Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Flawed American High School

“The rules of high school turn out not to be the rules of life,” Stated Leon Botstein, in his writing titled “Let Teenagers try Adulthood.”  Simply based off of this statement, I already agreed with his critique of the American high school.

High school is not an accurate representation of the real world. The success you have socially doesn’t imply that you will have actual success later in life. Plenty of students placed into the stereotype of “nerd,” will one day be the boss of the oh-so-popular “jock.”

Botstein goes on to point out how “individuality and dissent are discouraged,” meaning that while they are in high school, students are not accepted if they have character traits that make them stand out in ways that are not “cool” or socially admirable. They are encouraged to fit inside little boxes that crush their uniqueness.

Which brings me to another of Botstein’s points, no other institution categorizes people by age. Sure, once humans reach a certain old age they could be put into a care center, but it’s not as if they turn people away if they aren’t old enough yet. In the real world, age-segregated environments do not exist. “In no work place, not even colleges or universities, is there such a narrow segmentation by chronology.”

“By the time those who graduate from high school go on to college and realize what really is at stake in becoming an adult, too many opportunities have been lost and too much time has been wasted.”

Botstein’s solution to this problem is to allow students to graduate two years earlier, at the age of 16, should they feel ready for the task of beginning life in the “real world.” This could be by going on to college early, entering a trade school, or directly entering the work force. The point is that it’s up for the student to decide. At this age, most students know their own strengths and weaknesses, and have a grasp of where they’d like the general direction of their life to be headed.  

I agree with this ideal completely. By my sixteenth birthday I knew that I didn’t want to be in a job that required mathematics, yet I’m still in a math class my senior year. I believe that if we give students the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding their future, we would find that many teenagers actually have the capacity to be intelligent thinkers and creators. I believe that the shallowness of high school will diminish. If everyone is focused on bettering themselves so that they are prepared for the near future, it won’t matter if you were the captain of the football team, or if you never got a date in high school. It would matter that you prepared yourself for success later in life.

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