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What's the Problem With US High Schools? 1095

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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  • My throughts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> 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.

  • 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.
  • by rbochan ( 827946 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:10PM (#16941450) Homepage
    Actually, it's about the six lessons [].

  • by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:15PM (#16941548) Homepage
    I suffered through the "Integrated Math" system. Algebra, Geometry, and Trig meshed together into one series of texts. Culturally-sensitive texts. Lots of pictures. All the white people were in wheelchairs. Word problems began along the lines of "LaQuisha is having a Kwanzaa party." At the end of each chapter, there were questions like "How does the method we used to solve problem 16 make you feel?"

    If I was home sick (or, more commonly, if I dozed off in class), the book was completely useless in actually teaching math. But it had pretty pictures.

    The year after I graduated, it was determined that Integrated Math had been a wholly bad idea, and they dropped it in favor of the traditional Algebra/Geometry/Trig sequences.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:17PM (#16941570)
    Are only the dropouts the ditch diggers? It's getting to be where you need post-secondary for anything decent. Even if they finish high school but don't go on to College, they could end up being a ditch digger.

    Maybe that has something to do with it - that the end seems so far away and if you aren't planning on post-secondary, there doesn't seem much point in finishing the useless stuff in secondary school.
  • by Josh Lindenmuth ( 1029922 ) <> 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.
  • 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....
  • 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.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:05PM (#16942284) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure where your evidence for this is. I've known a lot of private schools, all of which were non-unionized, and they were all considered to be far superior to the public schools located in the same areas.

    Additionally, most of them paid teachers significantly less than public-school teachers. On paper, they should have sucked: non-union, basically no job security if you pissed off the wrong person, long hours, low pay. And yet, they routinely got more qualified instructors -- people who were actual experts in their fields -- and graduated students who went on to be more successful. Why is this? I don't have a totally pat answer for you, but I think that most of their success is because of the institutions themselves: people are willing to go and teach there, even though they're not unionized and the pay is lower, because they're good places to work. Class sizes are smaller, teachers get more freedom to plan lessons and curricula, and the perceived 'quality' of the students (interest, motivation, background education) is higher.

    In my experience, unions and the job security that they offer don't do much to attract the best talent. If anything, they attract the mediocre, who are seeking a job that it's difficult to get fired from. Improve working conditions, and you'll probably find more people willing to work who really know their subject and want to teach it. Throwing money at the problem, which is what the unions generally ask for, is not a solution.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @08:15PM (#16942422)
    I'm sure there are some here who come from more impoverished backgrounds, from families who don't support education and school in general, or have learning disabilities. But for the rest who had a rather comfortable upbringing in intelligent households, the reply will be much different from the majority of kids who drop out, and don't test out.

    The intelligent ones would be bored, unchallenged by their classes and find it a waste of time. Those kids will find better paying jobs and will most likely make above minimum wage.

    Then there are the kids who don't value knowledge, have had a tougher run, and don't get the educational support they need to progress. Here are a few real stories: my sister is in a math class in the local public high school were the teacher shows movies on Friday. Not math-based movies, just movies, to keep the kids coming back. No one pays attention, and she is in this class because she needs to have things repeated more than most before she remembers or grasps them. She's not unique in this learning disability (sorry, I don't know the name of it), I believe approximately 10% of the population has this. People can learn, but it takes more work, more focus, and more time.

    Then you have kids who just don't turn in their homework. I don't understand it, but my girlfriend tutors kids who are doing poorly in middle school and high school, and she said some do the work, but don't turn it in. Others think their parents will forever pay for them, idolizing those effin' twats on MTV's My Super Sweet 16. Why do you need to learn with Daddy will pay for you forever?

    Yes, some kids overcome all this and more, but that's personal work, or a teacher has really reached out to them. But those who look back at high school and complain that it wasn't tough enough, or didn't challenge you daily are coming from a different point of view than most drop-outs.
  • 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 [] 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.
  • by lmpeters ( 892805 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:25PM (#16943416)
    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.

