Required Electives Restrict Flexibility in Schedules

Rebecca Pujo, Editor-in-Chief

Requiring high school students to take an elective like health seems reasonable- it makes perfect sense that teens should have basic health education. However, there does not seem to be much of a point in forcing them to take other electives, such as technology or art, in order to graduate.
There are a number of credits that students in MCPS are required to have in order to graduate. Many of them are regular classes, such as math and English, but students are also required to take electives including two years of a foreign language, one semester of health and one year of PE, art and technology. While these may not seem like many classes to take, they can add up when students are forced to take them instead of other electives or academic classes they would rather take.
This becomes especially difficult when doing programs such as IB Diploma, IBCP or Project Lead the Way, in which students are required to take certain electives or academic classes in order to graduate with the program. Being forced to take certain electives that students have no interest in can also bring down their GPAs.
“Freshman year, I had to take IED (Introduction to Engineering and Design) and that prevented me from taking another elective [that I would] really enjoy, and I really struggled in it. I didn’t really understand what was going on, so I ended up getting a C both semesters, so that brought down my overall GPA,” junior Maya Jones said.
In theory, taking these required electives could broaden a student’s horizons and make them more well-rounded and prepared for the future. However, when being forced to do dull work for a class that likely will not benefit them in the future, these classes can have the opposite effect on students. Despite this, there is always the hope that students will come to enjoy a class that they do not want to take.
“Hopefully students will find a benefit/interest in a class they initially did not want to take but felt had to. A liberal arts education makes for a more well-rounded individual,” photography teacher Lisa Ryan said.
According to Assistant Principal John Haas, the state of Maryland requires all high school students to take a certain number of required electives in order to be more well-rounded individuals. Students must take these classes in order to graduate. Many creative electives, such as art classes, definitely can achieve this, by exposing students to new talents, and engineering classes allow students to be exposed to a field they may be interested in pursuing. This may give students a good idea of what they want to study in college. Health and PE classes also provide essential exercise and education for high school students.
However, there are many downsides to these required electives, and it would probably help many students if they were just suggested, rather than required for graduation. Fitting in art and technology classes to an already packed course load can be very difficult. Many students have even resorted to taking some of these electives over the summer because they cannot fit them in during the school year, which can be very problematic in that it may be expensive and time-consuming.
For technology classes, the main goal is to get students interested in possibly pursuing engineering as a career as careers in the STEM field continue to grow. However, in the wrong classroom environment, such as with a difficult and confusing curriculum or a less-than motivated teacher, students can end up being discouraged to take these classes.
Required electives are generally a positive thing in that they allow students to become more well-rounded and spark interest in different areas. In addition, they may prevent some students from further pursuing a pathway they enjoy. The fact that they are required in order to graduate can cause a multitude of problems, which is why they should not necessarily be required, but suggested.