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What's the Problem With US High Schools? 1095

Posted by Cliff
from the fixing-the-american-educational-system dept.
GrumpySimon asks: "ABC News is reporting that High School kids are dropping out of high school in 'epidemic proportions', with an estimated 2,500 kids quitting daily. What's wrong with our school system that so many kids prefer working 40 hours a week instead? How can this be fixed?" It seems to be an America truism that "things get better after High School," and it wouldn't be surprising if most of you readers feel the same way. However, why does it have to be this way? What's the big problem with American High Schools where more and more children are feeling that it's better to risk the "real world" than to continue on with their education? Of course, another question that should be asked is: Is High School really the problem, or is it America's Educational system as a whole?
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What's the Problem With US High Schools?

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  • There's no doubt that dropout rates are a major U.S. problem, but the ABC article would make one think that dropout rates are on the rise. Nationally, this just isn't true. Between 1972 and 2004, dropout rates have fallen drastically. For all ethnicities, they are now almost half what the rates were 30 years ago [childtrendsdatabank.org] (note: the full article that references this table can be found here [childtrendsdatabank.org])

    This doesn't mean that isolated cities (such as Detroit and Baltimore) that have experienced serious economic problems and urban blight are better than 30 years ago, they are likely worse, but to characterize the problem as a national "epidemic" is completely ignoring the truth. Our school systems, teachers, and local governments have been working hard to raise graduation rates nationwide. And the data supports their assertion that they are seeing some success. Sure, there are MAJOR shortcomings to our public school system, but there has been major progress that shouldn't go unrecognized.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:53PM (#16941158)
    The world needs ditch diggers too...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:55PM (#16941182)
  • read this book (Score:5, Informative)

    by Donut2099 (153459) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:58PM (#16941234) Journal
    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm [johntaylorgatto.com]
    John Taylor Gatto argues that American education fails to properly educate because it was not designed to educate. It was designed to create good consumers.
  • Re:read this book (Score:3, Informative)

    by roscivs (923777) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:19PM (#16941598) Homepage
    If you don't want to read the whole book, try The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher [cantrip.org] (by the same author). By the way, Gatto was New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.
  • by rkcallaghan (858110) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:39PM (#16941880)
    How'd that eventually all play out?
    Catch-all reply for all of those screaming "lawsuit". In essence, nothing happened. I was treated at the hospital and spent several days at home recovering from the kidney stone.

    It is easy here on Slashdot for you to believe me, 10 years after the fact. Just the fact I remember it with such vivid detail lends credibility or I am at least a quick creative writer to make up the whole thing so quickly.

    At the time however, things were a very different story. I was a high school kid who had left class without a hall pass. The officer said I started the fight, and I was in the process of committing a crime (truancy). It was easy for all the adults at the time to ignore my requests for medical assistance, in their eyes I was just a whiny kid making excuses. There was no room to make a valid case on my word alone.

    ~Rebecca
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:31PM (#16942664)
    - Suing the schools for any perceived slight (such as having a dress code dictating no long hair or earrings for males)

    Actually, that is an example of sex discrimination. There is no reason to have girls allowed to have long hair but not boys other than reinforcing gender roles (e.g., women barefoot in the kitchen, men the sole leave-it-to-beaver family breadwinner). No, I do not want to go back to the mythological 1950's. You are going to have to find a better example of something "slight" to sue a school disctrict over. This is not one them.
  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:32PM (#16942678) Journal
    It's appropriate that this question appears following the death of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milt Friedman, one of the founders of the school choice movement.

    On Charlie Rose almost exactly a year ago, Friedman drew this analogy: The government identifies a proper subsidy -- let's say, food. So does it subsidize the *producer*? That is, does it give money to farmers or grocery stores, and tell them to provide food to people who live within a certain geographic area? Of course not -- that would be absurd. It subsidizes *consumers*, by giving them vouchers (we call them "food stamps") that they can then use to shop around and look for the best value.

    The entire model we have set up for education is terrible, from theory to practice.
    Allowing a quasi-government monopoly to exercise near-complete control of our most precious resource -- our children -- is INSANE. The monopoly will try to do what ANY monopoly does: Freeze the status quo and defend it to the death.

    We will never make any REAL progress in education in this country until we understand that our Public School model has some real problems of a systemic, organizational nature, that can't be solved simply by throwing money at them.

