The Palo Alto High School course catalog spans 85 pages and is chalked full of courses that appeal to the artistic, brainy, analytical, or philosophical of students. Students are encouraged to find their interests at a young age by exploring its myriad of courses.
Palo Alto High School offers its students the opportunity to select courses from a diverse selection of English and social science classes. From Sociology to Comedy Literature, this wide range of subjects will spark the interest of practically anyone. However, these humanity classes are restricted to upperclassmen, which lowers enrollment rates and ignores freshmen and sophomores’ interest in them.
Juniors and seniors can take as many English electives and social science classes as their schedules allow. However, freshmen and sophomores are restricted to taking one English course and one social studies course per year. Underclassmen interested in social science or unique aspects of literature, such as comedy writing or sports literature, are forced to wait until junior year to explore these topics.
All students are permitted to pursue their interests in not only the visual and performing arts, but also career-oriented and language electives. Students who take prerequisite courses can enroll in classes such as Advanced Photography, Advanced Vocals and Graphic Design. Social science and English electives should be no different — these classes should be available to all grade levels.
Underclassmen are demonstrating enormous interest in their humanities elective of choice by choosing to take it at earlier times. This interest compensates for what may be seen as unpreparedness for a class typically taken by upperclassmen.
Many freshmen and sophomores are interested in taking social science and English electives, and are frustrated by the fact that they can only take core classes. Senior Alan Huang wishes he could have enrolled in Psychology earlier so he could have gotten a head start in his newfound field of interest.
“I didn’t have opportunities to explore my interests in cognitive science and neuroscience until late in my high school career,” Huang said. “If I had been able to take Psychology earlier, I could have done more research or other extracurricular activities relating to it.”
Furthermore, none of the language arts electives require students to take prerequisites. This means there is no academic experience-related reason to restrict them to upperclassmen.
If allowed to enroll in English and social studies electives, underclassmen would still take their required history and English courses in addition to the electives they choose. This would allow those interested in language arts to surpass their grade’s basic English and social science requirements earlier on.
Additionally, there is not enough room in a student’s schedule to take all of the humanities electives of interest in their two upperclassmen years. Allowing underclassmen to take electives would allow students to explore all of the different social science and English courses that Paly has to offer.
The negative consequences of restricting underclassmen from enrolling in social science and English electives far outweigh the positive student growth that expanding elective enrollment to include underclassmen could bring. In barring freshmen and sophomores from taking social studies and English electives, Paly’s administration has hindered opportunities for underclassmen to develop their interests in social science and English earlier on.