In order to consider what classes should be mandatory in high school, we must first ask ourselves if we are truly preparing students with the necessary tools to succeed beyond high school. Unfortunately, there are two distinct points of view with regard to this matter. First there is the educational community who will always adhere to the assumption that every student should proceed to post high school education. The alternative view is to assume that the student might not continue his/her education and in this case we must ask ourselves if we have done enough to prepare this student to find a job, raise a family and contribute to his/her community. The answer is emphatically no.
According to The National Center for Educational Statistics, only one-third of high school students go on to college. Assuming that college will fill in the educational gaps of a standard high school education, we have already left two-thirds of our student population in the middle of an ocean without even so much as a life raft. Our high school students do not know how to file tax returns, compile a job resume, create a family budget or comprehend financing terms.
Required course material in high school is mostly irrelevant to the future success for the majority of students. The educational community has all but ignored important vocational careers for many years, opting instead to focus education on preparatory courses for college when the same mandatory courses must be repeated subsequent to college admission. One example is Algebra, currently mandatory in most high schools yet the same course must be re-taken subsequent to college admission. Colleges should not be allowed to require a course as a prerequisite for admission if it must be taken subsequent to admission. Algebra and many other mandatory courses such as Chemistry, Biology and Physics are useless curriculum for those not planning to continue on to higher education.
Whether or not high school students plan to attend college, vocational school or launch immediately into a career, they would all benefit from life long skills that should be taught in high school and are presently unavailable. These include practical courses in balancing a checkbook, operating a business (including basic business law and business planning), sales and marketing concepts and even customer service training.
We must become more practical in preparing high school students for their future and offer classes which parallel realistic life and job skills needed to survive instead of abstract theories which only benefit a few.