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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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  • by Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) <joshlindenmuth.gmail@com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:47PM (#16941064) Journal
    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 antoinjapan (450229) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:53PM (#16941166)
      I think the issue of people dropping out in this day and age is more of a problem due to the expectations of what minimum education a person is expected to have. Nowadays the minimum might be approaching a college education while in 1972 the minimum might have been what a 16 year old might have gotten. If you blatantly assume that what you had at 16 in 1972 is equal to a college education today then even if the dropouts are less the impact and lack of education is more.
      • by Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) <joshlindenmuth.gmail@com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:18PM (#16941586) Journal
        I definitely agree here. A high school education certainly doesn't provide the opportunities that it used to (nor does a BA or BS for that matter). If we are to get in a discussion around the education levels of Americans as a whole, I'd probably agree with the use of the word "epidemic" in describing our average level of education ... particularly if measured by the average person's knowledge and competence rather than degree earned.

        Whenever I have traveled to foreign countries, I always find it amazing that the average foreigner seems to know far more about American culture, government, and history than the average American. This isn't just a reflection of our schools, but of our society and families as well. I also believe the problem has gotten so bad that our leadership in industry and technology cannot possibly be maintained unless we make a large-scale concerted effort to fix education, not just concentrate on statistics such as dropout rates.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)
          Are you sure you are really interacting with average foreigners?

          As far as the U.S. leadership goes, kiss it goodbye no matter what, there are 5.5 billion people not living in the U.S., the numbers will catch up with us sometime.
          • by Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) <joshlindenmuth.gmail@com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:38PM (#16941852) Journal
            Great points! Although even the college educated Americans (who would be a fairer comparison) seem to be far less knowledgable on these topics. Part of it could be interest as well ... it's quite common to discuss things like Religion and Politics over dinner with friends in Europe, while these topics are often taboo here.

            Also, I don't know if we can predict future world leadership just by population figures. By that measure, countries like Germany, Japan, and South Korea would have never achieved the industrial and intellectual lead they have/had enjoyed over much of the world (outside the U.S. that is). Sure, we probably won't be the #1 in terms of GDP in the future, but we certainly could make a concerted effort to regain the lead in per capita income and quality of life measures that we endanger by allowing the rest of the world's quality of education surpass our own.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cayenne8 (626475)
              Well, you know.....I've heard it said before:

              "The world needs ditch diggers too"

              • by kypper (446750) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:33PM (#16943510)
                I'm an unemployed ditch digger, you insensitive clod!
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Afrosheen (42464)
                Illegal immigrants have cornered the market on all the low paying jobs. Minimum wage jobs, floor scrubbers, landscaping, low level construction, fast food, you name it.

                These days high school kids are having trouble finding jobs (at least here in Texas) because there basically are none for unskilled young people. There was a time when you could graduate high school and work your way through college...but unfortunately that has changed. Now you have to get a full ride on a scholarship, student loans o
                • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:44PM (#16944220) Homepage Journal
                  "Illegal immigrants have cornered the market on all the low paying jobs....These days high school kids are having trouble finding jobs (at least here in Texas) because there basically are none for unskilled young people..."

                  Well, if we could enforce the laws on the books, to where if you cannot prove you are a US citzen or here on a work visa...that would disqualify all the illegals taking the labor jobs, they wouldn't be pouring over into our country, and the locals that didn't want an education could make a living as they did in the past.

                  Not a good one, but, they could do it like the ones in the past did.

                  Of course, I don't expect the Dem.s in power now to have any more backbone on this issue than the Reps. did....

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    Somehow I don't think that the big companies employ them because they enjoy their poor graps of english... they employ them because illegal immigrants are willing to be paid less for the same effort - this is how capitalism works. If you went up to wal-mart and offered to work for $0.50/hour then they would hire you over any illegal immigrant - it's not that immigrants are "taking" jobs, it's that they are undercutting their prices (wages). Yes, they should seek to come to America legally, but its unlikely
                • by Yez70 (924200) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:00AM (#16944868)
                  In my early twenties I used to manage a fast food joint, while I attended college. I also spoke spanish that I learned in High School. We had a serious labor problem. Nobody wanted to work for $6 an hour and those that did were lazy, late and called in sick a lot.

                  We solved the problem by hiring an entirely immigrant (spansih speaking) kitchen. Productivity went through the roof, quality went up, cleanliness was impeccable and they came to work every day - usually early.

                  Whether they were illegal or not, I could care less - we did the proper paperwork to cover our butts so it was irrelevant. What I learned was true americans did not want the jobs, heck even I hated mine at the time. Another truth is many of the american employees were lazy, unproductive, had low self esteem and took little pride in their work.

                  While I may have had some work ethic and maybe you do as well, not everyone does. Even tho I hated my job, I did it and I tried to do so with pride. Maybe I was brought up differently and others are or were not instilled pride in themselves - I don't know. The fact is these immigrants came to work, were happy to work and did their jobs well, something my american counterparts failed to do.

                  So the next time you get a Big Mac or a Whopper in an understaffed restaurant and it tastes like crap and looks even worse, consider the fact that the kitchen is filled with stupid lazy people who really don't even deserve the jobs they do have. Go find somewhere who uses immigrants and enjoy your meal...

                  Just something to ponder.
                  • by pyite (140350) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:45AM (#16945194)
                    We solved the problem by hiring an entirely immigrant (spansih speaking) kitchen. Productivity went through the roof, quality went up, cleanliness was impeccable and they came to work every day - usually early.

                    Doesn't surprise me at all. A lot of places I visit have a fair amount of hispanic workers. They seem to have twice the drive and work output of the equivalent native. Sad, really. That, and they actually say "you're welcome" when I say "thank you." That's more than you can say for a lot of Americans in low paying jobs.

                  • . What I learned was true americans did not want the jobs, heck even I hated mine at the time. Another truth is many of the american employees were lazy, unproductive, had low self esteem and took little pride in their work.

                    That's because you paid them $6 an hour, in a job that has essentially no benefits and is only full time if they're willing to put everything else off and make that half-assed job a career.

                    There are fast food joints around here that have terrible service, and those that have great service. The ones that have great service aren't populated with spanish-speaking migrants (yes, we get illegals even in Upstate NY), they're staffed with English Speakers who are paid enough to make the job worth their while.

                    In fact, the fast-food place that's best known for its service is also the one that's best known for employee benefits. And the ones that can be ran by "managers" who hate their jobs are the ones with the worst customer service.
                    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:36AM (#16945550) Homepage
                      Funny, I find better food and service from places staffed by Spanish-speaking immigrants, by a long shot.

                      Go to a decent sampling of good restaurants and peak in the kitchens. The joke is that in the US, all food is Mexican food. Ask a chef for career advice, and one thing you will be told is to learn Spanish, because all your best staff will speak Spanish. Unlike a lot of others, Mexican kitchen staffs see cooking as their careers, and train themselves and each other intensively.

