In any high school, the students there identify themselves based on their interests and activities. Those common interests are how the students connect, make friends, and form groups. From the athletes to the actors, from the chess team to the newspaper club, extracurricular activities are a defining part of a student’s high school experience. And yet there are the kids who cannot, or do not want to join any such activities. Regardless of their reasons, they make up a formidable portion of the student body. However, some school districts are suggesting that schools should make joining an extracurricular activity a graduation requirement. This may sound noble at first glance, but students should not be required to join an extracurricular activity because it will damage their high school experience more than it will improve it.
The idea of having students join activities to improve their social skills sounds like a good idea on paper. However, the truth is that there are students that simply don’t want to join any of the activities their school has to offer. These kids, when forced into activities they don’t want to be in, will not only gain nothing from the experience, it will have a negative effect on them. For example, I joined the cross country team of my own volition; I enjoy working hard every day at practice, and some of my best friends I met through the team. In contrast, another kid on our team was forced to join by his parents. At practice, he will complain without fail, no matter how easy the workout. Likewise, he gets on all of our nerves and hasn’t made any friends on the team. Cross country as a whole is just a miserable experience for him. That was being forced by his parents. Now imagine being forced into such a situation by the school administration, a coldhearted machine of an establishment that has no sympathy for a student in a similar position. At least when it was his parents, he could try and talk to them, but when it’s a hard and fast rule, there will be no circumventing it. Not only will the exact opposite effect of what was intended be achieved, this feeling will extend to more than just the activity itself. The student will hate the activity that they are forced to join, and by extension, they will likely begin to hate school itself, and quickly lose any motivation they may have had to begin with.
Requiring students to join extracurricular activities can also cause major conflicts with more important obligations that students may have. A friend of mine was on the track team. He was a talented distance runner, and he very much wanted to be a part of the team. However he was forced to quit the team because both of his parents worked late and he had to go home after school every day to take care of his autistic little brother. Regardless of the fact that he wanted to be at practice, the main point is that he had an important family obligation that he had to give up track to fulfill. However, if joining an extracurricular was a requirement to graduate, my friend would have been stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either leave his disabled brother unattended alone at their home, or don’t graduate? The school has no right to force somebody into that kind of a situation. Although that seems like an extreme case, the same idea can apply to much more common situations. Imagine a student who really wants to succeed in school, and pushes himself very hard academically, and spends most of his time doing his homework and studying. Under normal eyes, such a kid would be an ideal student. However, if this hardworking kid was required to join an extracurricular activity, valuable homework and studying time would slip away. He would be forced to either lighten his schedule, or his grades would begin to slip, neither of which should be something that the school brings down upon one of its model students. The foremost responsibility of a school is to educate, and forcing students who need the time to study to spend it on an activity would contradict a school’s basic principles.
Obviously, this proposition would never have been brought up if it did not have possible benefits towards the students. The school boards mean well, but in this day are misguided. What they want is to improve the high school experience by using extracurricular to help students make friends and improve their social skills. However, what they are really doing is restricting a student’s freedom in making their own decisions. In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the World Government controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, telling them exactly what they should do and that they should be happy doing so. However, as certain characters realize throughout the book, the government is restricting freedom and preventing them from achieving anything greater than trivial satisfaction with their lives. Now obviously, the situation with extracurricular activities is not nearly as extreme as a brainwashed society, but forcing activities down the student body’s collective throat and telling them that this is good for them bears a chilling resemblance to the situation presented in the dystopian Brave New World.
School administrators have presented extracurricular activities as a graduation requirement. Although they are trying to improve a student’s high school experience, the truth is that all that they are doing is damaging it. Students will not respond positively if they are forced into an activity that they don’t want to be in, and doing so could easily interfere with other obligations, such as a student’s primary responsibility, that is, learning. High school students are the future of this nation, and precious few of them are motivated to excel already. Forcing yet another ridiculous requirement of them would undoubtedly cause even more students to lose drive when they could be destined for great things.