    Perhaps that's the root of the problem right there? That the schools are not teaching self-discipline? You can't always count on the parents to teach self-discipline (you pointed out several examples of how some parents fail to support the child's education), and it's important enough that maybe the schools should make significant efforts to teach it.

    I'd also add that critical thinking skill should be required of ALL high-school graduates; in fact, the earlier it can be taught, the better. Accusations of liberal bias be damned; the fact that there are idiots out there who actually LISTEN to the zealots who want to teach intelligent design (a.k.a. Creationism), et al. in public schools is dependent on the inability of a large number of people to think critically.

  • 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.
  • Learn on your own (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:57PM (#16943772)
    Throughout most of my life I was an anti-social person. Most of my friends went to other schools or didn't go to school and the few friends i did have at my school were social outcasts too. After 2 years of sitting in high school classes designed for people at the bottom of the learning spectrum and being forced to endure pep rallies and other non-sensical activities, I had enough and quit. Did my life turn sour? Did I start dealing drugs and go on welfare? No, at 16 I enrolled in community college and had my GED by the age of 17, a year ahead of the people in my grade. Along with that community college was a much better enviroment for me with no useless high school crap and only 16 hours a week in classes. I had my AA degree at 19 and transfered to the state school of my choice. I currently sit at 21 years old 1 semester away from graduating with my Bachelors, a year before everyone who was in my high school class.

    Essentially what i'm trying to say is that people do not need high school. Their are so many options a person has now for their education. If you quit high school to sit on your couch and play videogames, more than likely you will not make much money, but if you quit high school because the enviroment treats you more like a number than a person, and continue to progress with either going to a community college or a technical college, you will be successful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:59PM (#16943794)
    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.

    I don't believe that it is the public school's job to teach self-discipline. There seems to be so many people who desire the public school system be turned into some kind of giant daycare facility. If public schools would concentrate on academics and cut the social programming, half the problem would be solved.

    Similar to another responder: I sat in the back and read science fiction books for most of my classes. My grades didn't suck but were nearly always "A". I once completed an entire year of high-school English by reading the vocabulary book and list of required books in the first several weeks. Essay writing, weekly vocabulary tests, and book reports the rest of the year? Had it down cold. What a waste of time!

    There's a sizable contingent of people in this country that simply want to give up on the thing that made this country great: the public education system.

    Ha ha ha. So are you saying that America wasn't great until sometime after the 1850's? It wasn't even until 1918 that all of the states required children to attend an elementary school. Well, count me in as one of the contingent who see nothing but a massive tax drain by an inefficient public education system. I don't advocate removing public education entirely, but I do believe that the "public" portion should be much less than it is today.

    Before you lump me in with those of the "rich folks' kids will go to private schools, and the poor folks' kids, well, they don't matter anyway", I'll add that I grew up in a rural area and my single mother was on welfare. Self-discipline and drive came from myself and family; public school was for sports and friends. Thank God I had access to a good set of public libraries!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:27PM (#16944070)
    In Illinois at least, students with sickness/medical problems or other problems that do not allow them to make it to school but are not bad enough for them to get a note saying they can't go at all are given the options that they can drop out, drop the semester and have to go another year, or not miss ANY more school.

    Both myself and others have encountered this problem. They are threatened with a fine ranging from $25-$75 depending on how much is missed.
  • Re:read this book (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:33PM (#16944140) Homepage
    Gatto suggests there is a lot more uniformity of soul-breaking methods (see his six or seven lesson schoolteacher essay, linked by a previous poster) [] and he suggest that in the face of such conformity of methods any diversity of content is mostly irrelevant. Unfortunately, those who have most bought into the system are busy shaping it for the next generation. What matters to many in control is to see their kid be broken the same way they were broken, so the kid will do well enough in school to move into a conformist slot in society. However, they do not see this as "breaking" a kid -- they see this as "making" them. There is a tension here between forcing a child to become part of a hierarchical and corrupt and bullying rank-oriented "society" versus helping them find their niche in a free expressive artistic "culture". One path seeks to make children all the same -- a standardized commodity; the other to amplify their differences to help them be the best they can be. Consider novel after novel where the aristocratic executive is trying to break their child to take on the family business which the child abhors. Granted, the schooling system tracks a few percent to be elite managers, but even they are often just as trapped in the system and the mythology that drives it as everyone else (the myth of scarcity and need for conformity to keep the industrial machinery running smoothly). This site: [] is about the future -- and it is not the one compulsory schooling prepares people for.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:46PM (#16944240)
    Well, I'm probably the exception, but I can tell you why I decided to drop out of high school.

