67 Days ’til 40: What Drives HS Education?

16 Dec


As a head of a school that serves students in preschool through twelfth grade, I am often thinking about educational trends.  I partner with teachers to set goals for our students, and I often wonder what is really behind these goals.  Lately I have found myself constantly asking the question, “What drives high school education?”  As I evaluate our high school program, I realize that I am not pleased with the driving force that ultimately dictates the pressures we place on our students as early as elementary school.  What is this force?

I believe that university entrance requirements are currently in the driver’s seat of education.  This greatly concerns me.  I see that our schools have been trained to manufacture a strong university applicant, instead of devoting themselves to student needs.  Of course, there are many schools that care deeply about their students and attempt to meet their emotional, social and academic needs – I do not want to discount this.  My concern is that schools are limited in the ways they can choose to meet student needs, as well as their ability to meet these needs in innovative ways and the college entrance requirements are ultimately the source of these limitations.  I have heard of many schools who would like to dump AP courses and IB diplomas.  These schools see that there are students who benefit from these programs, but they also see an increasing number of students pushing themselves to register for these courses, at the expense of their teenage years.  These are students who must work much harder than the AP or IB students of prior years, as there are more students trying to gain university admissions today.  They do get decent grades, but the amount of time it takes in order to do so is placing an incredible amount of undue stress on the young people of today.

The irony of the aforementioned reality is that many employers in the job market tomorrow are not even interested in the skills being taught in high school today – they want creativity, adaptability and initiative.  These are amazing attributes that are critical in the constantly changing society we live in today.  Yet, we are still teaching our students to memorize and regurgitate information as if the information still does not exist at their fingertips, but it does – via Google.

It is my hope that at some point university leaders will team with business owners and high school leaders to really evaluate high school education.  I would love to see us partner together and question whether the system is really serving our students.  I would love to see this partnership evaluate the most successful college graduates (not most successful students, as the correlation is not always there).  I would like to understand what skills the most successful college graduates have – and how these skills are taught at the university level.  Then, we need to look at the profiles of the students prior to their university years.  When we look at the profiles of these students, we need to ask how ourselves what skills they gained in high school that afforded them the opportunity to learn what they needed to in university in order to succeed post-university.  I think we may be surprised.  My guess is that the skills necessary to succeed in life may not be the skills we focus on as we push our students towards university admissions processes.  What if we all worked together to research, understand, and synthesize this information so that we can be more focused with our high school students, while simultaneously relieving them from unnecessary pressure?

Today, 67 days ’til 40, I realize that education as we know it is on the edge of a great revolution.  It is my wish that we will be able to gracefully handle the rapid changes that will come our way, and do so in a manner that will protect our young people and afford them the opportunity to enjoy their high school experience without undue stress.



Posted by on December 16, 2012 in attitude, Children, Education, Inspiration


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17 responses to “67 Days ’til 40: What Drives HS Education?

  1. walkwiththerabbi

    December 16, 2012 at 00:56

    It’s interesting that you suggest that education is on the cusp of a revolution. I’m not at all surprised. We’re about to experience “revolution” in our world on multiple levels. I address this in my book “The Walk” in a Chapter titled “Faith and Revolution. I don’t view this as negative as all great movements in history, came about as a result of revolution. On the education front, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on developing a student’s strengths rather than attempting to make him/her better at a weakness? I’ve never understood that. As for me, I didn’t finish grade 10, yet went on to acquire 6 professional designations by getting up at 4:00 AM for 20 years for self-study (and am now a published author of “The Walk.”). I survived a faulty system – most don’t. Your thoughts?

    • 400daystil40

      December 16, 2012 at 13:42

      I agree 100%! Imagine if we looked at molding our schools to fit the needs of our students instead of changing our students to fit the needs of the school (that are not even aligned with the needs of the workforce!) It would be revolutionary. The hard thing is, we cannot change high schools until the universities are willing to cooperate, otherwise we are hurting the high school students even more in the process by not preparing them for the archaic system…. we need to find a way to recalibrate everything together.

