4 ways we can easily improve American High Schools

 

We all know that wonderful, cool, annoying, awesome time between the ages of 14 and 18, when we first enter high school. It symbolizes our growing independence and responsibilities; a rite of passage, if you will; it marks a time when we madly pursue love, fame, or freedom, when we feel most at odds with ourselves, and build upon our experiences to become better people. It’s a time when you meet your friends for life, and despite often feeling lonely, or dreadful, or depressed, or that adrenaline spike when you finally talk to your crush (you know what I’m talking about, right?), or just plain tired from all the skipped nights of sleep, high school still ends up feeling one of the best times of your life. It develops you mentally, socially, and physically for entry into the frightening and dangerous adult world.

However, high school also functions in another aspect. The reason it’s called that is because high school is there TO TEACH. High school gets you to college, and college can get you to wherever you want these days. Want to start a business? There’s a degree for that! Want to study science? There’s plenty of degrees for that as well!

If you’re not going to college, you’re at least doing yourself and humanity a favor (you read that right—more on that later) by 1) developing yourself and forcing yourself to learn important, successful habits, and 2) carrying the ENTIRE FRICKEN’ BURDEN of humanity’s knowledge on your strong, well-toned shoulders. Okay, maybe it’s not the entire (fricken) burden, but it sure as heck is a large part of it, so go ahead and give yourself a nice pat on your back for helping out humanity.

However, as a high school student, I feel as if high school isn’t pulling its weight when it comes to educating children. Believe me, I’ve been to an international school where I was learning 10th grade level American math in 8th grade, and the students there have similar English proficiency to American ones, despite English not being their main language most of the time. I will admit that in the end, most students leave school well educated and prepared, but the way they get there is often marred with stress, worry, and a general lack of satisfaction with the education system. I thought I’d toss in my two cents and give my opinion on how to improve high school, so without further ado here is the easy 4-step guide to improving American high schools.

1. — Make it start later

There’s a lot of debate about this, whether the benefits really outweigh the whole “school’s starting later” inconvenience, but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that starting school later might be for the better than for the worse. I for one feel a lot better waking up when there’s sunlight outside as opposed to when it’s pitch black outside. There’s plenty of research on the internet that suggests that teenagers become tired later at night, around 9 or 10 PM. There are even studies on how schools that start later have students that sleep less in class, get better grades, and feel less depressed. Wow! I sure would love to get some of that.

In summary, schools NEED to start later in the day to better align with teenage sleeping patterns. It helps the school (because the students get better grades) and it lightens the already strenuous load on teenagers. Even if school started just 1 hour later, I’m sure it’d be much better.

2.  Cut the stress

It’s a real shame when I talk to my friends, and they give me a sob story on how they got a 98 on a test, meaning they can’t become valedictorian, meaning they can’t get into a college…

Really? What is this? This is some silly three pieces of paper, which were graded by some teacher (teachers have specific strategy, and make mistakes) and anything less than perfect on said paper decides you’re entire future? I mean, CLEARLY we have a problem here if students are carrying around this mindset.

I feel like there’s this rising trend where teenagers have to attain this so-called “perfect teenager.” It varies between boys and girls, but the traits are mostly the same: tall, beautiful, perfect grades, funny, smart, confident, all AP classes, managing a ginormous business which earns them 100,000K a month, driving a Lamborghini… Everyone’s trying to achieve this nearly impossible figure, and apart from the saddening speeches of my colleagues, it just plain pisses me off.

Granted, the largest cause of high school stress isn’t high school itself. That honor (if you can call it that) goes to Ivy League schools, whose motto is appropriately named “4.0 GPA or bust.” That being said, that doesn’t mean high school doesn’t fly under the radar when it comes to causes of teen stress.

So how do we end high school stress? It’s easy; I’ll tell you how in just three words: Cut the Fluff. In my town, all the High Honor roll students are published in the town newspaper. Talk about instant gratification! Moves like these accomplish nothing. In my school, most kids are already on the High Honor Roll, so if you’re NOT on the High Honor Roll, you suddenly feel part of a minority, and ultimately end up feeling like a failure. For all the kids who did make it, not only is this a source of possible embarrassment (since some people don’t want other kids to see their grades,) but it also does nothing but cause students to be gratified and validated. This sort of praise only leads to arrogance and the subsequent spawn of species I like to call “High School Jackasses.” For those who weren’t affected, you’re now surrounded with a layer of pressure to upkeep your status.