    I absolutely hated every minute of it (except hanging out with my friends). The things we were being taught were almost completely irrelevant to anything happening in the real world, the pace of actual learning was tediously boring, yet we were saddled with ridiculous homework assignments that were obviously designed to keep us busy first and possibly teach us something second. Most kids just cheated off of each other or did a divide and conquer strategy (you do the fill in the blanks problems, I'll do the multiple choice, etc). I'm sure I could have "applied myself" more and all of that. However, I did not (and still don't) see the point. If someone assigns you a fool's errand, are you smarter to complete it successfully, or to avoid it in the first place?

    When I dropped out (toward the beginning of Junior year, or 11th grade), I spent the next year reading about 50 books, mostly non-fiction (my parents were pretty tolerant, and they sensed that I was actually learning something).

    I have since taught myself Linux, Perl, PHP, C, SQL, music theory, piano, etc. I have a full time senior level programming / sysadmin job as a result (of the computer learning anyway :). I read Wikipedia almost every day for fun. I chose for the longest time not to have a TV, preferring books instead (my fiancee likes TV though, so we have one now). Clearly, I like learning stuff.

    So what happened? Shouldn't high school have been really easy for me? What was my problem? I was pretty popular, had a good group of friends, did well on standardized tests. Why couldn't I get good grades?

    Because high school was slowly but surely rotting my brain. While I liked my teachers all right as people, the whole enterprise seemed to just be based around giving us some reading material, which we were supposed to parse and look for the relevant keywords so that we could parrot them back, as directed, on multiple choice or fill in the blanks tests. Yeah, there were some essay questions too, but it was the same basic idea. The amount of drudgery involved was just overwhelming.

    Some people warned me that dropping out was a mistake. For many people it might be. I would be extremely cautious to recommend dropping out of high school to anyone. However, for me it was one of the best things I ever did. I got out of teenage jail almost two years before my other cell mates, and actually learned a lot more in the same amount of time. Eventually, in a roundabout sort of way with several false starts, my self directed reading and technology learning landed me a job in the dot com days. I have not been unemployed for more than two weeks since I joined the workforce of the real world in 1999.

    Each job I've had (mostly) involves doing real work that is actually used by real people. Ostensibly, most of the things I did made the company a better place to work. Success brings rewards, and failure has consequences, neither of which are arbitrarily decided by someone developing a curriculum to keep you busy so you don't bother your parents or light off firecrackers or smoke pot or whatever else teenagers would do if we let them do what they wanted. I guess you could say the biggest thing that was missing in high school for me was the feeling that any of these stupid assignments I was doing served any greater purpose than allowing the teacher to compare my paper to their answer key.

    Paul Graham put all of this far more eloquently than I did here, in his essay Why Nerds Are Unpopular [].

    Paul Graham, if you're by chance reading this, I want to thank you for writing that essay. My only complaint is that you didn't write it when I was a teenager :)
  • 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.
  • I was born in 1950, grew up in an orphanage, dropped out of high school at 16yo, went in to the USMC at 17yo [Honorable Discharge], current gross annual income $100K+.

    I have a street-degree on America's Educational and Economic systems failures. Location, location ... Money, money, money ... Expectations, Expectations, Expectations ... and a duo-class culture ruled by too many stupid fools, and exploiting many semiliterate citizens, with dejure-plutocracy, corporatist-communism, and religious-televangelism.

    What makes some expensive private high schools work extremely well? What makes many public high schools fail? Discover recurring performance and success high schools then mirror the process in public high schools. Currently we have Green-Pelsey/Crow separate and unequal school systems based on socio-economics ... no better than existed prior to the 1970s.