        - Alaska Jack
  • by Bugmaster (227959) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:56PM (#16943072) Homepage
    School can be an accomplishment too. I've enjoied high school Calculus, and most of my college classes, much more than I enjoy work -- because I could almost physically feel my knowledge improving as I was studying in these classes. That's a rush. Getting your yearly Christmas bonus is nothing, in comparison.
  • by badspyro (920162) <(badspyro) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:20PM (#16943358)
    been there, seen it and done it.

    although this is the UK, I was discriminated against, and almost sued the school, when the head of discipline (yes, our school actually had one), dragged me down to the main office and proceeded to tell me "the school is above the law", while my head of house tried to keep his face straight.

    The only reason I didn't, was that it would possibly cause problems for my brother who was coming up in a years time to the same high school.

    If your school systems are similar, I would hope that you would take them to Court.

  • Re:Gotta be the age (Score:4, Informative)

    by doktor-hladnjak (650513) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:32PM (#16943498)
    The names of the schools are (in the same order you've listed them before) Gymnasium, Realschule and Hauptschule. Even the lower levels of school are not necessarily worthless though. For example, kids attending Hauptschule tend to spend a lot of the later years of their schooling doing practical training and internships. In fact, I'd say the German system does a better job training skilled laborers like plumbers and mechanics.

    It's also possible to transfer to a university even if you went to Realschule after you prove yourself in a Fachhochschule (like a university but more practically oriented).
  • by joe_adk (589355) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:34PM (#16943532) Homepage
    Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
    1. Students in America are commonly told to work in groups. The fact that it is done in this one example doesn't necessarily invalidate the parents point. It could, in fact (depending on the success of the groups) support it.
    2. One of the schools in my region tried making all the classes non-required attendance. The students never showed up, and the school dropped in the state standardized testing. One school? In one region? For how long? There is a common saying where I come from: 'Screenshot, or it didn't happen.' Also one about anecdotes and data, but I am too lazy to look that one up (damn public education!).
    3. Sure, low pay, but also, the teachers don't get paid less or more due to their performance.This is a separate problem, and doesn't address the parent. Also, pay is only one factor in '(attracting) highly educated and highly functional people.'
    4. Again, teenage students start screwing off when left to their own devices. Maybe not if they could just go home and play GTA.
    5. There isn't a national curriculum in America as long as No Child Is Left Behind
    6. Writting well EngRish, and being able to hold a continual argument for many pages is an important skill. Math is important so that you can do your taxes. Physics is important so that... But it isn't taught this way. It is taught as a end in and of itself.
    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the parent was 100% right. But there may be better arguments against his/her (why is there no acceptable gender neutral pronoun) points. Actually I just came in here for the witty comments.
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:01AM (#16945724) Homepage
    Because standardized testing NEVER existed before the Bush administration. Seriously, though I don't disagree with you, I remember taking standardized tests years and years before Bush's reign of stupid began.

    Nice strawman. Standardized testing certainly existed, but No Child Left Behind takes the idea to an absurd level [wikipedia.org], and goes to the extent of financially punishing schools that don't meet its requirements. Now, combine that with the fact that the act is only funded ~50% [aft.org] (which parent poster mentioned, btw) and you have an educational disaster.

    It forces test score goals on schools, then doesn't give them the money to meet those goals. What the hell do you think is going to happen? Why do you think the state of Connecticut is suing the Federal government over it? [npr.org] Do some critical thinking, man.
  • by Z34107 (925136) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:13AM (#16945800)

    The reason for that is not because the degree is worth less but because there is less opportunities to go around. Our whole economy has been sold off to the god of "global free trade." Of course there is nothing free about it, it's just a catchy name.

    Uh huh. Try looking at some silly things called facts [census.gov]

    Real median income has been on an almost uninterrupted ride up since 1967. Meaning, if you took every person in America and lined them up from poorest to richest, and then followed the guy in the exact middle for 40 years, and adjusted his salary for inflation, he'd be better off to the tune of $10,000 a year.

    This is despite the fact that the "middle" keeps changing. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States - do you think they're pushing median income DOWN (they're making LESS than the average Joe) or UP (they're making MORE than the average Joe)? Not to say that immigration is good/bad/indifferent/whatever - point is that the middle is consistently better off, despite pressures that keep pushing the middle back down.

    The actual number [whitehouse.gov] of "opportunities" went up by 92,000 in October, and there are 6,800,000 more jobs today than there were in 2003.

    Doesn't exactly seem like there's "less opportunies to go around."

    As for "free trade", the "free" part is "free as in speech." It refers to trade being "free" from restrictions like tariffs and subsidies - it's not "catchy", it's perfectly accurate.

    Trade can be "free" in the other sense, too. Simply put, some countries just make things better - the U.S. can produce a ton of grain for a lot less cost than Japan can. Japan can make a ton of semiconductors cheaper than the U.S. can. By trading grain for semiconductors, the U.S. gets semiconductors at the price of its cheaper grain, and Japan gets grain that would have cost more than the semiconductors it traded for them.