                      The best ramen house in the Bay Area I know has Mexican cooks working under a Japanese chef. All the good Italian restaurants in San Francisco have Hispanic staff. Same with continental. Go to Gary Denko's in SF, or the French Laundry in Napa, and most of the kitchen speaks Spanish.

                      I remember reading a biography of a chef in which he actually went back to Mexico with members of his kitchen staff to try to find out how they all learned to cook so well... and met their mothers.
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by Stormcrow309 (590240)

                      I think this depends on the area of the country. In california, it was hispanics in the kitchen when I lived there. In Kansas, whites. In the south, blacks. It just depends on who has the go-get attitude and the largest percentage share of the labor force.

                  • by f1055man (951955) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:38AM (#16945560)
                    I think we see things like this because we are getting the cream of the crop. Whatever your opinion on immigration it's hard to argue that it doesn't take guts, determination and intelligence to cross the border and survive as an illegal. The problems with gangs seems to be a 2nd generation problem, doing too good of a job assimilating into our blighted urban centers. I think the big part of the problem is as you said, self-esteem. The kids that got stuck making $6/hr at mcdonalds have already been beaten down and don't see themselves ever making something out of themselves. Sure they need to buck up and develop a work ethic, but when many of them go to schools that look like The IT Crowd's dungeon it's hard for me not to feel a little sorry for them. Hell, they get shitty teachers that don't expect shit from them(1 or 2 can undo the work of legions of sincere ones), a shitty infrastructure, a couple shitty classmates looking to get out through the thuglife threatening them, a shitty family life (even the best parents aren't around because they're working three shitty jobs) and naturally you got kids thinking they're shitty. Maybe the top 5% of the class will get scholarships and the rest think they got a lifetime of burger flipping and toilet cleaning ahead of them. And you don't need a diploma for that. If I was in their position, and didn't grow up with a stay at home mom, a father that was home by 6 to read to me, consistently well funded schools and skilled teachers, I'm not sure I would have made it. Yes many of our high schools are screwed, but it's mostly the shit that happens outside of them that makes them hell.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by Dachannien (617929)
                    Actually, I think a lot of the operation of a fast food restaurant hinges on its management. Not far from where I live, there's an Arby's that I and a few friends affectionately called the "best-run fast food restaurant in the universe". The people there were always friendly and courteous, they usually had smiles on, and the service was great. It was obvious where this came from - the manager (who was pictured in several national awards given by Arby's Corporation that were hanging on the wall) positivel
            • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:23AM (#16946152) Homepage
              I think there's many reasons for this;

              • The USA is large, many are satisfied with exploring the internal variation and never ventures abroad (bar the occasional mexico/Canada vacation.
              • Some even think that internal variation in USA is comparable to say variation between countries in Europe (which it isn't, which one would know if one had visited say Sweden and Italy)
              • English is a large and dominating language. Many don't see the point of learning foreign languages; the foreigners tend to speak better english than you speak foreign in any case.
              • Your political system is essentially a two-party state, which encourages black/white either/or for/against binary thinking. This also means if you discuss politics in the USA, you quickly end up essentially either on the same side (in which case there's nothing to discuss) or on oposite sides (in which case you're essentially enemies) this makes it safer to drope the entire topic. In most of Europe there's more of an understanding for the *many* possible angles and solutions for any one problem. For cooperation and compromise rather than confrontation. That makes it easier to discuss such things without it turning into a competition about who will "win" the discussion.
              • The USA is currently the only true superpower. This increases the tendency to think that whatever is outside the USA is irrelevant.

              Basically, you guys should get out more. It's a huge and interesting world out here, much more so than many imagine.

              You're (on average) rich, you can afford to. My personal opinion is that there's few things more worthwhile to do with your money than experiencing the incredible variation that this world has to offer.

        • by shoemilk (1008173) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:51PM (#16943712) Journal
          I have to agree with maxume. Teaching in public schools in Japan, I have a pretty good feel what the average Japanese student is like; they're pretty much the same as the average American student. You've got bright kids and kids that you can see will drop out at the first instant they can. It's just that in Japan, high school isn't required (and there are still a large number of drop outs from them).

          At any rate, the average Japanese person does not know more about American history than the average American knows. I'm also sick of reading and hearing about how crappy American schools are. They aren't.
          • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:10AM (#16944936)
            Actually, Japanese education is mandatory until the age of 15. However, most students continue going until graduation because a) even if they expend no effort whatsoever, they'll get a passing grade, and b) they'd rather hang out with their friends in high school than get a full-time job (however, most kids at low-level schools in Japan work part- or full-time jobs.)

            The one place where Japan excels is in their elementary school system, due of the various number of activities, clubs, and trips they get the kids involved in. Lunchtime and cleaning are a group activity. Lunch takes place in the classroom, with the kids taking turns serving the food. Cleaning the school is a student chore as well (no janitors!), with every performing an assigned task.

            The place where Japan loses is in their tiered secondary education system (high schools.) They require a proficiency test for placement, and once you've been put in a low-level school, they treat you as if you can't learn anything. Worse, they expect you to behave badly and ignore the dress code, too, etc. There is almost no discipline system in place, with punishments ranging from a severe talking-to (assuming you show up), morning clean-up duty, or simply expulsion. The one good thing, regardless of level, is that pretty much every Japanese student gets to travel abroad at least once. This puts them one up on Americans, who are lucky to get to travel even out of state (distance is a factor, yes, but international flights are just as expensive in Japan, and yet the parents still pay for them to go.) On the downside, they have to pay for their high school tuition as well as uniforms; public schools are not completely supported through taxes.

            The Japanese borrowed the tiered idea from Germany, but the problem is, they're not German, and obviously missed the point: German low-level schools are not prisons for the stupid, but rather vocationally oriented Realschule (welding, carpentry, etc.) The students graduate at the end of their second year so that they can then go out and get jobs with the benefit of a high school degree. Having been a student in America and Germany, and a teacher in Japan, I have to say that the Germans win on this one, with America doing well on the secondary school system and the Japanese excelling at the primary level.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Forget about the school for a minute. It comes down to the students!

              From all my personal experiences with meeting up with German/Europeans, Japanese/Asians and American kids. I will say that American kids flatout don't give a flying fuck by a large percentage. You want to know how to fix this?

              Split the kids up into 2 group. "I care" and "I don't care". It's ok to mix kids of different intelligence as long as they both care. And watch the group that care excel like you wouldn't believe. For the group
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Unicorn Setu (622244)
          One thing that I think has a strong effect is that American culture is more 'anti-intellectual' than some other countries. In other words there is less respect given to intellectual activities, (in school and out). So, at school, kids will get little or no respect for doing well at their subjects, (being cool, being good at sports counts for more), out of school the 'clever' solution is not wanted, ('keep it simple', make it strong, tough and reliable, etc). This is obviously not a 100% correlation as I'm
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:11PM (#16942372)
        - Many parents expect the schools to fix their poor parenting skills
        - Disruptive students cannot be easily removed from an otherwise productive classroom
        - Suing the schools for any perceived slight (such as having a dress code dictating no long hair or earrings for males)
        - Basing school budgets on how many children can get federal handouts via school lunch programs

        These are just a few of the reasons that schools are less about learing and more about jobs and promote more dropouts.

