless students are all aspiring to be mathematicians or engineers, the basics in math would suffice. As long as they can add, subtract, multiply, divide, make fractions, and take percentages, students should be able to survive well in the outside world. Knowing percentages should enable a person to take advantage of sales items; understand the principle behind mortgage payments; and how credit card companies are ripping one off with 19% plus interest rates.
Aside from that, students should all take one accounting course. As boring as this class has been touted, judging from the present economic environment, all people would have benefited from such a topic in high school. Learn how to save; how to prepare a budget; balance a checkbook; especially how not to spend more than a person makes; would go a long way towards fiscal prudence. In the long run, high schools would produce a population financially savvy enough to run the country as future wage earners.
Science is a necessary subject as everyone needs to know how life and how the world evolves and revolves. Courses must emphasize to students how to conserve energy; understand the biology of living things; preserve the earth, and how to feed and nourish their bodies.
Spin-off courses should dwell on food science and nutrition. With prevailing obesity among the adult population, and now invading youth, students need to be educated on how and what to eat. Obesity is fed by lack of information being taught. Also, everyone should have at least some inkling on how to do basic cooking. Everyone needs to eat, therefore should know how to cook. It is lack of home food preparation that sends families and young people toward fast food restaurants. It is so much easier to eat junk food than it is to spend an hour or less in the kitchen. Learning how to cook can go a long way, not to mention savings in one’s pocketbook.
People are social creatures who must interact within society and with other countries. Understanding other societies hopefully would create harmony and less warring. Knowing what happened in the past would hopefully prevent what might happen in the future.
Physical Education and the Arts
With life being so sedentary these days, students should take physical education classes every day, even if it is for half an hour. It should not be an option nor an elective. Instead of focusing on sports and the hunt for future athletes, address those students who are not physically active. Introduce them to all forms of physical programs like dance, yoga, Pilates, martial arts, boxing, wrestling, swimming, and even ballet that deals with form and balance in the body. Encourage students to explore the discipline that is needed to have a fit body; to love activity is to be fit for life.
As for the Arts, having been a music teacher for 25 years, it is often these courses that hold a student to finish high school as it is the one place where they have an outlet for creativity and expressing themselves. Unfortunately, monetary restrictions often dictate whether an arts program will flourish or perish. Being in the arts is sometimes the only lifeline a student to a high school education.
Interpersonal Skills and Relationships
Students who come from broken homes or have problems at home need help with social interactions, so they do not perpetuate verbal or physical abuse into their adult lives. Knowing how to address problems, how to fight fairly, and how to handle stress is something students should be exposed to.
Along the same vein, parenting should also be a mandatory course. Aside from teenage pregnancy, one should know what it is like to be a parent, on call 24/7. As well, students should be taught how to apply for that important first job; how to act professionally at the work place; all are great coping skills to have before a student graduates. They need to have one course that teaches life skills to take into adulthood.