While the program offers instruction in artistic disciplines like photography and media design, high school journalism does not count as an art credit.
Acalanes Union High School District students must take 1 year of an art credit in order to graduate. Those who take journalism, though they learn important artistic skills, are not awarded the art credit they deserve. Instead, they receive a English elective credit.
The AUHSD should support La Puma and other district journalism programs by allowing them to count toward the art elective requirement.
The current district graduation requirements, and journalism’s singular designation as an English elective, are a detriment to sustaining a vital high school program. Rather than take a class that develops critical thinking, effective communication, and artistic expression, students like our own Editor in Chief are forced to take a year off from La Puma in order “check boxes.”
Each year La Puma fights a losing battle as sophomore and junior students opt to enroll in other elective classes rather than continue their growth as staff members; allowing art credit for journalism would mean that La Puma staff could continue to develop effective skills as they move from being staff writers, photographers and videographers to editors over the course of their 4-years high school experience. The 4-year pathway in journalism offers the opportunity not just for mastery of visual and written expression, but also for the development of leadership skills as students take on roles and mentors, offering critical feedback to peers and sharing in content and policy decisions with the faculty adviser.
While the journalism experience does provide intense and thorough skill development in the areas of verbal and written expression, it is also an environment where visual expression is emphasized.
“Pictures speak louder than words” is an old truism, but it is accurate; according to 3M, the Post-It manufacturer, people process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. La Puma photography and design is intentional. The goal of photo journalism is to capture truth, to tell real stories in visual form. The purpose of media design is to make information clear, accessible and engaging. These aspects of communication come with their own conventions, and La Puma staff vigorously work to learn and apply these conventions. The visual aspects of the student journalism course are intellectually demanding and worthy of art credit.
According to a City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism study, visual storytelling, digital design, and social media distribution are 3 of the top hiring priorities among American newsroom leaders –all of which are skills taught in the La Puma newsroom.
Everyone, from the staff members to parents, benefits from the accountability and entertainment a school newspaper provides. It is a program that is vital not only for showcasing various achievements, featuring current events, and providing commentary on critical campus and community issues, but also for its development of competent citizens in the digital age. The district should both recognize and help to sustain this by making it easier for student journalists to complete the graduation requirement. Journalism should qualify for art elective credit.