        School lunch programs are a prime example, if the child would starve or be less than properly fed without a school lunch program, then shouldn't the child be removed via child protective services from the parents during summer because the parents admit that they cannot feed the child and need schools to provide free food.

        Many states education programs are funded by:
        - how many students attend school each day (daily attendence)
        - how many students are on school lunch programs (federal per student subsidy)
      • by mksolid (989407) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:36PM (#16942748)
        Some previous replies have captured many of my thoughts, but I will state them anyway. I believe that the problem is much bigger than the education system itself. It has already been mentioned that parents now expect the teachers to "parent" for them, and this is very close to the truth. I have several family members who are middle and high school teachers and they will tell you that many parents either side with the child in disciplinary situations or else they actually *gasp* ask what they are supposed to do to make Johnny or Jill do homework. (Maybe they should have thought of the answer to this one when making the decision to have children.) The main problem carries well beyond the education system - in my opinion. I have come to the conclusion that the idea of "self esteem" that stemmed from the '90s is the cause of the downward spiral. Real world example: My cousin - who is a middle school math teacher - told a student to stop disrupting other students in class. The student continued disrupting others a few minutes after being told to behave, so my cousin sternly said, ", if you do not stop disrupting the other members of the class, I'm going to have to send you to the office." Later in the day, my cousin was approached by the principal who said, "We've got a problem, showed up at my office and said that he was upset and uncomfortable with being in your class, because you screamed at him and hurt his self esteem." Without ranting about this much longer - after discussing this topic with my cousin, we have come to the conclusion that respect is no longer earned. That is, where in previous days if you wanted to goof a bit in high school, you could work hard, get exceptional grades, be involved, but every once and awhile take a break and do a prank or something and pay small consequences for it. Now, kids believe that they can do whatever the hell they want and the teachers just have to keep trying to work with them because they have fragile self esteem and are "entitled" to respect.
        • by tentimestwenty (693290) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:17PM (#16944526)
          To go a step further, I think the now-universal sense of entitlement kids feel can be traced directly to their parents. Baby boomers have pretty much had their cake and eaten it too and definitely show a strong sense of entitlement and arrogance in regards to the culture, wealth and values they feel they created. In the most basic sense, they are still kids and treat their kids as friends, not as kids. Their kids now expect the same luxury as their "friends" despite not having lived and earned it.
    • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:57PM (#16941218) Journal
      Between 1972 and 2004, dropout rates have fallen drastically.

      I was going to say -- the use of words like "epidemic" without a shred of context tells you at least as much about the problems with education in America as the free-floating numbers do. I'm not even going to get into the ironies of "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?"

    • by Aqua OS X (458522)
      Media spin my ass. Are you asking for someone to report that, to quote Lewis Black, "We took our school[s] from the truly shitty shitty shitty, to stinky farty smelly?"

      Considering there are about 16+ million high school students ( http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p20-533.pdf [census.gov] ), it should not be surprising to hear that an estimated 1 or 2 students don't make the cut out of a 30 student class. That was certainly the case when I was in high school over a decade a ago. Moreover, is anyone really -that- surpr
  • Gotta be the age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrayCalx (597428) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:52PM (#16941144)
    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?

    I think a lot of the reasons things "get better after high school" is because of the age you are when in high school. I didn't know who I was, took people's opinions of me too seriously, and couldn't get the girl I liked to notice me. I was definitely excited to get out of high school because of how glorious college was made out to be. I didn't read the article, I'm sure it got involved to level at which i just wouldn't care, I assume that the kids they're talking about dropping out aren't then enrolling in college but it just seems like a lot of those feelings stem from puberty and the social environment created by forcing kids of those ages to interact.
    • by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:05PM (#16941360) Homepage Journal
      I'm married to my high school sweetie, we have two kids.
      That above is my complete summation of everything good from my HS experience.
      12 years since graduation and I've flirted with college, work for a major semiconductor company in R&D and am overall happy.
      The wife is a stay at home mom, polishing her masters degree in the next year and a half, with a plethora of other degrees in her wake (4 AS/AA, 2 BS).

      Why drop out of high school? Because you can teach yourself better. The classes are taught to the lowest common denominator. That means that the bright kids who are not quite bright (or lucky) enough for AP classes get shafted. It's mind numbing and detrimental. My grades sucked because I was bored to tears with my classes. Had our school system taught to grade levels commensurate with Japan or Germany I would have had good grades because I would have been engaged. I don't care if half the class fails every grade, we need to step up our expectations of everyone. Race? BS!, Family status? BS! Income? BS!
      I understand there are a handful of exceptions to each of the above, but tough, life is not fair, the sooner that lesson is taught the better.
      I'm willing to bet that in only one generation the USA would be back on top in the education field if "tough love" were implemented in grading.

      -nB
      on a side note, I knew no-one at my 10 year reunion. WTF? People knew me, but I was so dis-engaged from school I was like "Who are you? Oh! wonderful (still don't have a clue) Uh Huh :-) (got nothing, oh well) Ok Bye now, see you later."
      • My grades sucked because I was bored to tears with my classes.

        Then you were failing at something that school is also supposed to teach you along with reading, writing, and 'rithmetic: Self-discipline. If there's one thing that school, both high school and college, taught me, it is that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do in order to be better off later on. Hopefully you had a parent or two that drilled that into your head where your school let you down.

        Why drop out of high school? Bec

      • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:36PM (#16942740)

        Had our school system taught to grade levels commensurate with Japan or Germany I would have had good grades because I would have been engaged. I don't care if half the class fails every grade, we need to step up our expectations of everyone. Race? BS!, Family status? BS! Income? BS!

        Well, what a LOT of Americans don't know about the German schools is there's three "tiers", and you get put into one of the tiers after age 10. I forget the actual names, but I've termed them "professionals school", "secretaries school" and "ditch diggers school". (My GF spent her sophmore year in HS in Germany as an exchange student in the "professionals school", so she's told me a little about the educational system there). The "professionals school" goes 13 years and is of course filled with the top students and is geared towards university preparation. The "secretaries school" goes 10 years and is more of an office worker track (not college track). "Ditch diggers school" goes only 9 years, and obviously doesn't provide much education. I think you can do some kind of job training after attending secretaries, or ditch diggers school.

        So while the top students in Germany certainly get a better education than most Americans, it's at least partially at the cost of the people who get put into ditch diggers and secretaries schools who get a worse education. I don't think anything like this could ever fly in the US where where we have a strong belief in equal education, opportunity, etc. Being an American I think it's irresponsible to not educate all your citizens, especially the people thrown into the ditch diggers school.

