High school – it ain’t what it used to be. At least that’s what recent statistics and Oprah Winfrey are telling us. One statistic states that three out of every 10 students that enter high school will not graduate. So what is wrong with America’s high schools?
It isn’t rocket science why our high schools are failing to captivate our youth. I can’t speak for every high school in America, but I can distinctly remember some of the problems that plagued my high school that caused 15 percent of my class to not graduate.
One issue was the dinosaur infestation. I’m not talking about ferocious, scaled lizards; rather, I mean the teachers. In 1971, 46.4 percent of all teachers were under the age of 35. In 2001, that number plummeted to 26.7 percent. This is not to say that teaching ability only belongs to the young, but cultural differences are bound to create a personal rift between student and teacher. If students and teachers have no common ground, education is nearly impossible. I’m sure everybody can remember one teacher of theirs that should have retired years ago but decided to stick around to harass two generations of students.
Although it is impossible to fetch a statistic for this, I noticed a disheartening pattern for the foul-ups that occurred in the school: administrative oversight. In certain cases, there were kids who actually wanted to attend college but the guidance counselors “forgot” to send their transcripts. A relative and teacher of mine constantly tells me how her principal doesn’t walk around the school day to day and therefore fails to see the atmosphere of the school. When it is time to make a choice that affects the students, the principal is ill-equipped to make the right call. I remember during my freshman year of high school, I probably saw my principal a grand total of two times.
To help remedy the rising dropout rate, there are a few policies that, if implemented, would probably boost graduation rate or at least make high school more enjoyable.
For example, if the teachers had a slightly more lenient union, more goals might be achieved. Currently, in some districts, if a teacher would like to volunteer to start an after-school program, they will be frowned upon because they aren’t receiving money for that work. While the union may have its points, I can’t agree with any policy that ultimately hurts the students.
More students would also benefit from more vocational training. Instead of sending them into the workforce with general knowledge, every student should leave high school with some specific job skill. That way, that light at the end of the tunnel may get a little closer as students realize that what they are learning really does matter and they should probably buckle down and pay attention.
After all, if schooling can directly translate into some sort of training, students may start to see dollar signs. I’m sure all of us had that moment in high school when we wondered when is the next time we are going to need to know the two hilltops that were fought over in the Battle of Gettysburg. But if someone is showing students how to do something that will earn them money, then the students might listen.
Of course, the subject of education has died down since the passing of No Child Left Behind, but something needs to be done for high schools outside of increasing the frequency of standardized tests.
Sean Blanda can be reached at email@example.com.