Editorial for Wednesday — October 22, 2001

• Shuffling school standards


Shuffling school standards

The state’s Graduation Requirements Task Force is recommending that one year of social studies and a half-year of physical education be eliminated from the minimum list of courses needed to graduate from a public high school in Hawai‘i.

The trade off would be two years of fine arts, foreign language, technical or career education.

Members of the task force, including high school principals, college administrators and others, presented this concept last week to the state Board of Education.

The exchange is being backed by statements from the task force that offer platitudes about using the arts to better the world, and the need for technical education in this era of high-technology wonders.

The group is looking for comments from the public.

Right now, high school students are required to take only one year of physical education. At the same time, obesity is a national problem, probably one that wasn’t so bad when year-long physical education was required at most high schools. Taking away another half-year of physical education probably means more of a problem for students who face problems with being overweight, and for all other students who are in the midst of some of the fastest growing stages of their young lives. While opportunities for year-round exercise are many in Hawai‘i, a majority of students likely don’t take advantage on a regular basis of the exercise available at our golf courses, in riding our ocean waves and hiking along our trails, nor join the many and varied sports leagues and riding clubs on Kaua‘i.

Being fit helps students study, leads away from alcohol and drug abuse, and can prevent health problems that might not appear for 20 or 30 years after high school.

Cutting social studies — another core course of the past — means less knowledge of how our community and nation works, and of its past, and how to be a citizen who contributes to our society.

While foreign-language study, learning more about how to work on or build a computer, art classes and similar proposed substitutes for social studies are worthy classes, they are secondary to this essential class.

This issue wouldn’t need a task force if the graduation rate of our schools was higher. That’s the basic problem.

Substituting what might be easier classes for social studies, and cutting back on the physical exercise needed by all students, is an easy way out in providing what might be at best a Band-Aid solution to the low-graduation-rates problem.

This problem needs to be resolved by improving our schools, not reshuffling graduation requirements.

While our teachers, school administrators and others in the education system need our continued support, it’s time to challenge them to do a better job with every student who faces not graduating.

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