What does the above kind of scheduling and the courses that conform to this schedule (note the inversion here of means and ends!) indicate about the various subjects? To me it indicates that they are all equally (un)important.
A Typical High School's Graduation Requirements.
Here is one from Jefferson County R-1.
Course of Study Requirements
The following requirements are approved by the Board of Education for high school graduation. Principals have the option to grant waivers in course requirements based upon individual student needs and circumstances in order to deal with unusual cases. Students will be informed of a course waiver through the registration process. A credit is the equivalent of the completion of a full year course. A half-credit is the equivalent of the completion of a semester course.
English Language Arts: Four credits
-Four years of English language arts in high school
-Competence in all eight English language arts standards as demonstrated by classroom performance in the curriculum
-Three credits of required core courses that focus on and assess all eight English language arts standards
-One credit during the senior year based on the English language arts standards as defined by the school
Social Studies: Three credits
-Three years of social studies in high school
-Competence in all social studies standards including geography, civics, history, and economics as demonstrated by classroom performance in the curriculum sequenced by individual schools.
Mathematics: Two credits
-Two years of math in high school
-At least one year of high school math at the level of algebra I or above to demonstrate competence in high school math standards
Science: Two credits
-Two years of science courses in high school
-Competence in standards aligned with earth/space science, life science, and physical science as demonstrated by classroom performance in the curriculum sequenced by individual schools
Physical Education/Health: One-half credit
-One semester of physical education/health in a course aligned with the physical education standards, or
-Participation in a school-sanctioned activity that is aligned with the physical education standards and that receives pre-approval from the principal or designee. Students should confer with their counselor if interested in a waiver.
Fine/Practical Arts: One-half credit
-One semester of course work in one of the following: visual arts, music, technology, business, world language, consumer and family studies, or technical arts, or
-Participation in a school-sanctioned activity that is aligned with the applicable content standards and that receives pre-approval from the principal or designee
Electives: Ten credits
Four years of course work in additional academic core areas and/or school sponsored elective classes to equal ten credits
Now I have numerous observations that could be made, but I'll limit myself to just a few. One of my observations is that this district (and it is by no means exceptional) has really no idea what it is doing. Seriously. 12 credits required and 10 left wholly to the discretion of the student?
Another is this: We sanction what is important by requiring it. Are the twelve credits equally important? Are there things missing from the "required column" that ought to be there? Should some of the required courses be deemed optional?
Third: need it be this way? Must the high school curriculum be directionless?
A sample curriculum sans electives
This is just a sample. As you will see, there are two things different about this curriculum and the typical high school curriculum. First, the courses do not have the standard 45 or 60 or 70 or 90 minutes of length. Course meeting times are different based upon purposes. The number of students in a given "part" of a course will vary.
Here's the idea: each course consists of some or all of these delivery methods: (1) traditional lecture (15-35 students); (2) seminar (10-15 students); (3) Shared Inquiry discussion group (10-15 students); (4) Debate or outside speaker (whole school); (5) panel discussion (whole school); (6) student-led demonstration of learning (whole school). The time spent in each of these venues would be different (e.g., more time would be spent in a seminar than in a demonstration of learning), but the courses would not fit the traditional time-bound mode.
For example, a literature class over the course of a semester might have 25 hours of lecture; 25 hours of seminar; six hours of debate; 3 hours of Shared Inquiry; 11 hours of DOL; 20 hours of panel discussion.
All courses required
Here's a very rough sketch of what might constitute the required courses. The district and state standards would be exceeded in all required areas without doing violence to the arts -- fine and physical.
Literature: Three credits (but really really five and one half credits, as will be explained below)
1. Composition; 2. Research Report Writing; 3. British Literature; 4. American Literature; 5. Modern Literature; 6. Post-modern Literature; [7. History, ILL; 8. Science, ILL; 9. Math, ILL; 10. Fine Arts, ILL; 11. Physical Arts, ILL].
History: Four credits
1. History: Its Language and Literature (=ILL; These foundational courses explain the philosophical and literary underpinnings of the subject, hence meta-history, meta-science, meta-mathematics, etc. These are dual listed as Literature and the subject matter); 2. Western Civilization I; 3. Western Civilization II; 4. European History; 5. Asian and African History; 6. American Government; 7. U.S. History I; 8. U.S. History II.
Science: Three credits
1. Science, ILL; 2. Technology and Society; 3. Biology; 4. Chemistry; 5. Physics; 6. Earth Science
Mathematics: Four credits
1. Math, ILL; 2. Algebra I; 3. Algebra II; 4. Geometry; 5. Pre-calculus; 6. Calculus; 7. Statistics; 8. Economics.
Fine Arts: Three credits
1. Fine Arts, ILL; 2. Art Appreciation; 3. Music I; 4. Music II; 5. Sculpture; 6. Post-modern Music and Art.
Physical Arts: Three credits
1. Physical Arts, ILL; 2. Basic Physical Fitness; 3. Yoga; 4. Orienteering; 5. Track; 6. Self-defense.
Philosophy: Three credits
1. Introduction to Philosophy; 2. Greek Philosophy; 3. Christian/Medieval Philosophy; 4. Eastern Philosophy; 5. Modern Philosophy; 6. Existentialism/Post-modern Philosophy.
Somewhere to be determined: One credit
1. School and Society, ILL (lower division); 2. Senior Thesis and Presentation (upper division).