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Where have all the electives gone?

Imagine waking up early to go dive in the ocean and study under the sea. That was normal for students in science teacher Mike Guardino’s Subtidal Marine Research class, where students become scuba certified and could learn about marine life in the most absorbent environment underwater.

Since the school’s founding in 1940, there have been many other intriguing classes offered at Carmel High. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards more academic classes, which consequently led to death of many elective courses.

Departments such as English, for instance, once had a much different structure and more options for students to satisfy their graduation credits.

“We had a completely different structure in the English department,” teacher Dale DePalatis says. “While there was English I and English II, the options for juniors and seniors were nearly all electives with a wide variety from Poetry to Shakespeare to a class called My Language where students were taught about the English language incorporated with SAT vocabulary.”

Likewise, there were also many other classes that had a focus on a certain career or passion, counseling registrar Linda Galuppo adds. Some of these career-seeking electives were based on fashion merchandising, animal and child care or construction.

Other subjects where students could pursue artistic and cultural passions included Ceramics, Women’s Studies and Sewing and Textiles.

DePalatis also adds that education’s focus has shifted from a more diverse background of classes to a more academic and standardized path for students that prepares them for standardized tests. The goal was to have students prepared for standardized tests and leave CHS with similar types of knowledge and experience.

Galuppo also adds that, as CHS is a high-achieving school, it had to shift and keep aligned with what was happening in other places and, of course, Common Core standards.

Computer science teacher Tom Clifford notes that addition of Advanced Placement classes also contributed to the downfall of electives.

“If the school threw ‘AP’ next to any class, there were going to be a lot of students signed up for it because it is an AP class,” Clifford claims, “and the downside to that was that a large number of electives were changed or lost.”

In addition, the students in a way drove the curriculum, DePalatis says. As students had more interest in higher-level, advanced academic classes, enrollment in many elective courses began to decrease and eventually disappeared.

Another valid reason for this shift was the fact that many classes were personality driven. Clifford mentions a firefighting class, taught for some years by Dave Chaney, that vanished after Chaney retired and the school lacked someone else to teach it.

“It was a different time, and there was also a different influence on those students,” Galuppo explains. “And if you didn’t have the money to pay for an education, a lot of young people went into the trades.”

Society has taken school expectations to a new level, and today every student has the opportunity to further their education, resulting in more interest in professions that require a degree in a certain subject. Therefore, students have dropped artistic and cultural passions to pursue more academics.

-Joyce Doherty

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