Friday, April 13, 2007

Abolish Highschool

I read an article in Education Week calling for changes to how teenagers are treated in society.
although it’s efficient to cram all apparently essential knowledge into the first two decades of life, the main thing we teach most students with this approach is to hate school. In today’s fast-paced world, education needs to be spread out over a lifetime, and the main thing we need to teach our young people is to love the process of learning.

...Are young people really inherently incompetent and irresponsible? The research I conducted with my colleague Diane Dumas suggests that teenagers are as competent as adults across a wide range of adult abilities, and other research has long shown that they are actually superior to adults on tests of memory, intelligence, and perception. The assertion that teenagers have an “immature” brain that necessarily causes turmoil is completely invalidated when we look at anthropological research from around the world. Anthropologists have identified more than 100 contemporary societies in which teenage turmoil is completely absent; most of these societies don’t even have terms for adolescence. Even more compelling, long-term anthropological studies initiated at Harvard in the 1980s show that teenage turmoil begins to appear in societies within a few years after those societies adopt Western schooling practices and are exposed to Western media. Finally, a wealth of data shows that when young people are given meaningful responsibility and meaningful contact with adults, they quickly rise to the challenge, and their “inner adult” emerges.

...We produce such turmoil by infantilizing our young and isolating them from adults. Modern schooling and restrictions on youth labor are remnants of the Industrial Revolution that are no longer appropriate for today’s world; the exploitative factories are long gone, and we have the ability now to provide mass education on an individual basis.

Teenagers are inherently highly capable young adults; to undo the damage we have done, we need to establish competency-based systems that give these young people opportunities and incentives to join the adult world as rapidly as possible.
Making the assumption that the research is true, I have two reactions to this.
  1. This is appealing because
    1. It's a pretty strong case for homeschooling, or in the worst case, ensuring that the schooling that your teen receives is introducing them to adulthood instead of confining them in childhood.
    2. It seems to agree with Love & Logic which suggests that parental control needs to steadily decrease throughout the entire child's life and be replaced with an expectation of adult behavior.  Most people do it exactly the opposite, too little control for infants and toddlers and increasing control as the desire for independance grows.
    3. It appeals to my distrust of government provided education and of government provision in general.
  2. But it's also unappealing because I don't want to introduce my children to adult issues before it's time.  This author is arguing that the time is earlier than we think.  My immediate reaction is that we already push our kids into adulthood too early as it is, although I don't really have any supporting data that comes to mind for why I think this.
I think I'm going to purchase the book and read it.  I don't have a teenager but it's only a few years away.  This is the kind of thing that I want to mull over for a while before I decide whether or not I want to try and integrate it into my parenting.

1 comment:

Jimazing said...

Intriguing. I would like to know what you think of the book.

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