Editorial: electives promote engaged students

The recent move by the the history department to increase the offerings of semester-long electives is a wise choice other departments should look to. (Dalin Dohrn)

The history department has implemented new electives for the next school year and beyond, including new courses regarding religion, war and liberation. The decision to add electives is a step in the right direction — the additional courses account for a wider variety of groups and interests and suggest how electives could work in other departments.

The new electives allow students to explore a wider range of topics more deeply. Year two of history, specifically, has been changed into semester-long courses, offering topics that satisfy a variety of interests, like 20th Century Latin American History and 20th Century African Liberation. In addition to added courses, existing classes such as AT European History are split into I and II parts, and have been renamed to describe the focus of each course, allowing students to specialize in areas of European history they find interesting.

Semester-long electives provide students with more flexibility to mix and match between departments. New courses themselves can also amplify interest and further inspire students to broaden their horizons. For example, the English department has created a significant number of electives for juniors and seniors who have completed both English 1 and Literary Analysis. Many students like choosing what class they will take, while others have commented that they eventually became invested in courses which weren’t their first choice. Students have also expressed their support of the changing English electives over two years — over their final years of high school, they get to choose from 12 separate electives, greatly increasing the odds that at least one option will interest them. When students are interested in their classes, they perform and learn better.

Some might argue that it is impractical to implement new electives, and that there already are enough for most classes. While there are several extra classes students can take for courses such as science, fine arts, music and math, there are fewer options per year. Often, students feel obligated to take advanced classes due to colleges’ expectations, so their options are confined even more if they feel they have to sacrifice their interests for a more rigorous course load. For example, some colleges require that students take physics at some point in high school. This, combined with required Biology and Chemistry, leaves only a small number of classes that are college-level or advanced that these students can take. A similar issue is seen in math, where students are expected to follow a designated track, and, for those who start in Algebra 1 or Geometry, only one alternative advanced class is offered for each course, unless they double up on classes. Adding in more electives will keep students engaged with these departments, and they might discover an interest or talent of theirs within the courses.

The history department has done well in creating new electives that focus on more specific elements within each course. U-High has both the financial and educational means to implement more elective options across other departments from which students can choose. While the current electives offered in other courses may seem like a significant amount, it leaves students with a noticeable lack of options, which decrease interest, productivity and overall learning. U-High has proven this past year-and-a-half that they are more than able to adapt to change — the history department’s recent course addition emphasizes this notion — and should act accordingly by adding new electives in other departments.