A Coeur d’Alene School District committee wants world geography, world history, reading and computers dropped from the list of high school classes required for graduation.
“I’m incredulous, and so are a lot of my friends,” said Simone Kincaid, a parent of a high school student.
“It’s so apropros that while we are deciding to let the Aryan Nations march, they don’t even want to require that our students learn world history in school,” Kincaid said, referring to the white supremacists’ request to march through downtown Coeur d’Alene in April. “Our kids won’t even be required to learn about the Holocaust.”
The district is following a similar state move to lower the number of required classes, giving students more flexibility for career-oriented electives.
Nationwide, high schools are moving away from preparing students only for college. Instead, they’re providing multiple routes toward graduation, including programs for technical skills and fine arts.
Electives such as calculus, biology and computer design help students tailor their education for a career or higher education, said curriculum director Hazel Bauman.
“What we are hearing from business and industry is that the large majority of kids who do not get baccalaureate degrees need to come out of high school with a good basis in technical skills,” Bauman said.
In Idaho, the impetus for change stems from the Idaho Board of Education, which is looking to better prepare the 70 percent of high school graduates who won’t pursue a four-year college degree.
Public schools chief Anne Fox has suggested English literature go by the wayside in favor of technical manual writing, for example. Idaho regulations say 25 of the 42 credits needed to graduate must be required courses. The Coeur d’Alene school district asks that 32 of 44 credits be required courses, but the new proposal would lower that number to 26.
The Coeur d’Alene proposal is not set in stone, Bauman said. The school board may opt for a compromise.
“It’s not that we don’t value those things.
It’s just that if we keep adding everything back in, we are back to where we’ve always been: a very prescribed course of study that doesn’t give students any flexibility if they are going into a particular field.”
The school board will discuss graduation requirements during its Feb. 23 meeting at Hayden Meadows Elementary School, starting at 6 p.m.
Coeur d’Alene’s two high school social studies departments have signaled vigorous opposition to the plan.
“Kids need to be more world-oriented than ever before, and I don’t think we need to dumb down for electives,” said Fred Patano, chairman of the Lake City High social studies department.
Taking away freshman world geography and sophomore world history will make the required U.S. history and government more difficult for juniors and seniors, teachers add.
“The geography lays a foundation for world history, which lays a foundation for U.S. history,” said Lake City social studies teacher Jim Asher. “You have to know where we come from and how did we get where we are.”
Some students confirm those concerns.
“I think it should be required. Otherwise people won’t take it,” said senior Sara Cheeseborough.
“Why take history when you could take painting or pottery?” added Ben Bryan, Lake City High School student president.
Some freshmen might not have a career picked out, said senior Ian Johnson, and they could mistakenly forgo a class like world history that they will need for college.
“I don’t think you should give freshmen and sophomores the responsibility to choose whether they would like to take a class like that,” Johnson said.
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