In an ideal world students would have a comprehensive list of electives to choose from to complete their high school elective requirements. But in our world, here in California, the choice for electives continues to dwindle due to financial inadequacies. Program improvement schools suffer the worst because too often electives are pre-empted by mandated program improvement language arts and math classes. At our high school, with an enrollment of over 2400, students (most of them “at-risk”) get to choose from among nine to twelve electives (not including foreign language), depending on what the school decides to offer each year. This doesn ‘t provide many options for kids. Additionally, trying to schedule students according to their elective choices and accommodate the necessary academics is difficult and often leaves many kids without their first choice of classes. The result of not offering a variety of electives is that teachers too often wind up with students in their classes who don ‘t want to be there and are not motivated to do well in a class that they did not chose.
My own high school experience included choice, not only with a broad spectrum of electives, but within core academic classes as well. Perhaps that is why I think back to my high school years with gratitude for having had a high interest, well developed, rigorous curriculum. The emphasis to structure, mandate and align every single high school offering is ludicrous. Students need a broad range of electives, not just in the arts but in all disciplines. Who knows what seed of interest is going to take root with a student and propel him or her to a vocation not previously considered? It is time to rethink, restructure and recreate a more relevant and vibrant secondary curriculum.