Thursday, September 6, 2007

High school makeover

After sitting in a 3 hour long class of listening to my driving instructor talk about the danger I am to society and my 2 ton bullet that I drive, I just need to rant about something. Back in May I was driving to school and got pulled over by a Germantown cop for slowly rolling through a stop sign covered by trees in a practically deserted neighborhood. Ok in the real version of this story I was speeding and fully intended to “disregard” this stop sign because I was running incredibly late, but that doesn’t really matter because the ticket just says disregarded stop sign so I get to fill in the blanks with whatever I want. Anyway, apparently in Germantown there’s this first offenders program that let’s you keep your ticket off of your record as long as you do six hours of community service and attend the “Safe Driving Class.” So I did my community service and tonight I went to the driving class. While I was pretending to listen to this retired cop talk about the dangers of drinking and driving (which apparently all teens do), I realized that our educational system is really flawed.
Most classes that we are required to take in high school and college are about an hour long or more. Now compare that time to the average person’s attention span which is between 15-20 minutes. That just seems crazy to me that so much time is being wasted in class when students are no longer able to effectively retain information. Even though our attention spans regenerate after a quick break, it doesn’t really help because they become shorter each time. I mean by the end of a class we should statistically be zoning out every couple of minutes. So with these things in mind, why are our class periods so long?
I actually had time to formulate a couple theories in between the videos “Red Asphalt” and “What’s In Your Breathalyzer Test” I think that one of the reasons that our school days in high school are so long is that parents and other people in authority are trying to keep us occupied. Maybe they think that if we spend so much time in school and then do a couple hours of homework that we’ll “stay off the streets,” or maybe they simply don’t want to feel responsible for the things that we do. Also, I think that maybe high school teachers have to work 8 hours a day so they can get benefits and, of course, enough money to live on. Tell me if you have any other ideas because there has got to be a logical reason why we have to spend an hour in class when most of the material could probably be covered in half that time. While I think that high school classes are way too long I can understand that our college classes have to be lengthy because we don’t meet every day.
So I’m pretty much supportive of the way college courses are set up but I think that high school and maybe even middle school could use some work. While I haven’t had much time to think these ideas through, I like how they sound at least right now. First of all class periods, would be shorter, probably about 30 minutes, and would mainly focus on the difficult or main points in the lesson and there would probably be some sort of assigned reading to fill in any gaps. After those class periods there would be an optional study hall type of thing where all of the teachers of various subjects would be in their class rooms to more thoroughly discuss anything they think is necessary or that the student needs help with. Also, the extra classes like Art, Drama, or Business would meet twice a week and mainly have projects due. Even if these ideas wouldn’t actually help our educational system, I still think it desperately needs some sort of makeover. We have come so far from the more classical approach to learning which involves individual attention and lessons adapted to the student’s abilities that I think the system has lost its true goal. Now, instead of offering students knowledge and broadening their points of view, schools try to occupy us, teach us discipline, and prepare us for college. I am not saying that these things are necessarily bad; I just think that they shouldn’t be such a huge goal. Anyway, after talking about all this stuff I’ve begun to see home schooling as an excellent, and maybe even superior, alternative to regular high school.


Wendy Sumner-Winter said...

This was so great! And I do think you're right about the need for more creative ways of teaching.

However, I can think of at least one reason why there is a sustained attention requirement: that's the way most of the rest of life is.
So, school is a training-ground for more than just academic life, but for "real life" as well. In school we learn how to navigate the world. This is, perhaps, more important, in some ways, than the academic objective (can you believe that's coming from ME?).

P.S. I'm planning on homeschooling my daughter.

Sarah Lord said...

Yay for homeschooling! I can tell you, it certainly has a lot of benefits that public schools don't. One of the things, and I think that my brothers agree with me on this, that you can get from it is learning how to learn things. That probably sounds silly, but let me explain. With a bunch of teachers talking to you all day, telling you exactly how everything is, it’s easy to just take their word for it. With homeschooling, my parents always really encouraged us to go look something up if we wanted to know about; given this, we all became very self-taught, which I think is a great thing to have going into the world. As for the attention span thing, I teachers should learn how to be interesting (like Wendy =D ), and they wouldn’t have the problem of boring their students to death in the course of an hour and a half.

Poon said...

I was homeschooled for two years. And I can definitely say I was more pleased with a more social education ! But yeah, Germantown Cops are pretty stupid. My friend J.J. just got done paying for a 260 dollar ticket!

Anonymous said...

especially when teachers lecture through the whole time span. freekin g boring teachers.

Erin Fehren said...

I agree with you, sitting through class (especially a drivers class because I have too which stinks). Although, at my high school we had block scheduling, so we had four classes a day, for an hour and a half. This was our "A" day. Then the next day we had our "B" day, with a different set of four classes.
I liked the alternating class days because it gave us longer to do homework, but teachers took that as a means to give us more homework since we had more time to do it. I don't think our education system will change that drastically, we will continue to stay in our long boring classes where we will all lose interest. Who knows, maybe it's just preparing us for real life, where we will want to lose interest but have to stay focused.

Wendy Sumner-Winter said...

P.S.S. Would you mind changing your font color? It's not showing up very well on my screen.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't go as far to say that I would prefer homeschooling. I do see the some advantages, because of the smaller atmosphere and focus on the actual education. But what about the social aspects that are left out? I recently came across a forum where a woman posted how awful homeschooling was. One woman replied to her and said, "Theres only 1 problem with that,our kids might not grow up to be christians being around all of those bad influences in public school. Only 1 way to cure that- homeschooling!" God forbid your child interact with others and form their own opinions. I know she's a small group of people who think that in a religious sense. I agree that our public school systems need makeovers though. And I REALLY like the idea of block scheduling. To each his own.