Course Selection Raises Questions of Latin’s Bias Towards Subjects

Stephanie Racker As students select which courses to take next year, many have speculated why Latin only requires a four-year commitment to English. Contrary to speculation, there is no institutional bias towards English. Latin requires four years of English because the Illinois state law says so. “Currently, Illinois state requires that students take four years of English to graduate, and it’s the only subject that has a four year requirement,” confirmed Head of the English Department Ms. Diorio. When asked to share her opinion on this requirement, Ms. Diorio said, “Of course, the English department appreciates having four years of required courses, since writing well takes practice, and we strongly believe that students benefit from more time in our courses.” It makes sense that English gets four years of attention since it is our native tongue and is one of the most widely spoken languages across the globe. Nonetheless, it is curious that History, another humanities course, doesn’t have the same four year requirement. After all, as philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” “I feel comfortable with the history department only having a three year requirement,” said History Department Head Ms. Hennessy. “Nearly all Upper School students take history during their senior year even though it’s not required. Thus, we don’t see a need to change the curricular requirement.” Not only did she reference the importance of realizing most students at Latin take History each year of their high school career anyways, but she also added support for the requirement for English. “As far as English requiring four years, I think that’s important because of the fundamental skills that are taught in English classes: reading, writing, and finding one’s voice. Those are skills we teach and value in history as well, so I feel confident that seniors are being exposed to those fundamentals even if they opt to not take history,” explained Ms. Hennessy.   Despite of the agreement between that English and History Departments that English deserves a four year enrollment, there is still some hope, particularly from Ms. Ross, that Latin will also consider altering the current graduation requirements of the Arts Department. Throughout her career at Latin, Ms. Ross has been fighting for at least three Arts credits as a graduation requirement. Ms. Ross has noticed that many students express satisfaction and an enhanced learning experience when taking more than the required Arts graduation credits. Her desire to pursue a three credit Arts requirement stems from the positive results from her students. The young Computer Science Program may make Ms. Ross’ task a bit more difficult, since Computer Science will likely become a graduation requirement sometime in the future. Nevertheless, Ms. Ross is not giving up hope that Latin might take into consideration an expansion of the graduation requirements of the Arts at the school. With course registration again in full swing at Latin, it raises the difficult question of how to prioritize the many competing demands on students’ schedules here at Latin. How exactly do you measure the worth of requiring a Computer Science course versus an additional year of Art? Even if everyone agrees as to what requirements are essential in a Latin education, there is only so much time left for students to pursue electives they are passionate about. That is where the tough decisions have to be made. ]]>