        Also, one of the dirty-little-secrets of all those "US students behind students in Country X" is that at least in Germany, they take the scores from the "professionals school", and compare that to US High Schools (completely ignoring the ditch digger and secretaries schools).

        I have no knowledge of the Japanese educational system, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was similar.
        • 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).
  • 4 Year Prison Term (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:53PM (#16941156) Homepage
    Given that most high schools are run as assembly-line institutions with often ridiculous learning-hindering schedules, policies and rules, and given the absurd amount of time routinely wasted in high school classes, this is hardly surprising. I'd estimate 20% of the time I spent in high school classes was even remotely productive.

    /Practically never studied
    //Graduated with a 3.9
    ///Didn't learn what an imaginary number actually was until college. Why the high school teacher couldn't just say "the square root of -1" eludes me. Our instructions were to use a calculator program to find it.
    • by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:04PM (#16941356) Homepage
      Do you want to know why kids are dropping out? It's because they realize that school isn't about learning - it's about teaching to a test that's taken state-wide. These sorts of tests encourage teaching certain areas very hard, while completely neglecting other areas. Just because it isn't on your state assessments doesn't mean it isn't important. Really, these tests don't test the ability to think spatially, don't test anything above the most meager and basic algebra, and they sure as hell don't measure a student's ability to think for themself. It's ignorant to think that, by teaching to a very narrow test, we are preparing students for the real world.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:53PM (#16941158)
    The world needs ditch diggers too...
    • by quanminoan (812306) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:03PM (#16943138)
      In high school I was largely unmotivated to do a whole lot of work. The computer science classes consisted of how to use Microsoft word and excel, instead of any real programming (my only option was a local campus where I could learn basic). The sciences were very limited, though biology was strong at our school. We had microbiology equipment, centrifuges, incubators, etc. Physics was a bore; we spent the whole year doing blocks on ramps essentially. I entered high school freshmen year having designed a program that calculates the Lorentz transform, and while that wasn't particularly impressive it goes to show how unmotivated I was to work below my level. Other students were brighter than I was - two that were particularly intelligent decided not to pursue college. I myself was more interested in the Army than I was in going to college, but thanks to my parents demand I went. I've since been challenged beyond my level since and find the work so much more enjoyable (I'm a physics major).

      Studying at a college campus has yielded some insights. I noticed foreign students breezing through our classes like nothing, and that always amazed me. How can someone with English as their second language do so much better in class than the rest of us? I naively assumed it was because they were the "best and brightest" in their country and were "privileged" enough to come to the US to get a real education. It seems however, that the truth is much simpler and the solution much easier.

      These students learned calculus while I was drawing triangles. With a more advanced math background you can go much more in depth with physics, and understand how formulas were created rather than be given a function to plug numbers into. You can understand why taking the derivative equal to zero of a function can yield the maximum of a trajectory, instead of being given a formula to find the apex. After you get through these particularly boring subjects you can have enough math to touch on some basic quantum, just so that you know there is more to physics than pushing blocks around and conserving momentum.

      Now of course I'm biased towards physics and math, but even with the other subjects the issues were similar. English seemed more to me like vocabulary memorization and forcing students to read books instead of teaching them how to appreciate the literature. We were given no background on why we would ever want to learn a foreign language, but instead were asked to memorize yet more words. Had I known that learning German would open up doors to engineers and physicists alike I would have been more motivated.

      So yes, while the world does need ditch diggers and this work can be rewarding (I worked construction through high school), the world needs competent and innovative scientists and engineers more than anything. The educational system as i've seen it in the US is dry, unchallenging, and unmotivating. Major change needs to be implemented to keep our competitive edge.

  • Three words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:58PM (#16941228)
    Lowest common denominator.

    What's really sad is a lot of recent grads won't understand either the math or the implication of that statement.
    • Re:Three words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Oriumpor (446718) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:22PM (#16942512) Homepage Journal
      Apply that to the nation's standards in education (hiring practices, accountability, performance) and you have the problem in a nutshell.

      The way I see it (working in state education for 5 years so far) Friedman was right, we need to comercialize education to make any headway in the states. Since the countries who tend to kick our ass still institute corporal punishment, we've only got 3 choices:
      1. Stay the same, and suffer
      2. Re-institute Corporal punishment and all the other negative reinforcement measures that have been barred from touchy feely public schools
      3. Deregulate and make schools accountable to a paying public. (essentially some sort of universal voucher program)

      Unfortunately it's not up to those who care, it's up to those who spin. And the Dems don't want to cut off their supporters from the trough, and the repubs don't want to appear hard on education. So #1 is probably what will be the case for years to come.
  • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by roscivs (923777)
      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.
    • And more! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meburke (736645)
      Another of John's books is "Dumbing us Down." There are other authors out there who have the same opinions, are better writers, but don't have John's inside experience.

      Don't worry: My generation is retiring soon, and they will start letting the prisoners out early to earn money and pay the taxes necessary to support us old folks (who might have to depend on the Medicaid/Medicare/Social Security plans that have been so mismanaged by the government). Then the "dropout rate" will be encouraged rather than disp
  • by drDugan (219551) * on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:58PM (#16941238) Homepage
    I think public education is severely broken in the US, for many reasons:

    * single-classroom style -- many students learn in ways that do not work with a single classroom and oral lectures, which is the style almost all high schools use. Almost never are students allowed independent study, and even if they only learn from reading, they are still required to sit in class, which is a complete waste for them

    * forced attendance -- by forcing people to attend, there is no motivation to make the most out of it. There is no real opportunity cost to being in the classroom, making a high percentage of people there unmotivated to learn.

    * low pay -- financing education on the local level means limited funds to attract highly educated and highly functional people. While most high school teachers are extremely motivated and devoted, the simple financial reality is that jobs that pay 20-40K/year do not attract top quality people. This is part of a larger issue of simple limited resources put on education

    * separation of teaching from learning -- mostly in real life, people become experts and learn things when they turn around and teach others. Almost never are high school students given the chance to teach what they learn, and almost never are their rewards for them in teaching others.

    * national curricula -- teachers have almost no flexibility on what they teach or the ability to customize lessons for what students really need to learn. Learning is an interactive process that drawn a person to a new understanding from their current one. Set teaching standards eliminate the ability of teachers to understand what their students know now and customize the lessons for maximal learning.

    * lack of content applicability -- most lessons in high school are useless and disconnected from real world applications. They are abstracted and meaningless for students who dont experience how to apply what they learn. Mostly, high school has become a babysitting exercise to keep people out of the work force as long as possible to remove competition for existing workers.

