Teenagers want more thought control

The NYT reports on a recent survey that found most high school students aren’t being stretched enough. I’m not sure how accurate this survey is, but its findings are encouraging in that high school students want more of a challenge, responding, “they would work harder if courses were more demanding or interesting.” I see a couple of alternate ways to read this that are less positive. First, the word “interesting” gives the students a lot of weasel room. Who knows what the respondents mean by “interesting”? It may be that to a large majority of them a class is only interesting if they get to watch movies or read comic books all day. My suspicion is if the question asked if the students would work harder if the classes were just more demanding that fewer respondents would answer in the affirmative. Second, this is a survey with no real ramifications for the students. I’m sure it feels good for them to answer they would work harder if they were required to, but they would probably balk at the idea of actually doing more work.

The survey also found that fewer than two-thirds thought that “their school had done a good job challenging them academically or preparing them for college.” This is probably pretty accurate, and I feel fortunate to say that I would have been in the minority with this question. I thought my high school did a superb job of preparing me for college, and I know many of my friends felt the same. Those who dropped out or are considering dropping out gave interesting reasons that are in sync with the rest of the survey’s findings:

. . . only about one in nine cited “school work too hard” as a reason for not remaining through graduation. The greatest percentage of those who are leaving, 36 percent, said they were “not learning anything,” while 24 percent said, “I hate my school.”

I thought this was interesting too:

Mr. Tucker said American schools had been too slow to adapt high school curriculums to the real-life demands of college and the workplace. Except for that small fraction of highly motivated students with an eye toward prestigious private colleges and state universities, many more students, he said, are under the impression that just having a diploma qualifies them for the rigors of college and the workplace.

American schools are slow to adapt, eh? Can’t adjust to the work place fast enough? They just can’t keep up with the job market? Hmmm, what does adjust quickly and is more flexible than monolithic bureaucracies? Private businesses. Oh, but that’s just too silly to work isn’t it?

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