With California’s economy in disarray, it appears our State has no alternative than to cut back on expenditures for education. We will need to increase the number of students per class, lay-off well-qualified teachers, and delay the purchase of new equipment and texts indefinitely. Or will we?
What if we were to eliminate one year of high school? Long ago in a distant land, my classmates and I completed our elementary and secondary education in eleven, not twelve years.
Despite the seemingly foreshortened duration of our education, the breadth of our knowledge far exceeded that of the typical graduate of a California High School. We studied 17th Century European History and understood the reasons underlying the amendments to the United States Constitution. We were aware that Columbus already knew the Earth was round and had studied the economic factors underlying the American Revolution. (We also knew the names of many now forgotten cour de bois along with those of the scoring leaders in the NHL.)
We took shop with the result that I am still able to do electrical installations in my home, can change a flat tire, and can even change my rotor and condenser (if only there were such things). Alas, though our nation is in desperate need of mechanics of all sorts, California schools have abandoned their shop programs.
I must admit that in high school I was a B student at best. I spent much of my classroom time indulging in fantasy, counting the minutes till recess, barely enduing the moments that elapsed between lunch and the hour classes were over for the day. If I’d had to attend High School for yet another year, I’d of dropped out for sure. Decades later, in a year spent as a substitute teacher in California schools, I became aware of how many students already have mentally departed.
The 12th year of high school serves no useful purpose or California’s Community Colleges would not demand that all entering students complete a year of general educational requirements. Eliminating the 12th year would free up many teachers for service in the lower grades. It would permit sexually-active and would-be sexually-active young adults to live as the adults they were meant and want to be and not as the kids they no longer are.
But are all students equally ready to progress to adulthood? To facilitate the transition to the 11-year system, I propose we continue with a 12th year for a short period. A High-School Leaving examination will be given at the end of the 11th year. If students pass, they can bid their childhood farewell. If they fail, they must undergo yet another year of incarceration.
The result? When studying can yield freedom, those students who today sit sullen and apathetic (if not stoned) in high school classrooms, will bury their noses in books..
Will there be jobs for the increased numbers of departing students, openings at Community Colleges or the government sponsored trade schools we need so desperately? I have some solutions, but these form the basis of quite another column.