Chained Freedom: Academic Requirements limit educational opportunity

Chained Freedom: Academic Requirements limit educational opportunity

Taylor Manley, Staff Writer

Incoming freshmen have mixed feelings about coming into high school. They’re nervous and excited, intimidated and exhilarated. They listen, bored, to the lectures on the responsibilities they must be prepared for, the fun that awaits them and, best of all, the freedom that could not be found in grade and middle school.Then reality sets in.

As it turns out, students don’t really have much freedom at all. We, as a student body, are completely slammed with requirement after requirement. Four years of math, four years of English, one semester of P.E. (and, let’s be honest: who even likes P.E.?), and so on until you get admitted to a psych ward.

Freedom, they said.

Freedom? Oh, yes, we have freedom. The freedom to obey our teachers. The freedom to take the AP class or the regular one.

We have freedom with chains.

Requirements, however, exist for a reason. They are designed to offer students a foundation, which is important. The things we learn that build that foundation will most likely become more relevant later. Requirements shouldn’t be nonexistent, since that’s a recipe for disaster. Basic requirements should be in place. Some, on the other hand, can go. Certain courses ought to be offered without being required.

But, do all students require identical foundations?

It comes down to this: requirements hold kids back. Although we are all exposed to a somewhat wide variety of classes, it seems that educators and administrators and the state find us incapable of figuring out what interests us and what doesn’t. Some students may know what career they want to pursue before high school. Even if they don’t, they can discover what they like on their own without “assistance” from educators and the state.

A portrait of the young Catherine the Great of Russia

P.M.H. Atwater,  an American author and researcher, explained that America’s educational system is based on a system that had been invented in 1899 byCatherine the Great of Russia. This system was designed to produce workers, citizens and even soldiers that would not question authority. If this is the way students are being taught today, then we can draw the conclusion that students are losing all incentive to learn and think critically, or even question what they’re learning. They will memorize, test and forget without once revisiting the material after being tested.

That’s where the requirements really become a problem.

By being forced to take certain classes, students may be losing the opportunity to explore their interests and hone their talents. With only four years to cram in all the classes that we need to satisfy credits to graduate, there’s no way that we can take all of the classes we’re interested in. An artistically gifted student may miss out on taking a photography course or another art class because he or she is too busy slaving away in AP U.S. History or Algebra 2. If this artistic student wants nothing more than to become a photographer or designer, how is understanding the Civil War going to help them?

It’s not.

Peter Gray, an author and research professor, addressed the elephant in the room: school is prison. Why don’t kids like it? Because it’s prison! Students spend all of their time obeying orders, so to speak. Each day, we do exactly what we’re told and we do it when we’re told to do it. Where is the freedom we were promised? Students aren’t learning to be creative, reach for their goals or any of the things educators tell us they’re trying to help us do. We’re being taught how to do what we’re told. Won’t we get enough of that out in the work force?

 In schools, we need the freedom to learn since all students learn differently and want to learn different things. Students need to be given opportunities to excel in their talents. If a student wants to be an engineer, let him or her take the classes focused on that career and ignore those that won’t. If a student has a chance to become an author, he or she should start focusing on English classes and that student absolutely should not have to be taking classes that won’t help them achieve their goal of becoming a writer.

If school is really supposed to be helping prepare us for our futures, why are there so many requirements oppressing us?

It must be understood that there is a distinct difference between exposing students to options and forcing them to try different things. There’s a reason students cheer when they graduate. They’ve managed to endure and escape a system that resembles a prison more than an ideal learning environment.

Students throwing graduation caps in the air