Course Requirements Limit Student Exploration

Before I entered my freshman year at LHS, I received tons of advice from current and former students. Everyone advised me to take advantage of all the opportunities LHS has to offer, including a wide range of classes available to students. This thrilled me. I couldn’t wait to try something new. Maybe I’d even take an art class (despite my friends’ and family’s assurances that I’m not artistic)!

But I quickly learned that even though what everyone had told me was true — there really is an insane number of classes offered here — I simply didn’t have room in my schedule to fit many of them in. 

I’m grateful for the classes I’ve taken and the teachers I’ve had the last four years, but I wish I’d gotten to experience more. I wish I could have taken guitar. Or ceramics. Or maybe Philosophy and Film. 

Each year as I was filling out the following year’s course selection sheet, I’d first fill in the classes I knew were practically non-negotiable: math, English, science, social studies and gym. Plus, I’d need a period for lunch. That only left me with two classes per year where I had some flexibility. And each year, I’ve chosen to take Spanish, and Drops of Ink has been my elective.  

I’ve spent the last four years taking gym classes where I played badminton and traveled to bowling alleys. While I’ve had some fun, it only took one semester of gym to teach me that I definitely wasn’t passionate about physical education. 

The state of Illinois requires physical education as a means to maintain student health. This makes sense, but as someone who (when there isn’t a pandemic) goes to the gym every night, I take exercise into my own hands. Yet, I was required to take that class every semester in high school (except the one where I had to take health).

Instead of four years of gym, I wish I’d been able to take an art class. I wish I’d been able to take Current Issues. Or Dark Room. I wish I’d at least had more freedom to choose.

High school is supposed to be a time where we can explore our interests and figure out what we want to do with our lives. How can I discover what I’m truly interested in if I haven’t even been given the full opportunity to search for it?

The next four years of my life will be dedicated to what I think I’m interested in. I’ll be spending tens of thousands of dollars every year to attend college. What if everything I think I’m interested in now no longer interests me four years from now?

I know I can go into college undecided on a major — and that’s what I plan to do — but what if I spend the beginning of college taking classes about journalism but then discover that I’m passionate about the arts? What happens to all that money I spent learning about journalism? 

The high cost of college doesn’t allow the flexibility that high school should allow. If I’d truly been able to discover my passions in high school, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

This isn’t a criticism of LHS specifically; rather, it’s a criticism of the education system as a whole. It’s a criticism of the lack of flexibility given to students who are expected to discover their passions in high school.

In our interview, Ole Stevens, the director of student services at LHS, said that in his time as a counselor before his current position, he’d often have students bring these concerns to him. Students complained that there wasn’t enough time in the day to take the classes they wanted to take.

So it’s not a new problem, yet it continues to persist. I’m not suggesting that we get rid of core classes, and I understand why the school and the state have certain requirements. 

I just wish I’d been able to take advantage of all the opportunities offered at LHS. I wish I’d had the chance to really discover what I’m passionate about. I wish high school gave me the opportunity to take classes because I was interested in them, not just because I was required to.