Editorial: Don't make CPR training a graduation requirement


Published Mar 1, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Requirements for a high school diploma include 24 total credits, three of math and four of English. Oregon Senate Bill 275 would add one more item to that list: cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

While we fully agree that CPR instruction has tremendous value, we’re hard-pressed to see how it belongs as a graduation requirement.

Not only is it listed there, the bill declares the issue an emergency, making the legislation, if passed, take effect July 1 rather than the usual 91 days after the end of the legislative session.

Training in the use of automated external defibrillators is also mandated by SB275, with the State Board of Education instructed to adopt training rules that require school districts and public charter schools to provide the instruction.

Testimony was prepared for delivery to the Senate Education and Workforce Committee earlier this week by representatives from Oregon Health & Science University, the American Heart Association, the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association and the Oregon Emergency Medical Services Association.

They detailed the critical importance of CPR training and use of AEDs in saving lives when sudden cardiac arrest occurs. If CPR is administered within 3 to 5 minutes, chances of survival are doubled or even tripled.

Advocates say too few people know CPR, and requiring high school students to be trained would add more than 45,000 lifesavers to our communities each year. Training, they reported, can be accomplished in only 30 minutes and could be added to health or physical education classes.

The advocates make a convincing and moving case for efforts to train more people in CPR, and we have no objection if it can fit as one unit in a health or PE class. That alone would dramatically increase the number of people trained.

We can’t, however, see how it belongs in a list of graduation requirements, ranked equally with three credits in math and four credits in English. Many things are worth learning, but they don’t reach this level.

Among the many challenges of 21st-century education is that it’s been loaded with myriad societal goods that have little to do with its critical purpose. This is a well-intentioned example.