What’s High School For, Anyway?

During this deep and prolonged recession here in Oregon, we get to thinking about the costs of public education, especially secondary public education. (If you don’t think about it, that’s okay…I do, and I have to admit to a lot of ambivalence.)

Yesterday, the Orange County Register published an online artlcle about the differing expectations of teachers, parents, and students with regard to exactly what we should expect from a high school education.

This might be a bit of an overgeneralization, but I think of high school as both a beginning, and for many, an ending of formal education. Logically, a high school education needs to prepare students for life after high school, whether it’s joining the workforce and raising a happy little family, or going on to college and then joining the workforce and raising a happy little family.

In short, preparing students to be prepared for anything.

What do you think high school is for?

4 thoughts on “What’s High School For, Anyway?

  1. A question for the ages. Perhaps not high school in particular, but just “Why school?” Seems like a lot of philosophers have tried to answer it—don’t think there’s been any consensus.

    For me, I hope that high school would represent a transition from what society wants for its youth to what youth want for their society. This means that there the purposes of high school are as varied as the students within.

  2. “For me, I hope that high school would represent a transition from what society wants for its youth to what youth want for their society.”

    That has a “ring” to it, SG. For me, however, it was a delayed reaction. 😉

  3. I think The Science Goddess is right on. High School (and all levels of schooling) needs to be meaningful to all elements and levels of society. I am a believer in life-long learning. I try to have 2-3 books that I am reading at any one time. Right now, the one probably of most interest to you is O’Connor’s “How to Grade for Learning, K-12.” What I have learned so far from O’Connor’s book is that the grading process is very complex. Just like the answers to Hugh’s question: What do you think high school is for?

    High schools should give each student the broadest experience possible. There should be preparation for later life with the basic curriculum; but also there should be exposure to the arts (music, visual, dance, etc.); students at all levels should be introduced to Service-Learning including the importance of volunteerism; they would be introduced to learning outside of the school building, whether in the sciences, the arts, or other areas.

    In the past couple of days I have been thinking back on my high school education (I am now age 64). I was a poor to mediocre student, yet I was able to get admitted to college, where it took me ten years to get my 4-year degree. When I graduated from high school I could nearly not read. I took me maybe 20 years to raise my reading skills to a college level.

    Why mention this? Somewhere I received the curiosity and drive to continue learning. Had this been recognized while I was in high school, maybe I could have left there more prepared for college and life. What is happening to students these days that have marginal grades but have that spark to learn? Are they falling through the cracks of high school like I did? I hope one of the purposes of high school is to draw students out, challenge them in ways that they want to learn and indeed do learn, and carry that habit into their adult lives.

    There is no easy answer to Hugh’s question. Yet, we all know that high school is a very important weight station in life-long learning.

    • Tom, you raise an interesting, and I think, scary issue. What quantity and quality of human resources (not to mention individual personal fulfillment) are we wasting if we do not engage every student and create permanent curiosity as a basis for lifelong learning?

      I think our school district’s movement toward secondary grading reform will play a revolutionary role in drawing kids back to learning because, darn it, learning is fun!

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