You Can't Put a Price on Electives
April 18th, 2002
"The diversity of Stuyvesant's electives is what makes it such an outstanding high school," says sophomore Kelly Chan, "but with the threat of budget cuts and fewer elective classes, it isn't what many people thought it would be anymore." Her concerns echo those of much of the school. Ever since stuy.edu warned that Stuyvesant would be losing two of its instructional periods, students appreciate their elective courses even more.
The proposed cuts are a result of the city's alleged economic shortfall, one that has resulted in system-wide budget reductions of, according to the Board of Education's web site, $354 million: a 7% cut. Although the final budget probably will not be announced until August, all NYC public schools are making cuts in preparation for the reduced budget. Stuyvesant has always prided itself on an intellectual atmosphere fostered by its superb faculty, bright students, and engaging courses. But will that atmosphere survive once it becomes more difficult or even impossible to take electives?
In the past, Stuyvesant's electives have given students greater control over the focus of their education. It is one of the most attractive and distinctive aspects of the school. The wide selection of electives has led, in part, to a bizarre phenomenon: students sometimes showing enthusiasm about going to class.
At Stuyvesant, where so many students opt to come in early, stay late, and even forgo lunch to take extra classes, the value of education is not a foreign principle. That ideal originates in students' pursuit of their own interests with the resources of the school. Students can engage such interests most often in elective courses.
Electives can represent the pinnacle of the educational ideal: students learning not for grades or because they have to, but because they want to. To limit or eliminate electives, even for just one term, would deny hundreds of students what was promised them when they entered Stuyvesant: the opportunity to pursue their interests to the fullest. Such a drastic change risks not only short-term loss but also a detrimental long-term effect on the atmosphere that makes Stuy unique.
Budget reductions are unavoidable, but the severity of the cuts has not been finalized. Grassroots campaigns can still have a great effect on the forging of public policy and will help avert a harsh budget from being passed quietly in July. Already there is news of reductions in the reduction. There is still hope that Stuyvesant might retain much of what makes it special in the imminent storm, but you may have to help it do so.