    In sum, kids dropping out makes sense to me. High school is not helpful to them. This situation will only continue as virtual communities continue to form and become more organized and effective.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zxnos (813588)
      in general i agree with you, but i have to take issue with the pay. [nea.org] the national average [bls.gov] is typically less than the average teacher salary. also, remember the typical school year is 9 months, most people work 12. holidays? teachers get 'em all. in-service days? from my personal experience very little gets done. health care? typically fully covered. retirement? excellent. lets not forget our good friend tenure.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Llywelyn (531070)
        High school teachers need a BA or higher. M.Ed. is common. That being the case, you can't compare vs. the national average. It needs to be compared against other people who have degrees or advanced degrees.

        With a degree in Comp Sci in my area the median salary for a Level 1 is about 55% higher than the starting teaching salary for a teacher in the same area and is roughly 20% higher than the average. There is a substantially reduced incentive to go into teaching for anyone with that degree (or a related
  • My throughts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @06:58PM (#16941248) Homepage

    I graduated in 2001 from a private Catholic high school that I actually liked quite a bit. However, there were still "problems". Let's ignore the obvious social stuff (which, to a very large degree, can never be fixed) and the fact that I just like smaller schools better.

    What was there to hold my interest? There was a Drafting class that I found fascinating, but Drafting 2 was never offered because they couldn't get enough students. I got up through Physics 2, and we had Calc. But I liked computer and the only computer classes were typing, how to use office, and a very basic C++ class (all of which I knew by that time by teaching myself). The rest of the classes tended to bore me (except the ones on the history of the Church, because that was stuff that I hadn't heard before). The only other class I remember really liking was the Econ class because the teacher did a fantastic job (but most other students though it was boring... it was Econ after all). I kind of liked Psychology, but the teacher for that was terrible and while he seemed to be interested in the subject, he wasn't an enjoyable professor (quite dry, by the book, do this, do that). Some other teachers were just terrible (the Calc guy was as stiff as a board and just about killed my interest in Math). There was also Accounting and Business Law which appealed to me. But nearly every one of these classes I liked had a good teacher (important and hard to control) and was optional or had other more common substitutes (so if you didn't go looking to take it, chances are you wouldn't).

    There wasn't much in the way of arts classes at all that I remember. If they were there they were purely optional. You had to take Gym. They did offer some interesting things (like Ballroom Dancing, which I regret not taking).

    I didn't have nearly as much problems in College because I got to take the classes I was interested in (CS) along side requirements (some of which, like Sociology, I found interesting). High schools have become VERY focused on getting you into college (and every grade before on getting you into that next grade). My HS was college prep too (they advertised that). To a certain degree, I wonder how well anyone who goes through a decent American HS is prepared for the world. They seem to be like middle school now. It's EXPECTED you'll go to college. If you don't, you're either in a no skill job or you go to trade school. How about offering a metal shop class? We didn't have that, but it would have been fun. We were too college prep for that. No wood shop.

    I'm not going to claim I know how to fix 'em. It's complex. But I know they did very little to encourage independent learning in the core classes unless you had a FANTASTIC teacher or you already liked the subject. Otherwise, it was "strictly business". And the less advanced your school (like a poorer one), the worse that all might be.

  • by rkcallaghan (858110) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:00PM (#16941280)
    My Story.

    I was a junior in High School, about 10 years ago. One day I had intense nausea and a sharp pain in my back. I went up to the nurses office to seek assistance. I was promptly denied any assistance, as I did not have a "hall pass".

    Realizing my situation required medical attention, I left. I proceeded towards my car in the parking lot, with the intention of going to the hospital to get the care I needed. I was intercepted by campus security. I ignored their pleas for me to return to campus, and continued towards my car. Eventually I was physically stopped by a mid 30s campus cop, a female about 5' 4" with very short hair. I told her I needed to go to the hospital, and that I was leaving.

    The officer beat me up (as in a fistfight), kicking my knee out and using her baton. I was incapable of fighting back in my condition, and made no effort to do so. She dragged me back to campus, where I was made to sit in the office until the end of the school day. No one ever spoke to me or the officer regarding the incident, but she did stay nearby to insure I did not leave. No medical care was ever offered, despite my requests that they now call 911.

    After school was released several hours later, I went to the hospital and was treated for a kidney stone.

    What is wrong with our schools is that this can a) happen and b) get blown off completely; as it is obviously my fault for seeking medical attention and since I was a student, I must have started the fight with the rent-a-cop.

    ~Rebecca
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:03PM (#16941334)
    What's wrong with our school system that so many kids prefer working 40 hours a week instead?


    While there is plenty, at least arguably, wrong with our schools, the most likely reason people would drop out of high school to work is that there is something wrong with our economy where increasingly families can't adequately provide for children while they are in school; the economy that has been doing well in aggregate terms hasn't been doing well in distributional terms.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:03PM (#16941336)
    That's the problem. It really isn't about education.

    In high school you are surrounded by people who either a) don't give a shit, or b) are spineless fools doing whatever necessity to get marks. The a)'s should be allowed (if not encouraged) to leave, and the b)'s are a product of the education system gone wrong. In their eyes, something is right if it is marked right, and vice versa. The actual truth is irrelevant. Neither the a)'s nor the b)'s care about learning.

    High school is more about social control than anything else. "Do as we say or you have no future," is what is told, and there's sadly too much truth to it. The people who simply want to learn away from the fast majority of idiots are pretty much SOL.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:05PM (#16941372)
    - Maybe not all people are want the jobs that requires a high-school education.

    - Maybe some people are just stupid and would rather do meaningful work then spend time being spoon-fed academic work that won't use anyway.

    - Maybe it's PARENT'S faults: not holding their children to standards such as completing their homework and actually understanding the material, which in turn makes the kids' grades lower and makes them despondent about school.

    - Perhaps the parents aren't being very involved and interested in the children's school work, and the kids are taking the hint from their parents regarding how important school is.

    My general point: If the roles of all parties involved were clearly defined, it would be meaningful to discuss who's screwing up. But the idealized roles aren't clearly defined - there's no known single formula for successful public eduction. So it's not rational to assume the schools are the parties with the problem.
  • Lack of Respect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yancey (136972) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:19PM (#16941588)
    My opinion on this topic is that current problems in education are a result of not treating students with proper respect. Some will consider this statement completely backward, thinking that students should be treating the faculty with more respect. However, I think students perceive that standardized test grades are the only thing that matter to the schools. Whatever talents or interests a student may have, only the grades matter -- not the student as a person. This perception by the students is demeaning to them. They are only worth the grades they earn. In that case, I completely understand why they would want to leave school, go to work, and be "graded" on real-world tasks, not academic standardized tests. Treat the student more like a rational, sensitive, and valuable person and I think you will see them enjoying their education a little more and staying in school. Of course, it also helps to find ways to make the subject matter interesting. I've also seen far too many faculty who repeat the same tired old riff year after year. Keep it fresh, folks.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:19PM (#16941590)
    What's wrong with our school system that so many kids prefer working 40 hours a week instead?

    When you show up and work 40 hours a week and try to do a good job, people actually appreciate it. They'll even thank you for being helpful and doing a good job. It's rewarding and satisfying. Work is an accomplishment. And they pay you.

