Who is the Kutler Center for?

Julia Aizuss

I would take Mythology and Its Meaning: Gods and Goddesses; Heroes and Heroines in a heartbeat. The same goes for Surrealism in Poetry, Painting and Film. Of course, there’s one insurmountable barrier separating me from these classes: they’re two of the four new Kutler Center courses approved for next year, and I’m graduating in June.

A barrier still remains, though, when I imagine what would have happened if these new courses were offered this year. I’m still taking the five core academic classes (English, math, language, science and history), and I doubt I’m alone in this respect. I’m also enrolled in that one elective that’s more a way of life (Chronicle), another elective (Philosophy in Art and Science) and a directed study (Ancient Greek).

Chronicle is non-negotiable, in the way that for other students the class period for Vox Populi or Community Council or Prefect Council is non-negotiable. (It now may be the same next year for Robotics, which in its switch from an afterschool club to a Kutler class will restrict participation and experimentation on the part of students only able to join a club that’s been slimmed down to focus  solely on competition.)

I’m only allowed to take Greek because, as a directed study, it meets just two days a week, so I’m not quite taking a full eight periods of class (which is, as we all know, forbidden).

What this gets down to is that if you’re a student taking five core classes and one elective dedicated to a major extracurricular, you probably have space for one more elective. In the Kutler Center alone, there are now 18 classes, all reserved for juniors and seniors. So, have at it, folks—if you can.

I get it: I’m maybe not as typical as I think. Some students drop history or science after junior year, and some drop their language after sophomore year, opening up space for electives more suited to their interests—and, in a sense, a senior choosing to still take a history or language is taking an elective suited to his or her interest.

But is it so unexpected that a senior enrolled in Latin Literature Honors is also into mythology, or that an AP Art History and AP Lit Student would like to take a class on surrealism?

Even if some core subjects become so-called electives by senior year, am I wrong in thinking students would end up taking one of them over the new Art and Science of Fly Fishing?

The specter of college admissions always looms, and, okay, maybe I’m taking AP Bio right now because my dean has insisted on the traditional bio-chem-physics sequence, not because of my love for the subject.

But, again, I’m not alone. Harvard-Westlake is at its core a college preparatory school, and its premium on academics means that students will most likely be pushed to take traditional, “legitimate” classes, while more offbeat electives like the Kutler Center’s may be given only the schedule space left over afterward, no matter a student’s foremost interest in World Religions or Unconventional Leadership or Middle Eastern Studies.

I hope that students are able to take World Religions once the rest of their academic checklist is fulfilled. If not, I’d like to know who all these electives were designed for.