More requirements impart personal growth

by Stacey Oparnica

Do me a favor and think back to your high school days. For a majority of us, it seems like an eternity has passed since we were confined to those classrooms, sitting at desks next to friends and absorbing knowledge from biology, precalculus, world history and English classes. At the end of those eventful four years, I — like you — walked across the stage in my cap and gown toward my diploma.

I’ll never forget the anxiety and anticipation I felt during my first year at San Diego State, wondering whether I was going to excel or fail miserably. So, let me ask you this: Do you believe your high school academics effectively prepared you for college? The San Diego Unified School District school board doesn’t seem to think so. On March 29, the board officially adopted new high school graduation requirements, which will go into effect beginning with the class of 2016. In order to obtain a diploma, students will be required to take an additional three courses, including a course in the arts, algebra II and a second year of a foreign language.

The school board’s efforts to ensure all students will be able to meet the “A-G” requirements for admission into University of California and California State University colleges are certainly necessary and respectable. But they’re not enough. If we truly want to equip students with sufficient knowledge to help them succeed in college, we should offer them a wider variety of courses, specifically courses in basic finance, critical thinking, ethics and current events. In all honesty, I can’t think of a more pertinent set of additional courses for students to have access to.

Students desperately need a basic finance class, which Opinion Columnist John Anderson described best when he emphasized the severity of financial irresponsibility. Eighty-four percent of undergraduate students have a credit card, while only 15 percent of freshmen actually pay off their accounts. And what about student loans? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to discover you or someone you know is paying for college through student loans. But even with this being the case, I’ve met more people paying their way with loans than people who could tell me the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

A lack of knowledge in this department has the potential to destroy someone’s credit score and tarnish future financial endeavors. If we required high school students to complete a course in basic finance — encompassing such concepts as responsible credit card use, student loans, understanding interest rates, debt and more — perhaps we could help students avoid treacherous consequences and mold them into wiser, more financially cautious young adults.

Education, however, should not stop there. In addition to a basic finance class, students should have access to a course in ethics and critical thinking. The ability to analyze arguments, debunk claims, discuss controversial issues and weigh the pros and cons of every argument are vital critical thinking skills. I took a similar course my first year at SDSU and through the discussion of contentious topics — such as abortion and religion — I was able to develop a greater understanding of my own beliefs while also being exposed to all sides of the issues. Because high school represents a period of growth and self-discovery for teenagers, it is crucial they have the opportunity and the environment to analyze and address why they believe the things they do.

However, students cannot develop and grow if we do not give them the tools to do so, which brings me to my next point — a course on current events. I cannot stress enough how absolutely critical it is for students to understand how to find and utilize legitimate news sources, and how to absorb the information delivered by the media. Taking a class based solely on the discussion of current events would provide the perfect environment for explanation and understanding, and would enforce the mentality that knowing this information is not optional, but expected.

This is ultimately what it comes down to: The courses adopted by the school board on March 29 are the first steps in redefining the standards for San Diego high school students. But we cannot afford to stop here. If we are legitimately concerned about preparing these students to succeed in college, we must raise our expectations of them as young adults.

— Stacey Oparnica is a journalism sophomore.

— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.