Should any high school courses be mandatory?

Should any courses be mandatory for high school students? Mandating specific classes for every student implies that every student has the same foundation and future. While we’re at it, why don’t we mandate haircuts, friendship circles, and part time jobs? If you take a look at our schools’ curriculum, you will find that we are educating our kids to become professors. What happened to apprenticeship programs? What happened to individuality? What happened to supporting the American dream?

This may sound like a bold stance to take; however, the educational system is failing our children’s future. Many people feel we should educate all high schoolers for college entrance, because research has shown that a college degree improves the chances of a successful career. Others feel there should be two sets of standards, one for those college bound and one for all others. Does anyone see the holes in these theories?

As parents, we all want the best for our children. We would feel like we were a success if all of our children ended up being doctors, lawyers, judges, or politicians. But the fact of the matter is, it takes all kinds to make this world go round. Without entrepreneurs we would not have McDonalds, Microsoft, and many other self started businesses. Without general laborers in factory work we would have no consumer goods; no computers, automobiles, jugs to put our milk in, nothing. Aren’t truck drivers necessary to transport all of these goods to the consumer? And how would we buy our groceries without the stock boy and butcher. These skills aren’t taught in school, and they are the backbone of our country.

Now back to the question at hand. Yes, there should be some mandatory classes, but they would vary per individual interests and abilities. Let’s stick with literacy and mathematics though.

Reading could be fulfilled by a number of appropriate alternatives. Literature would satisfy requirements for the aspiring writer or teacher. The history and development of comics would satisfy the aspiring artist or web designer. Current events would satisfy the requirement for the aspiring journalist, comedian, actor, or musician. This list could go on forever, but let’s face it we’d need more teachers who think outside the box.

Writing could be fulfilled in as many different ways as reading would be. English composition, journalism, music composition, web design, and creative writing would be a great start for choices.

Mathematics is a bit trickier. This is an area I feel America is losing ground in. We require our students to learn geometry and algebra, yet half of them cannot balance a check book, or figure out what their monthly payments should be on their credit line. Every year we fall further in debt, but no one is taking action to teach our children what they can do to prevent it for themselves. Consumer math should be the only actual required class taught to every student. In this class, the student would learn how to: manage and balance a checking account, compute APR and compare different lines of credit, budget an average household income for the entire year, research occupational outlook, and open and manage a money market (or another type of goal oriented savings).

This class should be taught in 9th grade, and built upon every year depending on the student’s needs and goals. Algebra, geometry, accounting, these are all wonderful for any student. For the college bound student, why not encourage them to take their calculus or trigonometry at the local community college? This will get them acclimated to the college learning experience, and get a head start on their credits.

Anything offered beyond the three R’s should be considered electives. Does this mean that Science, History or Civics aren’t important? It is quite the contrary. They are important, but shouldn’t be forced. If they are offered and presented in an intriguing and inviting manner, more students would elect to take them. For those who chose not to, other classes could be offered that would prepare them for life and work. This could also open up opportunities to bring apprenticeship programs back into our educational system.