  2. Bob Lee

    December 16, 2012 at 02:13

    I too agree with you on this one. I have written some posts/articles concerning the educational state of affairs and it creates a deep concern in me to see that the educational system is not in sync with what is needed in the ‘real’ world. If students are made to strive for the educational systems’ goal at the expense of their childhood, and then leaves our kids with a worthless diploma and 100 thousand in debt … where does that leave our country? And … where does it mean we are heading? Great Article.

    • 400daystil40

      December 16, 2012 at 13:40

      Thank you, Bob, for your comment. Yes, I agree with you 100%…… I really hope that we are able to change the system soon. I have often asked how a college graduate with a BA and $100,000 in debt who delivers pizza is in a better position than a 20 year old who has been delivering pizza for two years and has a bit of money saved……. our diplomas are worth less and less and we are having to prove ourselves based on ability, merit, teamwork, etc….. education and its correlation with the job market is changing at speeds we still do not fully comprehend and I really hope that we are able to wake up and then run to catch up!

      • Bob Lee

        December 16, 2012 at 17:50

        I wonder if the educational system can slowly be converted to a merit based system where results and knowledge are rewarded rather than the current standard of ‘how much time a student attends classes”?
        It really does seem that a Radical Change is needed and someone has to start the movement to get education & results back into the system and politics out of it.
        What a great thought provoking article. Thanks for the reply.

  3. Another Thousand Words

    December 16, 2012 at 02:27

    Very wise, 400…not every student should attend university until they are ready in their own minds to do so. Some may need a bit more ‘life experience’ after struggling four years, cracking the books. We, as parents, should not insist on immediately pursuing higher education, until we take and make the time to evaluate our child (children). Senior year in HS can be very stressful, what with ‘trying to make grades’, that just ‘living life’ seems to get thrown by the wayside.

    I once had a brilliant professor of philosophy who was 31 yrs old, had only been out of university less than one year and did not know how to open a checking account, do laundry, boil water…his entire previous 26 years had been spent in boarding schools. A sad man, indeed!

    • 400daystil40

      December 16, 2012 at 13:34

      I agree with you completely – and perhaps, there are some students who should not attend university at all – and that is okay too – there are many trade schools out there that train people for careers that are far more lucrative than the benefits of a BA degree… sadly, our society seems to look down on these….

      • Another Thousand Words

        December 16, 2012 at 21:09

        Yes, and it is very SAD…having expertise in a ‘trade’ is so important, and the jobs are there…plus, ‘book learning’ is fine and well, but actually accomplishing something on a dailty basis seems to ‘ground’ a person much more than just ‘pushing papers in a cubicle’ day in and day out! Have a beautiful holiday season, 400…you and your partner and those precious girls!

  4. Long Life Cats and Dogs

    December 16, 2012 at 10:56

    I love your idea of education being a collaboration between teachers and business owner requirements. Concentrating on getting the kids ready for university cuts out the requirements and skills of so many children who have their own “something special” to give to the world.

    • 400daystil40

      December 16, 2012 at 13:29

      Yes, this is precisely my frustration! I hope we learn quickly!

  5. brenaturally

    December 16, 2012 at 12:41

    As the mother of a high schooler I whole-heartedly agree with what you are saying. The education system needs to reevaluate itself in the day and age we are in.

  6. sharonhughson

    December 19, 2012 at 03:14

    I love the idea of business meeting with college and secondary educators to define what are really essential life skills. I do think there is a basic understanding of government systems, math, reading and writing that is necessary to empower citizens to participate in the system of democracy bought by millions of lives. However, the idea that students must be able to pass exams over algebra or advanced vocabulary in order to be successful in life is ridiculous.
    There are numerous educators at the school where I work in Oregon who would applaud everything you’ve mentioned in this post.

    • 400daystil40

      December 19, 2012 at 23:15

      Yes, exactly! The sad thing is, even though educators agree, we are stuck. We cannot change the system until we partner with universities and businesses for change – otherwise we are hurting our students.


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