Our Graduation Requirements Need to Change

“It is impossible to nail down what a liberal arts education is because it means something different for everyone.” Looking back at his Lawrenceville career in a senior reflection piece for The Lawrence, Kevin Xiao ’19 reminded us of the remarkable privilege that we, as Lawrentians, have by attending a high school that offers a liberal arts education. He encouraged us to seize the opportunity to take classes that we would enjoy the most and tailor our education to fit our own needs. While his argument is inspiring, many of us are unable to truly follow Xiao’s advice because Lawrenceville’s graduation requirements restrict us from doing so. Our current system requires us to take an excessive number of courses in fields such as the arts or religion when one term of these courses is enough time for students to decide if they would like to further pursue that academic field. By changing the School’s requirement from taking at least two terms in non-core subjects like religion and the arts to a more flexible system, students will have more freedom in their schedule to pursue electives earlier in our education.

In addition to the core classes, II Formers are required to take three terms of arts classes, two terms of religion classes, and two terms of interdisciplinary courses. Additionally, the curriculum structure requires us to take these courses as underclassmen. These requirements fill up our schedule to the point where we are only able to choose electives in our last year at Lawrenceville; taking electives only in our V Form year is simply not enough time for us to pursue our interest in certain, more specific academic fields. The counter-intuitiveness of this system, under which students do not truly have the freedom to explore their interests, calls for reevaluation and adjustment to better suit individual needs.

Our School’s academic system currently requires us to take seven terms of non core classes: three in the arts, two in religion, and two in interdisciplinary subjects. But do we really need three terms of arts classes when students are generally able to determine whether they would like to pursue this field in one term? Instead, only three terms of “non-core” classes in total should be required as opposed to seven: one term of arts, one term of religion, and one term of interdisciplinary. This system would provide students enough time to experience different subjects and determine whether or not they want to take more classes in those subjects, an improvement from the status quo where many students drop their pursuits in those non-core classes as soon as the requirements are fulfilled. Doing so allows us to have the choice to take core class requirements earlier so that we can even begin taking electives earlier, giving us the chance to more effectively explore our academic passions.

Of course, a reform to this system should not alter the requirements for the “core” classes that teach universal skills such as critical thinking, communication, and enough math to keep yourself out of debt—English, history, science, and math. These classes may not appeal to everyone, but are still essential for daily life; you may “not be a humanities person,” but you still need to know how to communicate effectively and convincingly. Students would be able to complete their non-core class requirement by the fall of their III Form year, allowing them more freedom in determining how the rest of our Lawrenceville careers are shaped. Some may continue their pursuit in non-core classes, while others may choose to double up in a core class of interest as early as III Form winter as opposed to sometime in their IV or V Form years.

Whatever the case, this new system would not only give us much more control over our classes from the moment we step onto Lawrenceville’s campus, but it would also allow faculty to create new and unique lower-level core classes as well as more advanced core and non-core classes for students who are eager to delve into more advanced material to stay on campus instead of traveling to Princeton, for example. It would also allow more students to take independent study or exchange programs instead of worrying about not taking enough course requirements to graduate. All this will aid in creating a more enjoyable learning experience that takes full advantage of Lawrenceville’s wide course selection and abundant academic resources, as well as pushes us to explore our personal interests.

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