    Although a simple example, it's how trade works - you trade what you can make cheapest (relative to other things you make in your country) for things that cost more to make in your country.

    Two hundred years ago, when that thing called the "Industrial Revolution" took off that made possible the existence of the computer you're whining from, it was called "division of labor" or "specialization." This is the same concept, but on a global scale.

    But, then again, "Dey turk mah jugh!" [wikipedia.org]

  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:14AM (#16946122) Homepage
    I lived in Germany for the last 4 years, and yes, this 3-tier system is really silly. It *used* to be according to if you wanted more manual work or more theoretical, with Hauptschule being the most practical and gymnasium being the most theoretical. Today however it's just a quality-scale, more or less.

    There's *nothing* a Hauptschuler is more qualified for doing than someone with Abitur, it's basically a school where the stupid kids go and learn less, and the split is very early, around 12 years or so ?

    This ensures a class-separated society where increasingly the good-offs and the ALG-2 people live in completely separate universes that cross only whenever the good-offs decide to visit McD.

    The contrast to Norway is striking. We've got 10 years of compulsory schooling, all of it together. Which gives a much broader common platform than what German kids have. Thereafter we've got 3 years of what *we* call gymnasium, or alternatively you can choose a practical education (including training in a practical labour like in Germany.)

    As it is in Germany I question the point of having Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium as 3 "different" schools. What is supposed to be the difference between those 3 alternatives ? Dumb, sligthly dumb, smart ? That's no basis for a separate school !

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:46AM (#16946296)
    Of course this is for real. I was a student in the L.A. city school district and what the OP was describing sounds just like the schools I went to. Not just foreigners but even a lot of Americans from middle-class suburban areas have a hard time believing things are this bad in the poorer parts of the country. But believe me, it's all too real. At the schools I went to in L.A., a successful day in the eyes of the school administrators was one in which no one got beat up, stabbed or shot. Seriously.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:25PM (#16951540)
    I attended a private Christian school from pre-school to graduating from HS there, and it was indeed a different mix of kids than a typical public school. For instance, here is some of what I observed:
    • Most of the kids in the school had both parents, oftentimes with a mother who didn't work, or when she did was still involved in school activities with her kids. Dads also regularly attended sporting events, science fairs, and were involved with their kids lives.
    • Teachers had the authority to discipline bad behavior by children. I was one of the better students, and I still managed to land in the principle's office at least once every couple of years for misbehaving - and I deserved it every single time.
    • Our teachers were knowledgeable, capable, and generally enthusiastic about what they taught. My HS Physics teacher was a VP of the Chemistry department at a large national food chain at one point in his life, making probably 10x what he made once he started teaching at my school. (He mowed the school and church lawns to supplement his income during the spring/summer/fall.) He was also given early experimental equipment by Texas Instruments for use with our TI-82's and TI-85's which we got to play with in our Honors Physics class because he was such an accomplished science guy, and had received various teaching awards in his career. My Calculus teacher was my best friend's dad, had his Master's in Mathematics, and ran a very tight ship in class - but because of his teaching, I went on to tutor my Freshman roommates in college because I knew Calculus so much better than they did even though they too had taken Calc. classes in their public HS. The list of good teachers goes on and on.
    • Intellectualism AND extra-curricular activities were equally valued. My school, to this day, has a state champion-level soccer team, excellent basketball team, and as far as I know, still a very high % of students making it into USAFA, West Point, the Naval Academy, and colleges across the nation. (I think it was 90% of HS graduates went on to college in my day, probably very similar today.)
    • It wasn't the perfect school by any stretch, but I didn't suffer nearly as much from my peers being idiots, jerks, gang members, or psycho's as I think I could have if I had gone to the public school in my suburban neighborhood. (Which has some of the better schools in the entire metropolitan area.) Incidentally, one of my siblings also went to my school his entire time, and my two other siblings went to public schools instead due to some short-term family monetary concerns. Same family, same mom and pop to this day, very different outcomes for my two siblings that went to public school. Both have been involved in more negative behavior than me or my other sibling EVER have been, and they're worse off for it. It saddens me, really.

    Now I'm not recommending a private Christian school is always the better choice. A private school in general isn't always the better choice. (One of the Catholic schools in our city is probably one of the worst for bad behavior by students.) The difference I am arguing for is the vast gaps in motivation levels across the people involved at each level - parents, teachers, school administration, and students. My school had motivated people participating in a child's educational growth from 5-18yrs of age at all levels. Public schools can be a mixed bag, but usually have far too many bad apples (at all levels) ruining the whole bunch, IMHO.

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