Also, cut out the title of Valedictorian (a.k.a. look at me, I’m the best!) and Salutatorian (a.k.a. I could’ve been the Valedictorian…) These titles should just be private little insignias that you can mark on a college application, not some overhyped gratification tool. Valedictorians should only be seen as speech-givers, not gods.

In summary, we need to utterly obliterate this “perfect 4.0 GPA student” culture in our schools. It’ll make it a lot easier for students to relax (thus letting them get better grades) and will help High School students remain humble.

3. — For the love of Pete, stop it with the unnecessary homework!

I think homework is a great tool. It helps reinforce students’ knowledge of the subject and helps students learn how to manage time. However, if homework meets only one, or even none of these criteria, it is absolutely pointless.

In theory, almost all homework is unnecessary. In an ideal environment, all students go home, study the subject they’ve been given, and carry on with their day. The only example where a student would need to do something hands-on is probably English or Math. However, homework exists because students are just too damn lazy to go home and study said subject (myself included.)

But some of the homework we’re given is just pointless. For example, in English class I had to draw a comic about the opening of Romeo and Juliet. That’s great, but… what exactly did this do? I already had sufficient knowledge of Romeo and Juliet’s opening. I’m no artist, so I didn’t use this chance to improve my skills. All it did was waste my time! Another example would be making a revision paper where I draw words I need to review. Sounds great in theory, but why do that when I can just go online and review said material? There are even sites where the material studied in school is literally copied word for word onto flashcards (Kudos to Quizlet.)

In summary, if your homework achieves the same purpose as going online and studying for a few minutes, don’t give it to me. It only wastes my time and everybody else’s time. It also wastes paper! You know how many trees you’re wasting?! Next time you think about printing those 20 sheets of paper, just remember that you’re reducing the habitat of a critically endangered species. Certainly you wouldn’t want the Orangutan to die out, would you?

4. Don’t be afraid to speed things up a bit

Of all the steps to take to make high school better, this is arguably the most important academics wise. Sure, you can reduce the amount of tests being given, or pay teachers more, but I think the whole “go nice and slow so everyone can understand it” mindset is hurting everyone. Speed the curriculum up. Don’t worry, we can take it!

Across all my classes, I see very slow progression between material. A significant amount of material isn’t even new; it’s just review from last year! I can also say for sure that America is lagging behind other countries. I’m certain you’ve seen the relatively low rankings of the USA’s OECD scores time and again. However, I have firsthand experience; having lived abroad in a much poorer country, I feel sad when I come back to the USA and find that I’m reviewing last year’s material. Many students there are trilingual, or even quadrilingual, while students in America not only struggle to educate themselves in a foreign language, but lack an interest in learning one as well. Students here also lag behind in Science and English.

Granted, I went to a very good school, but many of the poorer schools still do just as well. Students here are just not challenged enough. It can be argued that America is a “No child left behind” country (literally…) but slowing down everything isn’t going to help. For starters, many smart students are bogged down by a slower curriculum. There’s so much more they could learn, but can’t because the curriculum is still stuck on something. For the big bulk of students who are not quite so fast as some other students, this slow way of thinking (no pun intended) hinders them because these students are capable of learning so much more as well, but DON’T. As a result, they feel unchallenged and start to slack off.

My suggestion? Spend less time on material. Instead of 14 days, spend 12. There’s probably LOTS of extra fluff lying around that, if removed, would make learning faster. Things like review days, test days, and state mandated labs should be worked around with to maximize efficiency. Even better idea, make alternative schedules, where students learn so and so one day, and something else the next day. Genius!

In summary, don’t be afraid to bring on the heat. Trust me, we can take it, and the extra knowledge will only make us feel better. Not to mention, we will become much more organized thanks to all the hard work.

So there you have it

These are the 4 steps that I believe if taken will dramatically improve high school. What do you think? What else did I miss? Does high school even NEED to be improved, anyways?

Thanks for reading, and as always, have a great day.

 

 

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