Stuyvesant’s Graduation Requirements: Crucial or Trivial to Our Education?

The Editorial Board offers two opposing perspectives on Stuyvesant’s niche graduation requirements.

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Within The Spectator Editorial Board, there are opposing views about whether or not Stuyvesant’s niche graduation requirements—such as Drafting, Art Appreciation, and Music Appreciation—either provide an outlet for students to explore alternative career paths, or take time away from students being able to pursue their personal ambitions. Instead of presenting only one argument, we chose to present both sides to best reflect the differing opinions within the board. 

Stuyvesant’s Niche Graduation Requirements Serve an Important Purpose  

Upon entering Stuyvesant, students are required to take Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Drafting, a 5-tech, a 10-tech, and two semesters of science electives if they desire the Stuyvesant Diploma. New York City requires all students to take at least one semester of classes in the arts and music throughout their high school careers.

Some students find Stuyvesant’s elective requirements and appreciation classes too stringent, preferring to carve their own paths throughout high school. However, the purpose of these Stuyvesant requirements is to provide an introduction to these fields rather than to delve into the trivial technicalities. These course requirements are actually the most critical components of our Stuyvesant education, and removing them would do more harm than good.

Stuyvesant is known for its rigorous, STEM-focused curriculum, which is the primary reason that roughly half of students plan to pursue careers in engineering, medicine, and computer science. However, by implementing these requirements, Stuyvesant ensures that students will take diverse classes suited to many passions, including those in the humanities. Without being encouraged to explore different subjects and push their academic limits, students’ career options will be narrowed early on.

Even though a large number of students enter Stuyvesant with a clear vision of the fields they want to pursue, branching out and exploring disciplines has immense value. Not only should Stuyvesant keep its current requirements, but introduce new electives that put a greater emphasis on the arts. Ensuring that the Art Department obtains sufficient funding for innovative courses will consequently stir up interest in the arts.

Regardless of what career you choose to pursue, being a well-rounded individual—even if it means a semester of art, music, or Drafting—is a benefit that follows well beyond your high school career. No one knows what the future holds; what you pursue in the future may be completely different from the vision you currently have in mind, and that is okay. We should be thankful for the diverse resources and courses Stuyvesant has to offer because they can take us to unexpected places. 

Students Should Have More Choice in How They Fulfill Graduation Requirements

At a school in which students often choose to take AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, and AP Computer Science, the greatest threat to many students’ GPAs aren’t their intensive APs, but the mandatory electives they’re forced to take each year. Currently, students are required to take one semester of Art and Music Appreciation each, a one semester Health class, a one semester Drafting class, a one semester Intro to Computer Science class, a one semester 5-tech, and two semesters of 10-techs. While these requirements may help some students discover fields they would not have pursued otherwise, they primarily eliminate the element of choice and take time away from developing long term career interests. While some graduation requirements are outlined by the New York State Department of Education (DOE), Stuyvesant is able to provide options regarding how these requirements are fulfilled. For instance, students are required to take two semesters of arts education, which includes music, art, theater, and dance. While this should leave much room for choice, Stuyvesant mandates one semester each of Music and Art Appreciation, entry-level classes that few novices or advanced artists enjoy. Students should instead be given far more choice in the way they decide to fulfill this requirement. Music aficionados are already given the option of participating in Band rather than Music Appreciation, but completing two semesters should also allow them to waive the Art Appreciation requirement, if they so choose. Similarly, talented artists should be allowed to take advanced art courses that accommodate their skill level in order to fulfill their one semester art requirement. Giving students some degree of choice in how they fulfill DOE requirements will lead to students who are ultimately more interested and invested in their course work, even for classes that they may not have otherwise chosen to take.

For requirements unique to the Stuyvesant diploma, Stuyvesant should instead dictate a broader elective requirement that would allow students to explore potential career paths. Stuyvesant students often enter high school having some idea of what subjects they want to pursue. However, due to course requirements, they are often unable to take diverse courses in their desired disciplines. These prerequisites consume valuable time during students’ limited school days that could be spent taking meaningful electives. Rather than taking Drafting, a humanities-oriented student could take Islamic History or a STEM-oriented student could take Human Pathophysiology. While this change might mean that some students would explore fewer subjects, they’d at least explore multiple subfields of their intended careers.

If Stuyvesant chooses to keep specific elective requirements, the courses should be highly applicable to daily life. Despite the fact that all students will need to manage their finances post-graduation, there is only one Personal Finance section each year. Requirements should be a way to teach students the skills they need to navigate adult life. For all other classes, students have the best judgment when it comes to what would be the best use of their time, and they deserve the ability to make those decisions.