Electives are good. But if the electives get in the way of learning core academic material, then they become destructive.
Electives should be made available under these conditions:
(1) The school has gotten its act together, and is much more successful (than is typically now the case) in creating academically competent students.
- Really meaningful In-service training
- Fully integrated curriculum
- Personhood development program
- A really meaningful volunteer program.
No staff energy should ever be put into electives, until the basic job description of the school is fulfilled. Only then would electives be created and offered.
Does that include the Yearbook Elective? Yes, until the school has its academic house in order, use adult volunteers to do it, or simply not have a yearbook. Yes, kids would be disappointed for a short time. If they can be made to understand why, they will likely accept it quite well.
(2) The individual student is doing well in his academics. If he isn't doing well, he should not be allowed to spend time on true electives, but rather should focus upon correcting whatever is the problem preventing him from achieving academic competency. To do otherwise is a disservice to the student, his family, and society!
One argument for electives is they can stimulate and motivate children, and thus lead to improved academic performance. The author's observation is that electives are usually chosen or assigned to fill in a block of time.
The author feels the elective program is usually a one-size-fits-all program. If we are lucky, it might stimulate a very small percent of participating students.
The Mentor Elective
The author wishes to suggest that the first elective offered is the Mentor Elective. (Read the article.)
Every effort should be made to assign qualified students to the Mentor Elective. Such a program will very likely do more to promote the development of quality students than all the other electives combined! The mentor elective is to be expandable, so as to handle all students who wish to take it. This requires much more administrative effort than other electives or classes, but volunteers can do nearly all of that effort!
The Survey Elective
This is the second elective to be offered. It is available for anyone who is qualified by keeping his or her grades up.
The survey elective is an exploration, looking for students' passions. It introduces students to a wide range of professions, hobbies, and careers. Several options will be presented in each quarter, and are likely to change between quarters. If students find a passion, they are encouraged to ask for a mentor in that area.
It is likely the presentations will be made by the same people who volunteered as mentors for the Mentor elective. It is also a good tool for introducing new adults to possible volunteer work as a mentor.