“The American high school is obsolete and should be abolished.”
This quote is taken from an essay written by Leon Botstein over the uselessness of high schools in this day and age. I am sure that many high school students would whole-heartedly agree with this idea as stated. Botstein mentions the Columbine shootings in his essay to point out that high schools create a type of alternate reality for the students by having cliques and age separations, but the recent attack on Virginia Tech must be taken into account also. That was an institution of higher education and shows that anyone can be just as unstable.
However, parts of high schools would seem that some change could be extremely helpful. There are cliques upon cliques in high school with outcasts along the fringes. The main unspoken rule of high school being that if you don't fit in there, you will never fit in anywhere, which is a complete lie. Each day, high schoolers are being told that if they do not succeed in athletics or popularity contests then they will fail at everything once they have graduated.This is what causes students in these schools to succumb to the artificiality of this institution. As Botstein explains in his essay, more of the outcast students who grind their teeth through this mind-numbing maze of dances and sports events go on to be very successful once they graduate.
The credibility of high school teachers is also brought up in this essay. Botstein believes that most high school teachers could care less about what they are teaching and most of the politics that go on behind office doors also greatly depend on popularity contests. He questions whether or not most teachers are even able to teach the subjects that they are assigned when they neither care about nor have studied them. This is agreeable in most eyes because it seems only reasonable to allow a person to teach something that they fully understand and have a passion for other people to understand also. Most teachers in the American high schools today are simply put in a position because no other person is there to do so.
Botstein also focuses on the aspects of twentieth century high schools as compared to the first high schools of our time. Such as the sexual development of adolescents of this century. With girls beginning menstruation earlier, most students are beginning to develop faster intimately. Besides from a quickening sexual development, younger and younger adolescents are acquiring more and more technological advances. The high school, when it was developed, was developed for a younger-minded, less complex, and more naïve group of adolescents. In other words, changing teenagers have far surpassed the levels of the learning institution that was initially designed for them.
The question now asked is what Botstein proposes to do about this problem of American high schools. The idea that has been introduced is to begin elementary school years earlier, do away with middle school and junior high years, and have students graduate at what would be a normal eleventh grade year. After which, they would go on to either college or what Botstein describes as what seems to be technical schools of a sort from science to dance. He claims that the adolescents would be able to better put their energies into the subject being studied and also be able to work with qualified professionals in that field of study. He considers sixteen year olds of today to be able to perfectly adapt to the workforce alongside older adults.
This is a very debatable subject. This is the age when teenagers are learning to drive, pay for things themselves, and some even still deciding what they want to do with their lives. Sixteen year olds are not thinking of whether or not they can make this month's payment on their rent or about how well, or not so well, the economy is doing. They are focused on finding themselves and understanding others. The picture for them is not as big as it may be for an eighteen or nineteen year old. While those couple of years may not seem that much of a difference, it really is. While it may teach more responsibility and future thinking to adolescents, it may also take away from parts of their adolescence that are key in defining themselves once they are thinking about things such as rent and how the economy affects them. Another facet might be that changing this one thing might also have to include changing other aspects of a society. The job market would be overwhelmed because more sixteen and seventeen year olds would be trying to find ways to pay for these new higher education institutions and other responsibilities of being an adult in today's world. American high schools and their errors cannot be the only affair that is involved in this change.
In theory, this could in turn be a brilliant idea, but twentieth century sixteen years olds are not ready to be out on their own. They still need those remaining years to develop. Although high schools may be rough in America today, they also help an adolescent to clearly learn what they believe, both about themselves and other adolescents around them. High school is a hard time, and there is no denying that it is getting harder with all of the developments of today's society, but taking that away would be taking away crucial developmental stages in an adolescent's life.
[ Reading Culture: Schooling "Let Teenagers Try Adulthood" Leon Botstein
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