    Is part of the problem that administrative+overhead for public schools is used to identify the cost-per-child education? I think that is unfair and a fraudulent lie to the USA public. Remove the administrative+overhead from the equations for both public and private schools, and determine how many dollars get to the children's education in the school building+classrooms (Principle, teachers, cafeteria, learning+teaching materials (not school boards, building projects, furniture, utilities, roofing ...) ...).

    I now have over 162 Semester hours (humanities, mathematics, electronics ...) and no college degree. I am reasonably well read, and I have been known (in meeting) to correct scientist and engineers in applied technology when they stretch (beyond their schooling/experience) into my areas of curiosity and interest. However, I am still shown little respect by many in management when they discover they have a degree, but I don't ... some after trying to get me fired have even retired sooner than planned [I am good and hard working].

    Education never fits me ... learning fits me as I need ... whatever I need. I wish that the technology available today was available when I was in grammar and high school. I could have learned to cope with my learning disabilities much sooner, I was never told I had learning disabilities until I got tested by a college entrance counselor in 1974.

    THE USA Educational system is broke, because limp-dick politicians and special interest like Education in the USA just the way it is for producing an exploitable dogmatic (refuge of semiliteate) patriotic (good, but sad) workforce. We are not giving kids or their parents much to look forward too as a future that values Learning or many other things available only to the wealthy. We need to give all our children (citizens) in the USA a high quality education through high school [performance dependent] to college BS and MA paid in full.
  • 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 Eli Gottlieb ( 917758 ) <> 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
  • 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.
  • by disasm ( 973689 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:28AM (#16945080)

    You covered Western Civ in high school? We had World History, which was made up of a semester of learning about the bush people in ancient africa, a quarter of ancient asia, and a quarter of bearing straight theory - "discovery" of Americas. Some world history, got out of High School without knowing anything about the greeks, romans, macedonians, mesopatamians, egyptians, germanic tribes, viking, middle ages, etc... and it was called "world history". Thank God for history channel, otherwise I would have gone into my college Western Civ class dumb-founded.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:29AM (#16945090)
    The sad reality is that most US high schools are holding pens for the vast majority of students until they are of legal age. I missed 100 days of high-school over 3 years yet still graduated in the top 10%, scored 1400 on the SAT, and earned a scholarship to a top private university. If only I knew what I know now.

    What I know now is this. If you are stuck in a typical US high school that has problems in the areas of crime, teacher quality, student behavior, etc.... drop out and start taking classes in a community college, or on-line, or horrors, teach yourself at home. When I skipped school, I went to the local college library and read about things I was interested in. I suspect that many of these kids that drop out are dropping out because high school for them is a monumental waste of time and insult to their intelligence and other abilities.

    I'm 41 now and have three children. They dropped out of the compulsory public education system before they attended their first day of kindergarten, because they've been educated at home since day one. The oldest is now in college with a full scholarship, actually getting paid to attend, scored 2400 on the new SAT, (yes perfect score) and the other two are doing just as well.

    The solution? End compulsory public education.
  • by 'nother poster ( 700681 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:45AM (#16945188)
    My uncle said that to me when I dropped out of college. He still makes more than me, but at almost $80k in a midwestern town I'm not doing too bad. Much better than many of my classmates that have degrees. It all depends on what you want to do, and how you do it. Some jobs require a degree, others it helps with, and others still it means jack.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by jd_esguerra ( 582336 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:54AM (#16946022)

    If teachers were paid better and given more resources the job of teacher would be more sought after and a higher degree of competent teachers would be the likely result (if at the very least because higher competition would allow administrators more choices therefore weeding out those who are poor teachers). (Cultural change: 'sports stars deserve a 50 million dollar contract teachers should be happy enough just teaching my kids')

    I have a few comments in reply to this point. First, the sports star that is pulling in $50e6 is helping to pull in a great deal more than that. His (her?) salary is a fraction of the money that the sports franchise and sponsors pull in. Second, the sports stars pulling in million-dollar salaries have demonstrated that they are the BEST in the field. I would happily support six figure salaries for teachers who could demonstrate marked superiority in teaching. But where the hell are they?

