Opinion: Students should not have to fulfill mandatory elective requirements

Hannah Elbogen, Staff Writer

For years, I’ve found myself and others asking teachers, why do we need to learn this? Or, when will I ever need this in life? After this topic appeared again in a recent conversation with a peer of mine, I decided to break down the logic behind these questions. 

High school students are required to take certain courses in order to reach the regulations required under high school standards. The problem is, these mandatory classes don’t always appeal to students. If schooling is to help students determine what they wish to pursue in the future, why are these classes necessary at all? Why take chemistry or physics if your career field has no relation? Why take history or English when you want to be more involved with numbers? 

In the Pascack Valley curriculum, most core courses take a student through sophomore or junior year. It’s not until then that these regulations allow upperclassmen to have more freedom with their schedule, allowing each student to take more electives – or classes of choice.

The purpose of electives is for each student to partake in classes that cater to his or her interests. Options include classes such as anatomy, psychology, computer science, journalism and more. Since students are given the option to choose their electives, they’re likely to pick ones that they take a liking to. However, electives have restrictions as well. Within electives there are various domains to be fulfilled: a half year of financial literacy, a year of 21st century life skills, and a year of a visual/performing arts.

When applying for colleges, a student’s GPA (Grade Point Average) is sent to universities to consider whether they are fit for that school or not. Not only do all core classes affect this value, but electives do as well. Given the fact that electives could potentially boost – or drop – one’s GPA, having mandatory electives hinders rather than helps. If one excels in these courses, it would be a great benefit; however, if a student has no interest in the class they are being forced to take in order to fulfill a requirement, they are less likely to succeed. These two ideas do not correspond. Why are students being judged based on mandatory high school classes when applying to colleges where subject matter is based largely on interest? 

“Mandatory classes in high school allow students to be exposed and learn about different subject areas to create well rounded, knowledgeable students,” PV guidance counselor Mary Jo Callanan said in an email. 

Some people, such as Callanan, may argue that taking a wide variety of classes helps high schoolers experiment and find what they like.

However, I find it unfair that students are graded on material that they are being forced to learn. If these classes were optional, students would not feel as pressured and school could possibly be a less stressful environment – all while students could enroll primarily in electives that they enjoy.

Students must enroll in mandatory electives to meet graduation requirements. These elective requirements include various arts and a semester course.