    No one thanks you for going to school. You're forced to go there. No one appreciates your contributions. There are no rewards. School is a process that a person goes through. No one cares about you at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the process.


    I don't think a big increase in funding so the teachers can have a lower health-care co-pay is the answer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bugmaster (227959)
      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 drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:37PM (#16941842) Homepage Journal

    This is a special time for everyone because media ubiquity is reaching a head. It's possible now to find out things happening anywhere in the world just a few minutes after they happen. In many ways it shrinks the globe.

    I'm a Generation-X'er, sandwiched in between the days of the baby boomers and unending patriotism (I call these the "my country right or wrong" days) and the Generation Y types (as in "why", as in "why bother".) Generation X is the first generation to grow up with computers and all that they entail. We have the distinction of being the first generation that can program a VCR, but we also are the first generation to grow up in disillusionment. We grew up knowing that the CIA imports cocaine and that our government sells arms to foreign countries and then goes to war with them a handful of years later. X is the first generation that doesn't believe [statistically] that the government has our best interests in mind.

    Generation Y, then, is the product of our cynicism. It seems to be a generation of depression, while the Baby Boomers are the generation of ignorance and hypocrisy. Most baby boomers are still in denial about their role in handing over our freedoms to corporate america, and are busy blaming it all on the permissive society X'ers are trying to build. Y'ers don't much see the point in, well, much of anything. They're even more disillusioned than we are; at least X'ers didn't grow up in a time of utterly prevalent school shootings.

    That's the overall societal issue that I think is increasing the dropout rate, but there are several other extremely compelling reasons why school is a sad joke and why kids don't want to be there.

    One of them is that the economy is in the toilet. Things are probably going to get a lot worse before they get better, and let's face it, while kids are easily led, they aren't necessarily stupid. Besides, the average adult is easily led as well. I know that when I was in high school, I too dropped out and got a job. In my case, it was because we were poor, and if I wanted money, I had to go out and earn it. This is a pretty minor reason but it occurred to me early on.

    Another is that school's purpose is not to teach you, it's to train you. The scholastic benefits of school are utterly secondary to the primary purpose. Our school system was designed to produce factory workers. Once upon a time, that was what we needed, but now we have less and less factory jobs (although, go back a point; we may have more of them in the future, though our quality of life will be next to nothing compared to what it is now) and we're still producing factory workers. Think about the qualities that get you through school with the least effort: you should be a conformist, because the nail that pops up gets hammered down. You need to get up early and show up early, or you get in trouble. You need to do precisely what you are told or they will kick you out, send you to an alternative school, and basically put you on the fast track to incarceration. The school system is designed to erase as much individuality as possible. Kids are getting wiser to this sort of thing as time goes by and they get access to more and more media at earlier and earlier ages.

    And of course, the administration is complicit in the whole program. They want things to run smoothly and their primary goal is to avoid problems. Meanwhile, programs like "No Child Left Behind" are so obviously designed to produce mediocrity that it's almost unbelievable that no one seems to have noticed. I mean, I was in GATE as a kid and even THERE they told me that I couldn't do certain things because I wasn't old enough. Now, those kids who are most likely to excel will get even less attention than they always have, because the time must be spent with the children least likely to succeed by teaching them skills that they will never even use effectively. The system is designed to produce automatons.

    So, why are so many kids dropping out? M

  • Where do I start? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nairanvac (912343) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:43PM (#16941946)
    Let me start this with a thesis statement: I go to school to learn, not to do work.

    The main problem I see these days with the US educational system is the fact that students are graded upon how much work they do, rather than how much they know, or how much effort they put forth to learn.

    All too often I've come close to failing in my classes because I didn't do some useless assignment, and yet, still I have a perfect grasp of the concepts that were "taught". That's not right. Theoretically, if I failed, I shouldn't know the material, right? Wrong.

    Also, assignments should only be given as necessary. I have one particular math teacher who, even after every person in the class has shown that they get the material, still gives out work on it. If they've shown they can do it, then what's the point in giving out more work, and wasting time that could be spent on teaching the next concept?

    Now let me move on to incompetent teachers. Any teacher who needs to rely on a book as a primary source of teaching, need not be teaching. If you can't teach the concept yourself, with minimal help from a book, then you need to go back and learn it some more yourself.

  • by Hallowed (229057) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:52PM (#16942080)
    My dad is back teaching in a southern Colorado highschool after a 15 year break...the big things he complains about are:

    1) No real disipline....students are disruptive and can pretty much do anything (non-violent) that they please because the school district fears lawsuits.

    2) Actual teaching becomes secondary because of the babysitting requirements.

    3) What actual teaching is done is totally scripted by the administration (the teachers have a very narrow guideline to follow) and basically amounts to programming for the standardized proficiency exams.

    4) All the students are treated as if they are university-bound. He feels that this leads to a swiss-army approach that does a marginal job at best.

    My personal experience coming out of the same school in 1992 and going directly into an engineering program is that I was not prepared academically or mentally for what I ran into at Colorado School of Mines. Looking back at it now I wish I had worked several years (or done military service) before ever considering engineering, and considering what a job that school was doing then, I would have better off dropping out at 16 and working and getting a GED....the education (or lack thereof) would have been the same and I would have had at least some money and life experience under my belt before tackling engineering....
  • by fortinbras47 (457756) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:52PM (#16942086)
    And unsurprisingly, government run monopolies deliver a poor product at a high price.

    Could you imagine if we had ONE government run auto company? Imagine everyone paid taxes and was provided with a "free" car from this government car company. The rich would say to hell with it and go off and buy a Lexus or a Mercedes, but the poor and most of the middle class would take the crap government car because they already paid for it. This is exactly what has happened to our education system and I'm always amazed more people aren't outraged. The poor go to crappy public schools because its the only choice, the middle class go to crap and mediocre public schools because they already paid for it, and the rich and some middle class send their kids to quality private schools.

    The solution is to expose schools to competition... support school vouchers and school choice so that you break up the government run monopoly. The ROOT problem is the government run monopoly, and it must be addressed.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:54PM (#16942114)
    Every time I see something like this, I get confused as to why people are confused. The public schools are no longer intended to educate. Students are required to be there. Schools are required to take students. In some cases, students that do not want to be there are required to be there, and the school does not want the disruptive student to be there either. If schools were more optional, more open to getting rid of students that don't want to learn, then they could focus on teaching. Instead, they are babysitting unwilling children. The easy fix is get the parents involved. However, the parents don't want that, it's too much work for them. They want the schools to fix the problem they created.

    Do I have an easy solution? No. If I were put in charge of everything tomorrow, I'd probably do away with mainstreaming. We have schools for "gifted" students, why not schools to huddle the lower 10% together as well (excluding the truly special needs that are currently separated)? Get the top 10% the education that challenges them, the bell curve of the middle 80% will have them closer to together without the outliers, and the 10% that aren't as motivated or skilled will be put in separate programs designed to try to bring them back from the edge or at least get them ready for a vocation.

