The Value of High School

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First there was your dad.  Then there was your Master.  Then came your Teacher.  Now what?   The internet? When it comes to teaching offspring necessary skills it’s been a long journey.  For literal eons you did whatever your parents did to survive.  Those where your necessary skills.  Did they hunt?  You hunted.  Did they gather? You gathered.  It wasn’t until after agriculture became sophisticated enough to develop surplus food (barely) that we even had more than one career path.  Even then mostly you did what your dad did unless a local artisan took pity on you.  Eventually when a functional economy developed and you were extraordinarily lucky and a bit wealthy, you could be apprenticed to a Master.  Then you did whatever your Master did.  At it’s height this system of education was fairly complex with different levels of training, tests, guilds and organization, standards, and so on.   It more or less died out during the industrial revolution when it was discovered that no one really had time for all that one on one (or maybe a very select few).  We’re still more or less at the tail end of the industrial revolution model of education.  Pack everyone into a knowledge factory.  Teach them all the same way and all the same stuff, and if you flunked out it was clearly your fault.  You were inferior.  Defective.  And it wasn’t for everyone.  In fact, compulsory education is still only three or four generations old.  But kids sitting around with empty minds waiting to be filled is, thankfully, and outgoing model.  We’re just not sure exactly what to replace it with.  We want something that can meld an individual’s strengths and weaknesses with the success at mass production of the industrial age.  So far, “the Internet” is the best answer we have.  Sadly the Internet is a tool, not a paradigm.  So we’re still working on it.

This week I came across this article:  “High School Student’s Launch Satellite into Space”

Fantastic.  Rocket science is now so easy even high schoolers can do it.  It’s not a very ambitious project by NASA standards.  It’s a little two way radio powerful enough to pick up and relay signals from the ground. It’ll last about 2 years and do slightly more than beep but it’s still mostly sputnik 2.0.   But this should tell you something about school.  It took the resources of a major world superpower in the 50s to do something that a couple of kids did in high school.  The value of high school is that you have a collection of individuals who can do anything.  Not everything certainly, but definitely anything.  The future is about imagination and information.  We don’t have the best and brightest reaching out to high school to do the things that everyday people do.  Science teachers should be actively involved in research.  English teachers should be actively involved in writing.  Art Teachers should be making art, and they should be doing it professionally.  Why? because students should be doing it too.  They can.  They’ve got the creativity, they’ve got the energy, what they lack is direction and imagination.    One of the biggest problems with High School, especially with the empty head model of education, is the divorce between the academic world and the every day world in which they live.  It’s no wonder they don’t see any point to it.  There isn’t any.  We tell them if they work hard, then they can eventually go to college, and after college then there’ll be a point to their lives.  And we have the audacity to sit back and wonder why our students are unimpressed.


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