We Need To Talk About Underclassmen Electives

Claire Killian

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It’s that time of year again. The semester is wrapping up and class selections are upon us. This can be an incredibly exciting and stressful process, but for underclassmen who may be may be disappointed at the lack of options, it can also be underwhelming. Incoming freshmen may find that their options in terms of electives are unfortunately similar to what they had in middle school, with a heavy emphasis on art and engineering. Of course, there are classes like digital photography and intro to programming which they didn’t have access to before, but for excited freshmen looking for something new and exciting in high school the current class selections don’t offer much.

Incoming sophomores arguably have it worse. With many having half-heartedly taken a full year art elective last year to meet their graduation requirements, they look around for something new only to be reminded of their depressing lack of options. This year’s freshmen, who are currently choosing their sophomore year classes, are faced basically the same electives they took this year, just onto the next level. For example, if you took studio art this year, you may be taking advanced studio art or painting and drawing next year. If you are taking digital photography, you may be looking forward to advanced digital photography. These options are bland and uninspiring. Of course, incoming sophomores have a few more engineering courses available to them, science research, ceramics, and web journalism (which honestly the best elective ever). While these options broaden the field slightly, they do nothing to enhance the quality of class, nor our interest in it. For the first two years of high school it feels like electives are just there to fill up time.

I’m wondering why, with so much overhaul coming next year with a new schedule and new principal, we can’t come up with a few new electives for our underclassmen? Whether that be through sending around a survey about potential new classes or opening up existing electives to freshmen and sophomores. Electives are supposed to be enriching experiences which supplement a traditional core academic schedule, but when you force us to drag ourselves through classes we are genuinely not interested in, when electives available to upperclassmen seem genuinely exciting, I would argue it is more detrimental to our education.

The lack of options can also lead to unnecessary free periods. For example, I have health this semester, but next semester I have a free. I’ve spoken to my guidance counselor and the only half semester class available that period was painting and drawing (something I have no interest in). I want to take a class, but the inflexibility of my schedule and lack of viable options does not permit me to do so. While I had requested intro to psychology last year as my half year elective, I didn’t end up getting it because it is so overwhelmingly popular. I would point out the success of intro to psychology as an example of a good elective which gets kids genuinely excited. It’s a class which people find interesting, manageable, and an introduction to a topic which they may continue to pursue through AP psychology. If more electives like this were available, I think we would be able to avoid many of the problems which are currently plaguing the underclassmen.