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Education department failed to save me from chemistry

Joyce Walter reflects on high school credits
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

The news from the provincial Education Department about high school graduation requirements got me to thinking — they came about 55 years too late to do me a darn bit of good.

In other words, I was born too soon, and the politicians of that day obviously didn’t care much about the students they were elected to serve.

In those olden days, students were TOLD which subjects they required to receive a graduation certificate. There were some minor changes allowed but for the most part, we were tied in to set rules regarding readin,’ writin’ and ’rithmetic.

A paragraph from the government’s news release says: “…students require additional credit flexibility to learn subjects they are passionate about to help them successfully enter the workforce. These changes align Saskatchewan education standards to those across Canada.”

If student passions had been considered for the class of 1968, I wouldn’t have had to worry so much about trying to figure out the squares and triangles of geometry, formulas from chemistry and the reasoning behind the mysteries of physics.

I could have lived much easier with being able to pick biology plus an entry level version of physics. Biology was enjoyable, except for dissecting frogs. But I virtually held my nose and got through those experiments. Plus I rather enjoyed making personal butterfly nets to capture various kinds of flying and crawling critters and using tiny pins with which to display them on styrofoam sheets. The higher number captured translated to a better final mark.

And not blowing up anything in the physics labs should have counted as passing marks towards a credit in that subject.

But chemistry and geometry were my burden. A kindly teacher said I could get rid of geometry if I took a correspondence course in a subject of my choosing. I selected economics and sailed through those lessons and received commendations from faceless instructors.

I had to stick with chemistry and I confess now that anything I painstakingly learned in those classes did not stick. I know the symbols for water and air but don’t ask me how to mix and match other symbols to create new materials. To my chagrin those questions had to be answered. I answered but somehow the answers seldom matched the questions.

Future graduates in English language arts will only require three instead of five credits for graduation. That change, in my opinion, is disheartening. I would have loved to have been offered extra courses in literature and composition and on my own did take a one year correspondence course in Old English Literature. It wasn’t my favourite, but it was better than chemistry.

Looking back I am still grateful for and proud of the marks I received in reading and writing and being picked to be editor of the school yearbook because of them. 

A course I would have welcomed is being added to the required credits, that of financial literacy. It would have helped to know in advance that in order to write a cheque, one must have a bank account and that account must have money in it. 

And understanding that being paid $1.25 an hour didn’t mean I would take home that amount for each hour worked would have saved me from thinking someone in the payroll department was scamming me. Deductions for such things as income tax were to blame for the discrepancies. Plus I was vague on why I would have to file tax forms if the government was already taking my money.

Yes indeed, the class of ’68 had some learning to do. And now I will pause for some H2O.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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