    Which brings me back to something else that bothers me about the US. What's wrong with a vocation? There seems to be some stigma attached to trying to teach skills in high school, as if college is expected and that skills are taught there. There seems to be a decrease in automotive and shop classes in high schools. And there seems to be a stigma attached to someone that likes working with their hands. I've never understood that, but it is another thing that should change in the US.
  • Money? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:01PM (#16942232)
    The idea that the point of an education is to learn about the world is naive, it's to prove to employers you are willing and able to work for N years to achieve a result. If it were the former there would be no exams, no coursework and no awards of degrees.

    So if employers don't care about being a high school graduate or if there are no jobs which require a high school graduate, there isn't much point going on to complete your high school education and then go on to university to rack up $150,000 in debt.

    The fact that jobs are being shipped overseas says it's hardly worthwhile .

    p.s. why does it cost $150,000 to go through university? Seems like rather a lot, surely with that kind of income there would be lots of colleges, academies and universities springing up and competing to reduce the costs.
  • Liberal Viewpoints (Score:4, Insightful)

    by disasm (973689) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:07PM (#16942310)

    I know this is the wrong place to get any sympathy, but what the heck, it's only slashdot karma I'll lose. What's wrong with the high schools in the US is they are all too dang liberal. I remember in high school I had one conservative teacher, and he was the band director. Of course no one wants to be in high school! With all the liberal teachers I had, one encouraged students to share their viewpoints, while all the other forced all their dogma and beliefs down our throats at best, and worse case scenario penalized students for having "wrong" beliefs. There was a valedictorian girl at one of the schools in the district that wrote this great paper on the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms, and the teacher gave her an F, so she played the teachers game and wrote a paper on Hillary Clinton, and ended up with an A. Don't tell me that's not penalizing students with differing beliefs.

    The next problem is the teachers are mostly under qualified. Many a days in Pre-Calculus I spent correcting the teacher when she did a problem wrong, or going up to the board and solving the problem when she got so tired of my correcting her all the time. It was a joke! When other students had problems in the class no one dared ask the teacher to try to explain for fear of getting more confused than they already were. And don't even get me started on the A+ Certification course. The official teacher was Mrs. Huerta, but she knew nothing about the material. The above conservative mentioned band director, my friend Chris, and I ended up running that class. Even the Teaching Assistant couldn't grasp most of the concepts in the A+ Certification book we were going through.

    Sam

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BCW2 (168187)
      Why teachers don't know their subject:
      To be a teacher today in the U. S. you have to have an education degree, you will be lucky if you get to teach the subject you have a minor in. So we have a group of teachers that supposedly know how to teach (highly questionable) but don't know the subject.

      When I was in High School (class of '74) they listed the teachers degrees in the yearbook. Every teacher in my school had a bachelors in the subject they were teaching, some had a Masters in their subject. Most had a
  • by Leebert (1694) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:08PM (#16942330)
    Parents.
  • Graduation Bonu$ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:18PM (#16942458) Homepage Journal
    We should give kids who graduate highschool on time a $1000 bonus, cash, no strings attached. They can spend it on college, a car, gas, CDs, or crack (as long as they don't get caught), whatever. Maybe kids who graduate only a year late can get $500.

    It costs over $30K:y to jail people. Plus the damage they did to go to jail. Plus the lost productivity from them both while commiting crimes and in jail. Plus their reduced productivity with jail on their career record. Plus the lost productivity policing, judging and jailing them. All deducted from their value producing even $30K:y at a job, without consuming justice system resources. By the time you account for the two parallel lives, we're probably saving at least $50K:y, maybe $100K:y, for every kid who gets a legit job instead of a criminal career, for probably at least 2-5 years per person. So every $1000 kid kept straight saves probably $300K - paying for 299 kids who got their bonus who would have stayed straight anyway. Those kids get to reinvest the money in something productive (except the tiny percentage who will spend it on crack).

    We graduate about 3M kids from HS [72.14.209.104] every year in the US. Even if the stats in this article we're discussing weren't a 31% dropout rate just in "the nation's 100 largest public school districts", but nationwide, that means a maximum of under 4.5M kids getting a maximum of $1K each, which would cost $4.5B a year. The extra $9K a year more than dropouts that HS grads earn would pay back the $1K right away; if the dropout rate were lowered only 5 points, they'd still pay back the program in 7 years. And that's before counting the societal savings in working instead of going to jail.

    Let's invest $1000 in each grad. Or waste many times more on criminals.
  • waaaaah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <stdrange@[ ]mni. ... u ['alu' in gap]> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:19PM (#16942472) Journal
    Man, a lot of people sure are whining about how the high school machine is interested in cranking out thoughtless droids in order for the corporate system to maintain control over helpless consumers, ruining education by teaching to a narrow test (never mind that the majority of Americans can't keep "your" and "you're" straight), or teaching kids in a way that is not best suited to them, or teaching things that "don't matter in the real world."

    These are probably the people dropping out of high school. Grow up, people!

    The standardized tests test for perfectly acceptable topics: basic grammar, reading comprehension, and basic math. The majority of the kids dropping out are most likely the ones who cannot accomplish these things. So if you are getting bored in class because the teacher won't teach "outside of the box", take it upon your self to learn these things, but don't quit high school! First of all, if you can afford it, you can simply switch schools. Second of all, even though you might be convinced you are a super genius, people hiring you will be a little less than convinced if you couldn't sit through four years of high school.

    If your teachers or administrators are jerks, notify someone. Figure out exactly what they are doing wrong (say, not letting you leave for a medical emergency) and report them to the proper authorities. I truly feel sorry for you if you get a bad teacher that can't teach worth shit, but even if you go to a small school like I did, you'll get a different teacher next year who can explain things to you. Oh, I know, why don't expend some effort and go to a different teacher of that subject for help? When your teachers refuse to help you, provided you are putting forth an effort, go to the principal or the guidance counselor. If you don't like the way the system is being run, there are smarter ways to fix things than quitting high school.

    Also, as much as you might put stock in the Great Sheeple Conspiracy, seriously, take off your tin foil hat.

    I don't understand why people drop out of high school. It's free (unlike college), and it's only going to take away 1 or 2 years of your life. Even if high school is useless for you, I don't see what plans you could possibly have that would be ruined by your continued attendance in high school. It may suck, but seriously, that diploma is important.
  • 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 pestilence669 (823950) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:07PM (#16943198)
    Public school really didn't teach me a damn thing and I'm not exaggerating. It was a place that would watch me while my mother worked so she could eat out & buy shoes for herself. As a baby sitter, it was fine. As an educator, to say it was lacking is an understatement.

    During my sophomore year in high school, we actually took an entire day to learn how to read an analog clock. I didn't require school instruction to figure out how to read a clock... and... I had it mastered by age five. Every class was like that. Always scratching the surface of a topic over and over again... never actually teaching anything. So much of school is about trivial things like not talking to your classmates, being silent, and sitting still. I don't find it a very effective nor social environment.

