How High School Fails, Yet Somehow Prevails

I hated high school. With a passion. The reasoning for this boils down to the area, the people, the school system, and other things that were specific to my high school experience and cannot be generalized across all high schools. Yet I still insist high school fails.

By my senior year of high school, I was coach of the school’s color guard, section leader of mallet percussion, participating in percussion ensemble as well as concert and marching band, totaling to about twelve hours of extra-curricular work. Despite all that, I had no problem keeping a 4.0 GPA taking the highest courses my school had to offer.

While I would love to say “I’m really just that awesome,” this is not the case. I learned that quickly when I came to university.

High school did not prepare me for university. Not in the least. Again, this could easily be construed as a situation specific to my hometown (and others like it). It could be that the school system simply catered to the average student for the area, and I was so far above that average that the system did nothing to help me, leaving me ill-prepared for university.

If that is the case, it is still a huge problem. The system should not need to significantly dumb itself down for the students. It should push the students to do better and work harder. A school system should not simply sweep failing grades under the rug (as mine did for the valedictorian).

However, I do not believe this is an isolated event. I think the problem is much larger.

In my interview on Monday, I mentioned how university was a shock for me because I actually had to work, and work hard. My interviewer wasn’t the least bit surprised by the discrepancy between the difficulty of university compared to high school. What’s more, he commented on how that gap is a serious problem across the country.

My interviewer, the tech lead of the investment company, had the opposite experience. He went to high school in a different country (I don’t know which) and found American university comparatively easy. While I don’t know what university he went to, either, I highly doubt it was a simple community college.

Certainly I’m not the only one noticing the red flag here. Between the insane education costs, poor teachers/professors/lecturers, and school systems that are incapable of preparing its students for life after high school, the US education system is failing, and failing hard. Things aren’t getting better.

I’ve not been to ever school system in the US, nor have I been to every university or experienced the gap between high school and university in every possible situation. I don’t have an intimate knowledge of the education systems used across the globe. All I know is that the US education system is seriously flawed, and the country is hurting because of it. (For those of you who want proof, I’ve two words: Jersey. Shore.)

As my friend Nath always says: In a perfect world…?

In a perfect world, students who are significantly above or below the average would have other options in high school (or earlier) that would not cost additional money. A student’s acceptance to and subsequent success in a college or university would not rely upon where they grew up. A student’s participation in secondary education would be based on his or her hard work and intellectual capacity, not the monetary funds he or she can present to the school. Education costs and low-income neighborhoods would not prevent brilliant kids from reaching their full potential.

The world isn’t perfect nor will it ever be. But I can dream, can’t I?


About Squishy

Writer, dancer, gamer, and admirer of all that is beautiful.

Posted on March 3, 2011, in Education and Work and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Ah, now this is a subject I’m well versed in. I hate to tell you, but Canada isn’t much better than America seems to be.

    In the 10th grade, I went to a great school. I was able to take a full compliment of advanced courses in preperation for IB (International Baccelaureate) in grades 11-12. It was engaging and challenging, a really great experience. But then I moved.

    My current school is painfully dissimilar to that one. The standards are dismally lower, and there’s very little for the smarter students. Hell, they don’t give a damn about you if you don’t play sports or music. The only challenging courses are a handful of AP (Advanced Placement) courses, compared to my old school’s complete IB program. The classes are much easier, and so unengaging that I find myself growing lazy. It’s almost painful in its execution.

    My only AP course, AP Calculus, seems to have some insight into university life. The work is much harder than anything else, and it comes at you much faster. I’m glad I’m getting to know it now, in a small dose, rather than getting slammed with it all at once. Plus, if Calculus is this hard now, it’ll be a cinch to take the same course next year.

    TL;DR, High school shafts the intellectuals.

    • I took AP Calculus as well. I was the last person still working on the exam. Though I still had time left, and though it’s technically “illegal” for him to do so, the guidance councilor looked directly at me and asked if I was done so everyone could leave early. I wasn’t done, but I couldn’t go back on my merry way struggling to answer calc problems now that the rest of the class was staring at me with the hope of being able to leave that dingy church basement.

      Of course, at my high school, you had to pay $200 to do any sport. Luckily, it was only $25 for music, so I lucked out by joining band.

      It’s really a shame you moved out of your original school district. If only more schools would wake up and start challenging their students to do better…

      • It really is a shame. As for costs, my experience with Student Council this year has taught me that those things get paid for out of our budget. The sports teams got $25 000, just over a QUARTER of our entire budget, with music taking a fair chunk of its own. Meanwhile, things like the Drama Club can barely get $100. As for academic groups, all there is is Math League and a ‘Debate Club’, which is really just a way to keep a group of stupid kids busy.

        At my old school, we had Reach for the Top (trivia competition), Youth Parliament (Model UN but with Canadian parliament instead), and a proper debate club. It’s taken all my effort to scrounge together a Reach team, and even then it’s a challenge to find viable members…The school system really is a failure.

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