    I do not have children, and I have not been in pre/middle/high school for a long time, so I am probably out of touch with the real issues. However, I completed a college prep curriculum without ever having a teacher use more than a text book, chalk, and a black-board. (OK, we had chemistry labs too...) I cringe when I hear that district x is in deep crap because they don't have enough computers for their kids. Huh? Since when does a solid college prep education require technology beyond a pad and pencil?

    Personally, I think fewer, but more focused classes would relieve the students from having to burn calories/time in the "boring" non-essential classes until they are actually interested in them--(say, in college). Similarly, I think that if teachers could spend more time teaching fewer (but more focused) classes, they would be more likely to become proficient in those areas-- much like college professors.

    One other thing that might help: Guest teachers from industry. I would certainly consider teaching a science or math class once-and-a-while if my employer was flexible enough to let me. And I would not hesitate to kick kids out of class, knowing that I don't have to stroke the parents to keep my "real" job. I think this was actually suggested in the recent study on technical competitiveness of the US....

    Right with you on all of your other comments.....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @03:43AM (#16946280)
    Having attended several different American high schools in several different states (military family), I call B.S.

    Sorry, but my mother was a high school teacher in the slums of Norfolk Virginia, and while students did get stabbed, raped in the bathrooms and/or on the way home from school, teachers threatened, etc, no one would let them play a radio of any kind in the room.

    It's easy to spread the kind of FUD you seem to be spreading because it's emotional and gripping to read, but the truth is if that occurs at all, it's only in the deepest ghettos. You tell the kids to STFU and they STFU. The only ones who dont get security called on them and are removed. By your account, no students would be left. People who carry guns are put in jail. I don't care where they are. You either have a concealed weapons permit in a place where you can carry such, or you don't. High Schools don't. If they did, there would be a shooting in America every day instead of every other month.

    Your account, which may, and I stress, MAY, be true is in *no way* indicative of the united states high school system unless you're talking about the deepest and darkest of ghettos.. LA, NYC, Detroit.. maybe. But even then the teacher *always* knows to hit that button to call security when they get suspicious.. to do otherwise is to put themselves in danger, and no one wants to do that. As far as I know, there is no shortage of law enforcement professionals in the united states, and a position at a high school is probably considered a cushy and desirable one.

    My spanish teacher in Virginia Beach VA (Salem High School) was once reprimanded for "partying too much" (at clubs) and fratrinizing with students too much. The very idea of them wearing a shirt that was in any way "counter-culture" is ludicrous; they would be fired. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    However, as a counter to my own point, my father (yes, all 4 of my parents, mom, dad, stepmom, and stepdad were high school teachers or night-college professors) once found himself in a position where a student called him a "motherfucker" and when sent to the vice principal's office, was sent back with a note explaining it was part of his "cultural heritage". He retired early for obvious reasons.

    I wish I was making this up, but I've lived all over the south and east USA and that's how it goes.. My mother had the police to back her up and wasn't afraid to call them in to support her (and she got threatened, all the teachers got threatened at Norview Middle School hp?sectiondetailid=380 [] ) while my father had no one but the basic school system to support him.. and they failed.

    Granted, all of this was 10 years ago, but I seriously doubt things have changed much. My fiance's little brother is a high school junior down in a crappy part of Arkansas, but while I do hear a lot of stories of teenage shenanigans, skipping school, smoking pot in the bathroom etc, I never hear any crap about people just jamming on their boombox in the middle of class.

    My mother cussed till her deathbed that they never paid her enough, that she wasn't appreciated for having a "Masters Degree Plus 20" as she called it. But she never backed down from anyone, no matter their size, culture, or creed, and that included the principal and vice principal of any school she worked at.

    I don't have an opinion here often enough to register, so it's an AC post but it's the truth as far as I have experienced it.

    - Chris

    Sorry if my grammar is crap, it's 1:30am and I'm exhausted.
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:02AM (#16946378)
    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) positively radiated charisma and was always talking cheerfully with the customers and the employees while also staying busy.

