Voice thoughts on graduation proposals

On various occasions in recent years, West Virginia school officials have discussed proposals aimed at changing the state’s high school graduation requirements.

While it may seem such requirements need tweeked in order to meet today’s world of college and business, such as with the creation of career-based curriculum, we also have to keep in mind that West Virginia also has been working on finding ways to improve the graduation rates of the Mountain State’s high schools.

So, are these efforts to better meet the needs of today’s students, or are they to achieve better looking statistics?

In an Associated Press report released Friday afternoon, the West Virginia Board of Education has opened two proposals for public comment.

One would reduce the number of social studies credits required for gradution, by combining all studies of U.S. history into a single course instead of the traditional two-course design currently used. The total number of social studies credits then would be reduced from four to three.

Students also would not be required to take a world history course, and counties would not have to offer economics or geography.

Similar proposals have been brought forward before, but abandoned after overwhelming opposition.

I can understand the desire to “modernize” school curriculum, but do we have to do it by eliminating courses for some of the base parts of our education? The courses proposed for altering help to form our early understanding of the outside world, our history, our government and country, along with those around the world.

Given the state of today’s society, I would think we would want our future generations to have a solid understanding of those areas.

The other proposal would require middle schools to offer career exploration curriculum.

That’s not a bad idea, necessarily, as job preparation can be good. Many teens begin looking for their first jobs in their freshman or sophomore years of high school. Having an idea of what can be expected of them will better prepare them.

It was a different age, I realize, but when I was in school, there was one math teacher, in sixth grade, who showed us how to balance a checkbook. Beyond that, the only “life skill” classes we really were offered were woodshop and home economics.

Kids today should know how to manage their finances, write a resume and fill out a job application. They should have a better idea of the kinds of jobs that will be available to them, and have a chance to learn a little bit about the skills required for them.

I understand changes are needed as our world changes, and there is only so much time available to our students during the school year.

Some subjects are going to receive more focus.

I also understand it can be tricky trying to figure out what changes to make to most benefit the students and prepare them for the future.

The types of schedules used in a school district also plays a role in this situation. Having space for six or seven classes in a year, as opposed to eight or even nine cuts back on what can be studied.

There certainly are those who are better equipped to comment on this issue than I, and I would encourage them to make their voices heard.

The state school board is accepting comment until Jan. 24. The proposal is available for review, so contact the board, read the recommendation and let our state officials know what you think.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)