Calculus should most certainly not be mandatory for high school graduation. Calculus creates too large a burden on both schools and students to be a viable option. Calculus is better left an elective, or not offered at all.
High school graduates do not need to know math at a calculus level. For the typical citizen, calculus will be an unused, not to mention difficult, math class. The simple fact that calculus has no direct application in everyday experiences should be deterrent enough of an argument to convince you that high schools should not mandate the learning of calculus.
The purpose of high school is to prepare students for an educated life ahead of them. High school should not be seen as a steadfast preparation for college. Although options for students who wish to prepare for college are a very positive attribute to a high school, they should not be mandated for those students who do not plan to go on to postsecondary education.
Calculus requires a great deal of understanding from those who teach it. Speaking from personal experience, I don’t believe many high school math teachers are at the level of understanding needed to properly teach calculus courses. When I went to high school, many of my fellow students elected to take the first semester of college calculus. These students almost always had trouble with the class. The problem didn’t lie in the intelligence of the students; it was a result of poor instruction in the classroom. When I took calculus in college, I understood it well enough to get A’s in four semesters of it, with very little outside instruction.
Along with needing proper teachers, high school tutors would also need to be competent in higher mathematics. This may not be a problem in large schools, but this presents an unnecessary stress on smaller schools. Being able to provide adequate instruction in this difficult math is just not an appropriate option.
Many college students don’t even need to use calculus. As I am a college student, I tend to compare my classes with those of my peers. A student I spoke with is majoring in psychology, and she is not required to take calculus. Another student I spoke with needs to take a class called short calculus, which is calculus without trigonometry. This higher level math just isn’t necessary, even for a professional career.
The burden placed on high school students taking calculus is enormous when compared to a student taking the class in college. The great deal of learning expected in high school is enough as it is. Save calculus for the students that need it; save calculus for college.