Too many classes, too little education

Graphic by Sarah Morgan

Alex Holmes

When I was a freshman, I wanted to be a lawyer. I took a tour of the Department of Justice with my lawyer neighbor, and I watched lawyer shows like “Suits.” So, of course, I just had to take the Law and Justice Advocacy class at Wilson. I requested it, and, to my good fortune, the class appeared on the schedule that was mailed to me in August. But when I arrived on the first day, I discovered that this class had been replaced by Body Conditioning and Fitness.

Such is the way at Wilson, where there are too many electives, and not enough good ones. Not only do too many students not get what they want, but they end up in classes with little to no structure, plenty of busywork, and very little learning.

One of the most touted benefits of Wilson is the sheer number of “cool” electives. Many students value the number of interesting or helpful classes that a school boasts, and Wilson is known for hosting a variety of such courses.

And, to be fair, there are many great classes at Wilson that are very useful and important. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Many Wilson electives feel like filler classes to students. They sign up for them just to have a “free” period and don’t have any real investment in the class. And, for the most part, these classes are treated that way.

The second major category of electives at Wilson is the underappreciated lot. These are classes like Drama, Creative Writing, and Public Speaking, where there are great teachers but not enough student interest. I have personally loved those classes, but most of the kids who are in them didn’t ask to be placed there, and they act like it. Teachers might have a hard time controlling students who don’t take the classes seriously. This is good for nobody. Teachers waste their time, and students don’t learn anything.

While it would be amazing to have 100 electives, each with their own merit, and all as challenging and rewarding as the best AP classes, that simply isn’t feasible. Having too many electives limits each one’s ability to be exceptional. Perhaps not only should there be fewer electives, but greater importance placed on the ones that exist, so that each one is not simply a box to check on the way to graduation. I wouldn’t know exactly how to facilitate this, because it seems to be an attitude issue. All I know is that everyone would benefit more from electives that were closer to core classes than gym classes.

I’m a junior now, and when I picked my classes for this year, I had already gotten most of my elective credits. But since juniors can’t have free periods (why, Wilson?), I ended up with more electives than I needed. And I got some very interesting classes that I was excited about. Sociology, Constitutional Law, and Intro to Street Law were just a few. I’m seeing what happens when electives aren’t footnotes—I just wish every student could too. •