    Eventually, the manager left - perhaps given a much-deserved promotion - and the mood and quality of service simultaneously diminished back to "mere mortal" levels.

    On the other hand, the "worst-run fast food restaurant in the universe" is also near here. It's a Taco Bell that tends to close anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before closing time. Once, a friend and I stopped there, and were waved off by an employee standing outside the door who told us that they were "out of product".

    I guess what I'm getting at is that even fast food employees will do a good job for $6 or $7 an hour, if they have a leader to bolster their work ethic. You can be a good manager - ensuring things get ordered before they run out, making good hiring and firing decisions, and delegating tasks appropriately - but to be a great manager, you also have to be a great leader.

    (And don't think I'm trying to put you down personally, parent poster - I know I wouldn't make a good leader either. I suspect that it's a rare soul whose leadership skills are sufficient to work in the demoralizing industry of fast food.)

  • by Yez70 ( 924200 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:23AM (#16946490)
    I didn't care because this was the job I was stuck with as well - not that I appreciated making the $7.90 an hour I was getting. I actually was lucky, as at the time the minimum wage was $4.25/hr and our average employee made around $6/hr.

    I could go on and on about how unfair wages are and how stupid society is in dealing with the lowe end wage-earners. Here's an example:

    A fast food joint spends on average 20% on labor (non-hourly mgmt not included).
    A Big Mac averages $2.49
    An increase from $6/hr to $8/hr would raise the price of a Big Mac to about $2.79

    Spend another $3/hr on low-end benefits like 80% coverage cheapo insurance and the Big Mac might cost you $2.99

    Why can't we afford this? It would only effect lowe end products, not the entire country, altho applying forced insurance to all employees may actually decrease the cost of healthcare as we no longer have non-payers effecting the system, right?

    As far as ethics, that's irrelevant. I didn't care because my job was HARDER because of the laziness I had to deal with with the non-immigrants who worked poorly when they showed up. That was the issue, not the fact that they made others unemployed.

    In fact as it has been stated repeatedly, americans obviously did not want these kinds of jobs - do you?

    I did it because I needed a flexible job to work around a school schedule, the wages sucked but I got by and I earn far more now on my own. I don't regret that at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:43AM (#16946604)
    I agree, immigrants are usually harder working than natives. However, consider the psychological effect it has on the natives when poor and uneducated immigrants become increasingly associated with a particular job.

    They begin to think of the job as distasteful, suitable only for people of a lower class, and if they are forced to work there because they're unqualified for another job, they grow resententful, not appreciative.
  • by peter Payne ( 947429 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @06:15AM (#16946984) Homepage
    I, for one, work hard, and got my first job at McDonald's by impressing the owner by saying "I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty." And I meant it, even when someone did a number 2 in the urinal (ugh, that was a dark day). When i went to Frankfurt I got a tour, some guy driving us around in a Mercedes showing us the sights. He was pretty Nazi, kept saying things like, "Well, of course I as a German could never say anything like that about the jews..." and generally amusing us no end. Anyway, bottom line was, he kept complaining about the foreigners in the country (11% of Germany comes from Turkey, or something like that), even while he talked about how he hated to work, they shouldn't need to work and should get more time off. As a business owner ( I was more than a little shocked at this. I, for one, am raising my son to respect hard work and be ready to do it himself.
  • by Stormcrow309 ( 590240 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:23AM (#16947824) Journal

    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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:02AM (#16950038)
    I used to teach in an inner city high school, thinking I could make a difference. Problem is that a free public education is a right and not a privilege- you can't kick out the ones who don't give a damn or only show up to sell drugs. I would have three or four students in every class who were disruptive every time that they showed up- when they weren't suspended or in jail. They were only there to constantly harass the teachers and disrupt the learning process for the rest. Couldn't kick them out despite the fact most of them had 0.9 GPA or less, been in ninth grade for two or three years, and were constantly in trouble because they had, as I was once told by a vice-principal, "the right to fail".

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein