Wednesday, May 11, 2005

School Rant - Part 2

Something else showed up in the Post Online today which disturbed me in the same vein as yesterday’s article.

Challenge Index 2005 -- I Defend Myself
By Jay Mathews
Newsweek magazine has just published, for the fourth time since 1998, my
list of the most challenging public high schools in the United States.

OK, I haven’t read the actual Challenge Index, but I have seen it before and doubt it has changed much. I guess my consternation has to do with something that Virginia Gal said in my comments:

“Read the article you referenced . . . You know what is scary about that story (aside from the fact that it was poorly written), is we can see the social stratification occurring at that stage in life. The IB kids are the kids who are going to go onto Ivy League-esque schools, get MBA's, run corporations and be the big power players in America. The kids in the on-levels course, sadly it seems are destined for low wage careers, working hard to stay afloat, getting lucky to make enough for one family vacation a year. I know this is a grand generalization, but it does seem a bit evident reading that story that these kids’ lives are going to go in totally different paths. It fuels the argument of the diminishing middle class in America.”

Bear with me as I struggle through my thought process here . . .

What is the purpose of college? I mean, the real and true purpose of going to college?

Is the purpose to become a more educated member of society, to learn things beyond the norm, to delve into an enriching program of advanced study? Or is it to get a piece of paper just so you can get a job making copies and “word processing” documents?

What is the purpose of high school?

To prepare people for college study? If so, unless you go to a really good school, it totally does not – in fact you pretty much need to unlearn your high school study habits to do well in college.

Is it to prepare people to become contributing citizens in American society? Given the worth of a high school diploma these days in the open market, I’d say no.

I think part of the problem with the education system in general is that whatever the goal was in 1905 is sill the same goal in 2005, and then people wonder why everything is so screwed up.

We live longer nowadays, so we have many, many years of useful learning life ahead of us once we are born. However, these days we seem to rush everyone through a one-size-fits-all system, where if you aren’t reading by kindergarten, you are way behind the curve. Given all we know today about different learning styles and differences in maturity levels, there really should be no reason to be pushing anyone into any levels. If you don’t learn how to read until you are 8, that should be OK . . . I mean, you are probably quick in developing other skills at the same time and are just a slow reading learner. Will that make a difference when you are 70? I think not.

We really should get rid of the stigma of being “left back.” Things should be set up like in college, you need to get so many credits in these different areas . . . if you want to take community college classes when you are 15, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to co-op for a few years to get some working world experience, (and to see where your interests might lie – or what you don’t want to do) that should be good too. People should be allowed to learn things in their own time . . . otherwise, you make people hate the process of learning so much that they run away from anything remotely educational or intellectual.

I was lousy at pre-calculus in High school – my head just couldn’t get there, for a variety of reasons. However, a few years into college I was able to do really well in it and even go on and get A’s in my calculus classes. I think that I didn’t develop the maturity and the rigor to really study these subjects until I was a bit older. Luckily I was good at social sciences and English which kept me humming along at a high level throughout my school years. But what if I hadn’t been as mature in the other subjects? Would I have been condemned to the hell of the “on-level” classes, marking time until graduation? Then what? – would I then have my high school diploma and sort of flounder around at low level jobs, not knowing what my real potential could be? What if I also liked to draw or work with my hands? Would I have been encouraged in that vein? Someone with those skills could become an apprentice and learn things that way . . .

I think that a much more flexible system would not destine people to be low wage slaves – I think it would make people want to be less a cog in a wheel and more in charge of their own destiny.

I don’t know, it’s probably pretty naïve of me, and it didn’t come out right, but you get the gist of what I’m saying, right?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kath - first of all, thanks for the mention in the blog, that was exciting!
This is a fascinating and great discussion topic. I agree with you that our education system needs to be fixed, times are changing so quickly, our schools don't seem to be able to keep up. There is more flexibility out there in the working world and I think kids shouldn't be pigeonholed into these categories (college bound or vocational) so early in life, because, as you said, every learns differently at different speeds. England has made this change in a way, in that after grade 9, kids can choose where and if they want to continue on in academia for college or go to a more hand-on program.
Also, I think its a travisty that those on-levels courses are not teaching the kids to critically think - to appreciate learning. These are future Bush voters, poor people who are unaware that they are being used and who let others do the thinking for them. Sad.
- Virginia Gal