Immediately on reading the New York Times article High Schools to Offer Plan to Graduate 2 Years Early (2/17/10) I was ambivalent about this type of plan. As someone who had perhaps an unusual high school education, I like the idea of options, but on the other hand this plan sounds like it could be too constricting for many students. It calls for all students to take exams in their sophomore year, and then immediately go to community college, elite college prep, or remedial courses. This is much more in keeping with foreign systems, which seems to be an argument in its favor to proponents.
“School systems like Singapore’s promise students that if they diligently study the material in their course syllabuses, they will do well on their examinations,” says an educational consultant interviewed for the article. He goes on to say that students in the US often do not know where their efforts are best put.
Leaving aside concerns about teaching to the test that is already a problem, I see some problems with this attitude. Students who have come to the US to study often tell me that they admire the freedom US students have to pursue an academic path–and to change their minds when necessary. In many countries one’s educational path is set at 16, and it takes a lot of ambition to change this later on. It’s good to know which courses you’ll need to do well in a career for sure, but as we all know, not being able to become an auror because of a vindictive Potions master is overly punitive.
No matter what, I do like the idea of being able to leave school and do something more challenging or relevant at the age of 16 without having a stigma attached. I considered starting community college at the age of 16 myself–I took the placement test, but then decided that what I was doing was working so well for me that there was no need to change just then. Plus I did have my heart set on a very traditional college experience. But for many people, high school does not have to take 4 years, and college does not have to come immediately after.
And (of course) this ties into libraries. Libraries provide, above all, educational experiences which are self-directed and unique to each person. They can begin and end as appropriate to each learner, hopefully with guidance from a librarian. (There is also that other Library in the Series of Tubes, but I won’t address that and related caveats right now).