Humanities classes should have more honors courses

Opinion by Hannah Shahidi ’25 (Illustration by Spectrum / Photo by Lacey Wood Photography)

Harvard-Westlake (HW) offers a large range of subjects for students to study from 7th to 12th grade, however by not offering students honors classes in the humanities, HW is holding back their students academically.

When students first come to HW as 7th graders, there are five mandatory core classes that they must take: math, science, English, history and world language. Seventh grade students are able to take advanced math classes, which are essentially honors classes. The students who start in the honors math curriculum in seventh grade then go on to take honors math classes in 8th and 9th grade. Students who excel in science are able to take honors biology in 9th grade. This system perfectly sets up students who are strong in STEM subjects to succeed, by making sure that honors classes will be available to them for at least all four years of high school. But where does this leave students who show their academic strength in humanities (English and history)?

As opposed to STEM subjects, HW doesn’t offer honors classes in English or history until 11th grade. Students who excel in humanities aren’t able to take more rigorous classes until their junior year of high school. Harvard-Westlake prides themselves on the fact that they challenge their students, in fact, part of the HW mission statement reads: united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence. How can HW promote the pursuit of educational excellence while not providing their students with more rigorous and challenging classes for the first two years of high school? The difference between how these subjects are treated is astronomical. 

Kate Goldberg ’25, who believes her academic strengths lie in English and history rather than math and science, pretty much sums up the issue with this system. 

“Not every student exceeds or has an interest in STEM subjects,” Goldberg said. “At the middle school, students do not currently have the option to pursue more challenging and in depth learning of the humanities, which I find very restricting to myself and other students.”

This system is obviously unfair to all students, but it also raises the following question: is it a coincidence that there are fewer honors classes in female-dominated subjects?