Monday, September 03, 2007

Do away with high schools?

From the everything old becomes new again file:

Now, we're told, a distinguished psychologist proposes putting most people to work at age 12, with a knowledge of the basic three Rs and nothing more.

It will make them grow up, he says. This is hailed as a revolutionary new concept, never heard of before.

In fact, it isn't new at all.

One of those old-style teachers, who died in the early '50s, was Sir Richard Livingstone, a classics prof and educational philosopher.

He was Dewey's contemporary but held very different ideas. Livingstone defined what he called "educable ages" of human beings.

We are most educable, he said, when we're very young, least educable in the teen years and early 20s, and become highly educable again as adults.

He therefore proposed the high school system be abolished, except for the very brightest of students, and that the money thereby saved be directed instead into community schools for adults. Calgary Sun

Meld this will the renewed calls for vocational education, by those who recognize academics isn't for everyone, and we may be on to something. I'm certainly not encouraging shipping off the new teens to sweatshops but some honest labor may help many of these students 'find themselves' and also solve many truancy and discipline issues as well.

16 comments:

Nashteach said...

If it happens, invest in video game companies ;)

din819go said...

Well -- seeing how adolescence was invented in the late 1800s early 1900s, why not do this. Before forced education, kids went to school for a few weeks each year. They came to school knowing math and how to read and write. Kids as young as 11 and 12 were sea captains, running farms, etc.

Adolescence was invented when forced schooling was mandated. Literacy was much higher then, too.

Sorry -- Nashteach -- you might have to get a real job.

Sex said...

Really? Literacy was much higher in the late 1800s?

Oh, you just meant among the landed white men born on American soil. Haha, silly me.

It's a good thing that blacks, women, and immigrants still don't count!

/dripping sarcasm

Kay Brooks said...

Nashteach: I'm invested in a son with a serious career goal of creating games...is that close enough?

Kay Brooks said...

What a juvenile alias and then to boot you post nothing factual that refutes din819go--you didn't even ask him to provide proof.

Two things:

1. IF your alias brings up one Google Ads that I find inappropriate I will delete your post entirely.

2. Regarding historic literacy rates maybe we could start with John Taylor Gatto's essay Intellectual Espionage:

"Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?"

And this Google Answers page is fairly well annotated if you want to take the time to check their conclusions.

”Despite those odds, most African-Americans became literate. "(I)t is
difficult for me to reconcile that a people who mastered language and
literacy under such abysmal circumstances have produced a generation
of children who are unable to grasp these concepts sufficiently in
present-day society; at least, this is the portrayal widely
disseminated about us," Paul writes.”

The entire article is posted online at – Newhouse.com

Further evidence of the unfavorable comparison to early 20th century
is presented in an article titled “The Case of Lester Jones, An
African-American Male in Cleveland, 1912” –

“Although the black literacy rate soared from 20% in 1850 to nearly
80% in 1890, blacks were still having a difficult time finding work.”

Next time you visit, bring something valuable to the discussion. Really.

dolphin said...

Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. (my emphasis)

Do you happen to have similar data on literacy today? I suspect the data will be precisely the same. Simply put, illiterate people don't/can't generally put themselves into positions where "such a thing matter[s]."

I'm invested in a son with a serious career goal of creating games...is that close enough?

The video game industry is a fairly varied field, so I don't know what your son plans to do there. If he's interested in programming or even 3-d modeling he'll need to have advanced knowledge of math. Kicking him out of high school is probably not a good move for your "investment."

Kay Brooks said...

You might want to start with US DOE's "A First Look at the Literacy of America's Adults in the 21st Century

Because you can only learn advanced math in today's high schools? (He's in college already, btw.)

Carsen said...

Because you can only learn advanced math in today's high schools?

Yes, I'd say for some individuals, high school is the only option for advanced math. There aren't too many poor single mothers who are educated enough to teach advanced math to their children, or can afford to send them to a private school.

JJ Ross said...

Hi Kay -- we are discussing your idea at Snook along with the reactions it's drawing in one liberal corner of the blogosphere Nance visits now and then.

Just thought you should know we are taking your name and everything else about you in vain over there! :)

Nashteach said...

Nashteach: I'm invested in a son with a serious career goal of creating games...is that close enough?

Exciting! Close enough as long as, when he makes it big, he doesn't forget who helped him get there.

... the renewed calls for vocational education, by those who recognize academics isn't for everyone,

Yeah, what's happening with that? This is the best statement of your post, except that most of these people aren't calling for it for their own kids. Vocational ed has petered off in recent years. The state has parents- I think in eighth grade- declare a track for their child- either vocational or college prep. A huge majority of parents choose college prep- wanting the best for their children.

