Is junior health imperative to a high school education?

Maddie Lane, Illana Grabiner, and David Han

Point: 

Many students constantly complain about the two-year health class requirement at Schreiber.  They view it as a simple graduation requirement, and, truthfullyww, a waste of time.  However, health may be one of our most important classes.  It is one of the few classes that applies to absolutely everyone, independent of their individual interests and academic performance.

We must be taught to prioritize our health and well-being.  Junior year health classes provide an interactive and personal setting for us to learn important information and skills that we will carry throughout our lives.

Upon entering high school, students are instantly bombarded with pressure from every direction. Many freshman are unaccustomed to the tremendous workload and stress of maintaining grades, while also participating in extracurricular and social activities.  It is therefore imperative that they learn goal-setting and time management strategies.  In freshman health class, students are taught tactics for staying grounded through the inevitable chaos of high school.

“Health class is not taken as seriously as other classes, but I do think it is important for us to learn about substance abuse, depression, and other health issues we may be exposed to in high school,” said freshman Brent Katz.

Academic stress, combined with the freedom of being in high school, makes way for potentially dangerous situations to arise.  Amongst these issues are substance abuse, mental illness, eating disorders, sexual assault, and STDs, all of which are addressed in freshman health class.

Students must be informed of these issues as freshmen in order to develop healthy habits, as well as solidify a set of morals that they will abide by throughout the rest of their lives.

Many students are not pleased with the fact they have to take such a similar health course in junior year; however, there are numerous benefits of taking this class at a more mature level.

“Health should be taken twice because it gives us important information at two different times in our life,” said junior Maddy Lavin.

High school students grow a tremendous amount between freshman and junior year; their pressures, social lives, and academics completely change in this short period of time.  Topics previously explored during freshman year are reiterated and looked at with greater depth two years later.  Additionally, new topics are added to the curriculum.  For example, the Schreiber junior year health curriculum includes students becoming CPR and AED certified, something that is extremely beneficial outside of the classroom.

“Health class supports and enhances the wellbeing of students as they learn more in depth information about health education at different times in our life when certain aspects might relate to our current situations more,” said junior Olivia Gellis.

Junior year health class also features a variety of guest speakers, including members from LI Trio Organ Donation, Maurer Foundation of Breast Cancer Education, Planned Parenthood Testicular Cancer Workshop, and AA Speakers.

The topics addressed are critical, but they may be overwhelming for freshman, making a more mature audience more suitable.  In addition, it is much more likely for the crucial information taught in junior year health class to stay with Schreiber students throughout their lives.  When students are taught health during senior year, they are close to college years, a tumultous time when it is important to think back to lessons learned in health class.  After all, if we did not learn these imperative lessons in health class, where would we learn them? The lessons that are learned in junior health are critical for a student’s wellbeing.

Whether we recognize it or not, health class is an extremely worthwhile class that is applicable to real-life situations.  It does not matter if students go on to become a doctor, lawyer, or mathematician after high school; everyone has a body and should know how to take care of it in the best possible way.

While we learn about virtually everything else in our core classes, we do not learn about ourselves. We rely on health to teach us about our own bodies and help us make important decisions.  Teaching health class during junior year is the best way to ensure that the lessons are relevant, manageable, and leave a lasting impact on students.

 

Counterpoint:

High school juniors are at the busiest point in their lives thus far.  With many courses becoming increasingly difficult, students should be placed in an environment where they have the option to focus on core classes that will have more sway in college admissions.  For this reason, health should not be mandatory for juniors who wish to take other classes instead.

Although learning about one’s health is useful in making wise life decisions, the junior curriculum is considered by many to be merely a repeat of lessons learned already during freshman year.  After spending a semester learning about STDs, peer pressure, and health habits, students get the point.

“While the message of health class is of great importance, the current two year graduation requirement places unnecessary restrictions on class choices.  Many other Long Island high schools have a reduced health requirement and it’s not unreasonable to ask us to follow suit if it can help to free up classes,” said junior Dylan Langone.

Considering the fact there are states where health is not mandatory at all, two years seems like overkill.  Less than half of states have health education requirements.

In fact, the only national requirements laid out for health education are the CDC’s “National Health Education Standards,” which consist of a simple list of eight standards.  These  standards only assure students are able to understand certain concepts (e.g. disease prevention) by certain grade levels.

Therefore, a potential solution to this problem may be to have a placement test, and if students are capable of reaching these national standards they do not need to take health as a class.

Furthermore, not taking health gives students more liberty in choosing their schedules. Many students are striving to take more AP classes in high school in order to get college credit.

In place of health, students would get the option to keep a full-year off period that might be more valuable to their mental health than a class that discusses it.

GPA is another reason against having junior health which is factored into a student’s GPA.  This would not pose a problem if there were an honors option.

However, by making health class mandatory, administrators are forcing students to take a class for which there is no honors credit that obviously limits the highest GPA a student can get.

“In the state of New York only one semester of health education is mandated; however, our school requires three to graduate.  I feel as though this is hindering our opportunities of taking other electives and courses,” said junior Jonathan Lin.

Another large issue with junior health is the arbitrary nature of who can forego it until senior year and who cannot. The average student believes that only students enrolled in one of the research programs that can choose to move health to senior year.

However, there is no set rule or policy stating this. Rather, the general feelings of the guidance department seem to be that if a student “needs” to put off health then they are able to do so.

As a result of a lack of rules or policies on the matter, students have been turned away from moving health despite the fact that they had to sacrifice a class to do so. Students should not have to sacrifice their desired electives  for a class that they may not want to take. If a student is especially devoted to a certain subject, that should be their main focus, not a class that is unrelated to their interests.

If New York State wants to require students to take health, then there is at least an alternative to our current system that should be introduced: taking health over the summer.

Currently, the only option for a student to take health over the summer is an extensive course that meets three hours a day in Flushing.  Obviously, this is a large interruption of any summer plans or vacations.

The solution is to make health an option available at Schreiber during the summer session.  This way ambitious students have the ability to complete the requirement without limiting their schedule.  Other classes are already offered over the summer at Schreiber, so  it should not be too difficult to add health class to the curriculum.

Since juniors are already educated on the topic of health, they should be able to say what they can do with their own schedule.