    I'm one of the few that realized if I want to learn, I'm going to have to do it myself... outside of school. As a taxpayer, I'm furious that we are forced to pay for something so broken. The states are literally lobotomizing our youth by wasting their most precious learning years. You don't need school or teachers to learn. You need an interest and a way to get answers. Period.
  • by constantnormal (512494) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:35PM (#16943544)
    ... like our society's expectations for our public school system.

    Instead of preparing students for adulthood or college (yes, they can be -- and usually are -- different), we have assigned our public schools as the surrogate baby-sitters, keeping our children occupied, but not placing much more in the way of expectations on them.

    This is a parental problem -- and by that, I mean a problem with the parents. There are parents who want to ensure that their children are prepared for college, and they are moving their kids to private schools, or home schooling them, or moving to homes situated in the better school districts.

    However, that only prepares kids for college, and may or may not prepare them for adulthood. Especially an unimaginable adulthood.

    It used to be that kids could get a glimmer of how to be an adult be emulating their parents, who in turn were following their parents down life's pathways. This includes a lot more than simply careers, things like social standing, moral behavior, and how to deal with life's challenges.

    But when both parents are scrambling to make sense out of a world that is radically different from anything they were prepared for, it's no surprise that kids are set adrift in life.

    I have no answers, I only understand the problem.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:38PM (#16943582) Journal
    ...it's like inside a US school. My wife and I are from Britain but she has been doing part-time work in schools in Richmond, California. The guys look and acts like gangsters (presumably some of them are) and the girls act like hookers (which presumably some of them are). No learning takes place. Students bring stereos to work and play music throughout lessons. Every other word spoken by a student is 'fuck', or 'nigga' and the speech is barely distinguishable from grunting. There is no discipline of any sort. Of course there isn't, no teacher is stupid enough to argue with a classroom full of would-be gangsters (or actual gangsters). There are of course police throughout every school. Because the students are the way they are the authorities have to run the place like a police state. Want to visit the bathroom? You have to get paperwork allowing you to. And between lessons, groups of chaperones (I've no idea what they're actually called) connected by walkie-talkies have to sweep through the corridors, like in a police search operation, to ensure nobody is left outside class. Any time someone is found without the appropriate paperwork in the hallways a lockdown is instigated. Everyone has to dive under tables and doors have to be locked to protect against potential gunmen. This is of course justified by the number of times the potential gummen turn out to be gunmen.

    Meanwhile the teachers have been 'educated' by the same system. They care nothing about teaching the students but if, God forbid, one of your actions should appear (in their fantasy world) to be an infringement of their constitutional rights, they'll scream like hell about it. The teachers of course think nothing of dressing like hookers and wearing T-shirts with obscenities emblazoned across them. (Of course not, they work for a government establishment and so their freedom of speech can't be restrained.)

    Every morning the students all chant the Pledge of Allegiance. And periodically through the day they're encouraged to chant bizarre things like "I must express who I really am", "I have the right to be whoever I want" or some such American-style psychobabble. You probably think I'm making things up at this point. Maybe my wife is making this stuff up when she comes home from work, but I doubt it. This is what it means to be educated in California.

    I also do voluntary work with kids in the area, trying to encourage an interest in science. The sad thing is that there are plenty of younger kids who have great potential. But so many of these kids have next to no chance of going anywhere with that potential.

    Of course not all of California is like this. I live near an enclave of rich white-skinned people whose education district seceded from the surrounding city. House prices are through the roof there because apparently you can learn things in the few schools they have.

    Still, a lot could have happened in the last ten years. Maybe it's like this in Britain now.

  • Easy Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bagsc (254194) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:07PM (#16944436) Journal
    4.4% unemployment rate right now. If you can get the job you want, why stay in school?

    Half of high school graduates go to college, and half of them graduate. And many college graduates get jobs that don't require degrees too.
  • by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb@gCOWmail.com minus herbivore> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:04AM (#16944904) Homepage Journal
    I know nobody, especially not Slashdot moderators, will ever read this comment, so I'll post it with my karma bonus.

    The American education system suffers from the lack of a saleable product.

    In the past ages, having a high-school diploma really meant something - that you knew basic math, history, science and English. The courses took real learning to complete, and thus even a lowly high school diploma told an employer you had an education. Yes, the real point of school was still to produce good sheeple, but at that point job markets demanded reasonably educated sheeple.

    Only smart and dedicated students went on to university, where the education would allow them to rise a full societal class in terms of income. The extremely dedicated students creative enough to do real research got admitted to graduate school. Normal kids started working jobs, making money and supporting themselves.

    Nowadays, however, the high-school diploma has lost all value and the bachelor's degree has begun losing its. High schools teach no vocational or even financial courses whatsoever. I, at 17 years of age right now, shall have to learn banking and investing from my parents and grandmother (who, thankfully, all handle their money quite well). The expectation, rising ever since the GI Bill (though the GI Bill was a good thing), that everyone will go to college leaves no real incentive for high schools to educate. After all, they can blame their graduate's failures to win admissions to Stanford and MIT on underfunding, the envied magnet school next town over, poverty, the parents or even the students themselves, because the school is not accountable to the local job market.

    Top it off with politicians taking this obvious issue and spinning through each excuse the schools make up for their poor performance, not only to avoid confronting the real problem but because each successive scare issue over schools allows the politicians to avoid confronting the economic change that underlies all of it. Generation after generation, white men in suits tell us what's wrong with our schools, so they can keep sending jobs to Mexico and India instead of educating Americans. Nowadays a high-school diploma shows nothing other than the student's willingness and ability to slog through endless hours of busywork for no real reason or profit - exactly what modern business and government want to see.

    The bachelor's degree has only begun to lose value very recently, but it's still losing its value. As ever-more Americans attempt an education that can out-earn the dying high-school diploma, they flood the job market with bachelor's degrees. And what happens when supply exceeds demand? The value of the commodity in question - in this case bachelor's educated American workers - drops. In the process, "savvier" young folks start taking master's degrees and Ph.D's solely for their financial value. Someday these, too, will bring in only a little more money than lower education and will burden young people with much more debt.

    One thing is clear: Advanced degrees cannot demand high salaries while the high-school diploma falls in value. A house with a decaying foundation cannot stand.

    The solution? In my opinion, we should once again make public high schools accountable to the local job market, as well as to the state and national university markets. Most universities will eagerly tell an inquirer how much money their graduates make - even for specific departments or majors. Given that high schools teach only General Education, they have no excuse not to supply such data to parents and students. Indeed, the better public schools already enjoy bragging about which universities their graduates attend.

    However, many public schools no longer serve a substantial labor market. I know that Bethlehem Central High School here in Delmar, New York, USA does not. On some level, we have to bring back the high-school diploma jobs that once existed in most towns and cities of the country. Right-wingers are

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