Why Teachers Who Teach Electives are Fighting a Losing Battle
It's no secret that all across America thousands of educators who teach electives (non-core subjects) are being laid-off due to budget cuts. Electives are classes that students can elect to take that spark their interests or help them in a particular area of study. Some colleges also ask that some of these courses be taken prior to enrollment to gain some knowledge in that field of study. Electives range from debate and speech classes to machine shop, from woodworking to business and law. Any class that is not a core subject (Math, English, Science, and Social Studies) is considered an elective. So as you can see, electives play an important role in the public school systems. Unfortunately, they are being cut do to budget cuts handed down from their local governments.
The Dirty Secret
Although many people understand how budget cuts are affecting public schools and their electives, what they may not know is something that may be astonishing and even make everyone angry. You see, there is a dirty secret as to why teachers who teach electives are fighting this losing battle.
Take any elective class....for this example let us use Public Speaking. A very important elective that, in my opinion, every student should take because at some point in time in their lives they will have to use it. One major thing to understand, as I explain this dirty little secret, is that electives are kept or eliminated based on need . Meaning, if a school has students enroll in a particular class, enough to fill a classroom (roughly 20-25 students), then there is a need for that class which means there is a need for a certified teacher to instruct it. Back in the "golden years" when school funding wasn't an issue, these classroom sizes could have easily seen 7-10 students and nobody would have said a word. Now with the cuts coming down these small enrolled classes are being eliminated because there isn't a large enough need.
This is where the nastiness comes in. Back to that Public Speaking class. The course syllabus looks like this. There are a number of speeches the students must deliver along with outlines of their speech and daily participation points that will account for their total grade. If one student attends class and begins to hate the class, maybe they don't like that they have to write outlines about their speeches, maybe they don't like coming everyday to class, whatever the reason, they begin to hate the class. They will at some point and time tell their friends about it. These friends are students who were interested in taking the same course, but after hearing that it requires a little work and effort, they begin to have second thoughts. Who wants to go to a class where they actually have to do some work...wouldn't they rather go to one where it's easy, assignments can be turned in late, every Friday is a movie and you don't even have to be there to earn points. Sad to say, but a lot of high school students think this way. The ones that don't, rise up to the challenge of a difficult class and take it to better themselves as a student and an individual. How do you think this educator will respond to hearing the rumor that their class if considered difficult and that some students are electing to NOT enroll in it because of the work that must be done. Can you guess what happens?
That particular teacher has two choices. One, continue to instruct their class the way it's supposed to be instructed and know that because of that, students will learn and gain experience and gratification in their class. Of course with this option they risk the chance that the need for their program may decrease and ultimately eliminate their class and eventually lead to a lay-off. Or two, "dumb-down" the class to make the students happy and communicate to other students that it's a fun class and an easy "A".
Of course we all know what choice they should choose, but it's not that easy. They seriously could risk having their program cut and losing their job. The only other choice is to not put educators into this position. School administrators will never admit that this occurs, but I can assure you that it does. I've seen it happen twice - the teachers stood their grounds and did not "dumb" their class down - their enrollment dropped and their class was eliminated, which in turn the teachers lost their jobs. Once teachers see this happening, there is no question in my mind that other elective teachers will find ways to make their class a little easier and a little "funner" to keep the students enrolling in their classes. Once again, it all comes down to the budget. It has also turned teachers against each other. They are forced to explain and defend their programs verses everyone else. What does this do to our students? I think with the term "dumb-down" you can imagine the possible outcomes. I will leave this article with a quote for all educators out there, ""United we stand, divided we fall". Fight through these tough times and stay together.