Author Student Union

Kimberly Shigeoka

Students need basics,
not more requirements
to earn a diploma

I'm a recent graduate of Aiea High School and to my great distress, I read -- in the story headlined "Plan adds 2 courses to grad requisites" (Star-Bulletin, April 14) -- that state lawmakers and educators are once again making an attempt to "better" our school system.

I doubt they will be able to better anything considering the following: The new proposal asks that two more classes be required to graduate from high school and an additional class be necessary to receive a Board of Education recognition diploma.

Many high schools in Hawaii allow six classes to be taken a year. Only under special circumstances or for special courses is a seventh or, rarely, an eighth period allowed. If you take six classes every year for four years, you have a total of 24 classes. Under the new proposal you would need 25 classes to receive a recognition diploma -- hmmm.

Also, under the new proposal you would need a total of 24 classes to graduate, with six of these being electives courses. OK, six electives sounds impressive and makes for a well-rounded person, but look more closely at the situation. If you wish to take four years of mathematics (which is wise if you want to be competitive on the mainland) you'll use one of those six electives.

Want to take four years of science? You'll have to use another elective. How about a third year of language? Well, there goes another elective choice.

That leaves you with three. Three electives to take band, art, mechanical drawing, business law and any other class that isn't a part of the core curriculum (math, science, English, social studies).

First, amassing 25 credits is impossible when you are allowed to take only six classes a year.

Second, the suggested core subjects take away from the student's ability to explore other academic areas.

Requiring students to take more classes is probably a step in the right direction toward improvement, but you need to consider the rest of the problem. Consider the fact that my high school offered only four Advanced Placement courses a year (which you usually can't take until junior or senior year), vs. those who start at the University of Hawaii with 10, 15, even 20 AP credits.

Before you can make students take more classes, you need to restructure the school day to allow them the time option to do so.

I have one final remark about the state's attempts to fix the school system. It's not that Hawaii's students are less intelligent, as standardized scores make it seem. We just have access to fewer resources. Knowing that airplanes fly doesn't mean that we know how they fly. Give us the manual and maybe we'll launch to the moon.

I'm tired of hearing about our poor test scores and how the state is trying to make students smarter. Give us the resources to learn, give us the books and the courses, and then we'll talk about Hawaii's children being less intelligent than those from the mainland.

Kimberly Shigeoka is a freshman majoring in accounting and international business at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.


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Student Union is a forum for Hawaii's teenagers to tell the community what's on their minds and in their hearts. It appears every Thursday, starting today. We welcome opinions of no more than 700 words on any topic. Please include your name, address and phone number. E-mail to, fax to 529-4750 or mail to Student Union, Editorial Page, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu, HI 96813. For more information, contact Jeff Finney at 529-4735 or


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