This morning, amidst hawgin’ tabs and wading the swamp of eMail, I ran across a New Yawk Times article [Link] entitled “High School Doesn’t Have to Be Boring.” I have to admit to reading the article mostly because when I went through high schule more than fifty years ago, it was boring. And my subsequent observations via my daughter (and the children of colleagues) and Adopt-A-Physicist have been that the situation has deteriorated. So I read the article.
The authors report that innovation seems to be a failure and that the fight against boredom only seems to be working in the extra-curricular activities.
This fits with my experience. Then (and now) the core courses were overstructured with over-detailed syllibi and the advanced courses were too important to college admission to not be grade make-or-break. So no learning, just cramming in either venue.
I hate to say this fits my prejudices, because it does. When I went through high schule, the good teachers were the ones with real degrees and no certification. I was fortunate to capture a passing window before these teachers were ejected after five years for not obtaining certification. Nowadays, teacher certification is fundamental, as crucial as being admitted to the priesthood is for pedophiles, and perhaps with comparable results.
The authors claim that the real excitement, and hence learning, is in the extra-curricular activities. I note but do not accept unquestioningly. Most of the extra-curricular activities are rubbish, things like singing and acting and such. I am also skeptical. We had extra-curricular activities when I was in high schule and while they were less structured, they were equally vacant of anything to learn. If anything, they were so vacant of structure that learning was more about what not to do – participate in extracurricular activities.
I have to admit that my extra-curricular activities were science and the like. The total content of the club’s activities was an annual expedition to the atomic energy museum at Oak Ridge. And we were located in one of the foremost science towns in Amerika! This is where I became convinced that Chicken Man was right when he said good students are successful in spite of bad teachers. Extra-curricular sponsors – teachers – were baby sitters, not educators.
I can’t address the fru-fru extra-curricular activities. They were all either flaming Extrovert or deep in-crowd. Or both. Much as I would have liked to learn how to draw, putting up with the whole artist angst shtick was a repellant comparable to a negative gravitational singularity.
As a result, I have to admit that I am skeptical of this article. Nowhere does it address the Extro-Intro abyss that emerges in High Schule like acne and hickeys. And that lack is damning. Too much of public education is tromping Intro teens into the cess pool of society, to either fail or become STEM NERDs and be a caste apart for life.
I ain’t convinced high schules can be saved. Nor humanity.
But I still have hope. After all, college works. Or at least, it worked when I went. Not sure about today. College graduates today seem as ignorant and warped as high schule grads – not STEM NERDs – did and still do. Perhaps that’s the way of humanity? The cool kids become troglodytes who are the parasites of the STEM NERDs? And we run just as hard as we cam, we STEM NERDs, to keep society from self-destructing in the greed of POLs and the antipathy of EXTRO BOGs?