Sunday, March 24, 2013

We Can Fix Highschool (By Making it More Like College)

     Institutionalized education of any sort has institutionalized problems.  Higher Ed's failings get almost as much headline time as public school's, even though they fail in drastically different ways.  Philosophically marrying the two could re-energize both failing systems.  How can we mold high school's failings to match college's successes?

1-Allow specialization.  Colleges encourage specialization instead of pressing for “general education”.  High schools could replace survey classes like Brit lit and biology with 19th century poets and ornithology   Specialization allows students better use of their time and a chance to study their passions, leading to better attitudes and atmospheres.

2-Write across the curriculum.  College courses often require papers to measure students’ learning.  Shift the focus in high school classrooms from studying for tests to articulating their knowledge.  Writing across the curriculum means more practice on a basic tool for citizenship.

3-Allow flexible scheduling.  Adolescents need almost as much sleep as five year olds, yet they’re saddled with 6 am bus rides and homework that drags into the night.  They spend their days sequestered in a sterile environment  forbidden to enjoy the sun or walk in the rain.  Make high school class periods shorter, more focused, and with many time options for fulfilling requirements.

4-Respect pupils.  Maturity happens over the course of years, not one one magical birthday.  Allow students to complain, suggest, express their convictions, and wear whatever they want (as long as they don’t hurt other students).  Further democracy and allow them to make their own rules.  If long-haired boys were that distracting, top colleges would have kicked them out year ago.

5-Encourage independence.  Help students find alternative ways to learn and then give them credit for it.  Suggest a wide range of sanctionedextended learning opportunities, work with local colleges, and run an efficient independent study program.

What do you think?  Can high school take queues from colleges?  Or should the reverse happen?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with all of these but #1 - most kids in high school (even a lot of sophomores in college) don't know what they "want to be" and would have no idea what skills they ought to learn. Specialization only makes sense in college. Even then, I like to steer clear of "vocational" schools.
    Honestly, if such a system happened, the majority of students would probably be high school "communications" majors.