Quick Fixes to High School

easier than tying this knot

If one thing could rival America’s national debt, then it could be the amount of problems in the American educational system.  The most glaring and discussed ones usually concern college tuition traps and teacher wages.  Big problems like these are totally valid criticisms.  Personally, as a highschool student, I find many faults in entire education process as a whole.  Unfortunately, these huge issues do not have neat solutions.

Here’s a bit about myself before I continue: I’m three weeks into my junior year of highschool.  I go to a highly-ranked public school in upstate New York, so I know that my perspective will not be everyone’s.  I’m an A student.  Here’s my complaint: There are aspects of grading that are very unreasonable, and in some instances the methods of teaching go directly against the essence of the subject (which is a problem…the point is to prepare us for real-world application…).  Luckily, there are some easy fixes that can make education a bit more reasonable.

General

  • Problem #1: the expectation of “perfect attendance” is absurd.  This standard is detrimental to not only physical health (school is basically a giant petri dish of seasonal maladies) but also to mental health.  I have witnessed the mental-breakdowns of so many students that could easily be relieved by a one-day, even a half-day break from school.  In one respect, I am totally wrong, of course: it is so unnecessarily difficult to catch up missed work that we are forced to attend school, throats hacking and minds cracking all the while.
  • An additional point: this expectation is especially absurd because even adults are not held to this expectation.  Y’all get an allotted number of vacation days that you can use when you’re sick, too busy, or too tired.  Because relieved employees are more productive, right?  Why isn’t this applied to school children?  
  • The solution: Treat us like adults!  Isn’t that the point of highschool: prepare us for the grown-up world?  Well in that case, give us some days that we are allowed to miss with no penalty!  And furthermore, be more lenient to students who have been ill and need time to catch up.  If leniency if not your style, then make a greater effort to catch them up.  With rapid-fire internet connection with student and school, this is literally so easy.  Just help.

  • Problem #2: Stop making us into Renaissance Men.  We’re not Leonardo Da Vincis.  We’re not going to ace every subject.  And in reality, when we are applying for jobs as adults, we’re usually utilizing only a fraction of the skills learned in highschool.  Will having a basic grasp in everything help us excel?  Of course!  On the other hand, being expected to learn the tiny nuances of every single subject will distract us from our career focus.  Unfortunately, for that coveted 4.0, we’ll pretty much need to ace pretty much every class.
  • The Solution: When it comes down to calculating that GPA that is gonna be showed-off to colleges, provide the option to scale-down the effect of chosen classes that students are doing poorly in and uninterested in.  Meanwhile, allow students to choose a couple classes to emphasize and have more weight on their GPA.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be the class with the best grade — the point is to highlight what the student likes.  With the right formula, everyone can benefit–Well-rounded students can show off a report card with A+s in every class, while students with a more focused career path can display their devotion and early determination in their true passion.

English Classes

  • Allow rewrites.  Rewriting is such a vital part to the writing process that many English classes neglect.  In many English classes, first essay attempts will often become permanent, unchangeable grades.  This irks me so much.  At no point in a writer’s career will their first draft be their final judgment.  Even a rapid-fire journalist will have their article undergo vigorous editing and revision.  Writing conferences with teachers are a must.  Revision is a must.  Not allowing this goes against the very essence of writing.  An abomination.
  • Allow creative outputs.  Often, English curriculum goes like this: read a book, then write an essay about said book based on a teacher-given prompt.  If you’re lucky, you will have an option of  a couple prompts.  But the luckiest students and the most golden English classes have an additional option: Write about what you want!
    I was fortunate to have this opportunity last year–I hated the three given prompts about The Odyssey, but the teacher specified and encouraged an alternative option to the whole class: write about another topic relevant to the Odyssey.  So instead of talking about the pros and cons of that jerkface Odysseus, I got to write an extremely feminist paper about the view of women in Ancient Greece 🙂

All classes: 

  • Allow a homework pass: Maybe one for each semester.  Some times we are absolutely slammed with work from other classes–we ought to have the right to miss the homework for one tiny homework assignment
  • (Note: With careful thought, this might not be beneficial for some classes, like math.  This is because the further I advanced in math, the more evident it became that every tiny element in math is a crucial building block for the big stuff: calculus.  Math, unlike English, is a very tiered learning process that I think is taught decently all-around compared to other classes).
  • On the other hand, make homework count in the gradebook.  As highschool progresses, some teachers care less and less about homework, to the point where it counts for 0% of the ultimate grade in that class.  Please, award hard-workers.  Have homework count for something, even a tiny percentage.  Some say that you shouldn’t award the completion of something that you ought to do.  I say that if you’re not even going to check homework, no one’s going to do it.

I only wish that I had a better understanding of education to say more.  But, I do expect this idea list to expand as I remember/think of new things.

I think a lot of these inconsistencies derive from the fact that American education has never been based on how to teach kids; Since the conception of one-room schoolhouses, it’s always been about bland memorization and the completion of a syllabus.  Now, with rousing psychological studies about human knowledge and learning, (and a pinch of common sense), there’s no excuse to entrench schools in archaic systems.  Thank you for reading.  Please let me know what you think!

-M.L.

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