High school should be more like college

September 21, 2018

Education is conducted very differently in different parts of the United States. No two high schools or colleges are identical in the way that they facilitate their students’ learning. However, colleges and high schools have very similar missions.

Colleges generally give students the freedom to pursue the subject matters that interest them while also ensuring that they learn about some other disciplines. Meanwhile, high schools attempt to give students a background in many different fields, traditionally in the fields of social studies, math, English and science, with very little leeway in what sorts of classes the student can choose to take.

The jump in educational style between high school and college is a noticeable one, and I found myself forming a much closer relationship with my education after starting my work at Brandeis.

While it might seem that giving students so much freedom carries some risk, I would argue freedom is much more vital to the education and development of students than the rigid curricula provided in high school.

There are some skills that are necessary for life beyond education, such as basic math skills and important writing techniques. These skills should be learned throughout middle school and high school and there should be no leeway in regard to these vital skills. However, the rest of high school should be taught the same way that college is taught: Through a student’s own decision-making.

In theory, a high school’s purpose is to help a student figure out what she wants. The set system is to give each student a sampling of influential disciplines. However, the same sampling can be achieved through a much less pre-choreographed educational experience. There is no system that, when applied universally, will help every student flourish.

That is why education needs to be a communicative process. High school is a clear place to start communicating with students because it is the point at which children’s development begins accelerating. Allowing students the freedom to make decisions about what they learn is something that would be particularly helpful to children at a time when they are finding their own identity.

The freedom I describe should not be mistaken for neglect. An important part of the college experience is guidance and this should be mirrored in the way that students go through high school. I remember not getting very personalized guidance, especially because the subject that I was passionate about was not taught at my school. Meanwhile, the number of people with whom I could talk about my career and life has become much larger in college.

I am very happy that I have so many resources now, but I do regret not having them back when I needed them most. I had felt lost as I was not stimulated by any of the subject matters I was being told to learn and all the guidance counselors could only recommend whether or not I should try an advanced placement course. If high school provided guidance to its students like college has, students who do not find their passion in the subjects that high school exposes them to will be given a better understanding of steps that they should take in their careers.

College’s hands-on guidance and course selection are what have made it an enjoyable experience for me and almost any high school student’s learning experience would certainly benefit from the same luxuries.

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