And that is the ideal promise of public education- that we are the great equalizer. That no matter what the educational background of the parent, we are to prepare every child to have the same opportunities as a USN or MBA graduate. In our hearts and our plans we want that for the parents and the student, and with some we succeed in engendering qualifications and opportunities their parents didn't have. However, you are correct, an academic education is not for everyone. But because the "track" is the parents' choice, as it mainly should be, many schools must enroll the student in the college prep track. We absolutely do need to revamp the curriculum for those seeking a regular (not scholars) diploma, but who remain in the "college prep track." Pride and Prejudice is a waste of time if one cannot write effective sentences or read Time or Newsweek articles.

Now, in your follow up post, you use the term "cut them loose" to suggest what to do for those who master basic skills but aren't college bound. My question is "Who should cut them loose?" If you mean the school system chooses that, and essentially creates a track that they refuse entrance to, like Japan, I strongly disagree. If you mean the parent chooses an alternative educational experience, I agree and I think I read somewhere they can already do that, with certain elements of accountability. Most won't though; they'll decide with their hearts not their heads.

Tom

Kay Brooks said...

Regarding 'cut them loose'. I mean freedom from the compulsory education law. If we can decide on what is a basic education and a student attains that...I don't see why they cannot be out from under a law that heretofore recognizes their age over their accomplishment. If the purpose of the compulsory attendance law was to facilitate education--once that education is achieved why does the attendance law still stand? Who does it benefit then?

JJ Ross said...

Kay, thanks for making that clear and for prompting me to learn more about the phrase "cut 'em loose" -- might make a good post. :)

Here's a 2004 column about how school compulsion fails. It's local and from a liberal public school fan, not an ideologue. .

Such discussion may eventually "educate the public" in remedial policy studies -- most citizens can't and won't become education reform experts, but it's reasonable to expect everyone (left AND right) to master the basics, learning to "cut loose" policy mandates already proven not to work!


“Kids need a break to stretch or run or play ball. But if they just want to sit in a corner and read, that’s fine, too. Some day they’ll get into exercising.
Or they won’t.
But if they do, it will because of personal choice
not a state requirement . . .”

Exercise mandates never work
by Gerald Ensley, Staff Columnist, TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT

JJ Ross said...

Tom wrote:
"Most won't though; they'll decide with their hearts not their heads."

New York Times blogger Tobin Harshaw suggests this week that we all decide public policy with our feelings, even news wonks no matter how thoroughly schooled we were. The thinking we do is mainly about how to rationalize our feelings as being thoughtful. :)

See "Gallup Ranks the 2008 Candidates According to a Feeling Thermometer".

Now if we the successfully schooled ever learn not to do this ourselves, maybe then we will figure out how to pass that lesson along to the kids? But until then, what "feels" right to many news wonks is school "thinking" that makes no sense for heart or head, like this bizarre argument from one of Harshaw's commenters:

"This is no boast, but my adult children, knowing I am a news wonk, will often call me up before elections and ask me how to vote. Many are too busy to spend their time studying the news. They rely on the rest of us who do have the time and enjoy this.

I think the schools need to do more about voter education and stressing the importance of the franchise. It should start in the very early grades and include visits to the polls, town meetings, city council and selectmen meetings. The central message should be that people literally die to vote and the least we can do is treasure the privilege.

Most of us, in the end, go with our gut in deciding for whom to vote."

JJ Ross said...

Look what NC is up to:
"A high school at the zoo!"

Vocationally and academically, doesn't this beat what gets dished out as secondary education these days? And it's "public" so nothing to fear there.

Crimson Wife said...

I think there's something to be said for the idea that formal education is often wasted on adolescents due to their immaturity. Those I knew who got the most out of their college experience very often had taken time off between graduating high school and entering college to go on a mission for their church, serve in the military, or do City Year. I think that there should be a mandatory two years of national service for young people at age 18. Two years of hard work giving something back to the community would do the typical American teenager a world of good.

Nashteach said...

First, as one who teaches adolescents, I find many of them to be quite mature. Not all certainly, but we have enough red tape aimed at the immature ones that the mature ones have to endure.

I think that there should be a mandatory two years of national service for young people at age 18.

Volunteerism is great; mandatory volunteerism, unless part of some degree program, is indentured servitude.

I thought the idea here was fewer government mandates. After looking at your blog, I'm surprised you're calling for more.