Friday, January 21, 2011

School Doesn't Have to Be a Race to Nowhere

Race to Nowhere is a documentary created to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens. The movie website has a few trailers and the Op Ed piece below from the New York Times. The piece focuses on the stress that comes with AP courses and also reveals a secret I was unaware of. In the past, the idea of AP courses in part was to provide student with college credit. At some point this changed. You see if high schools give students college credit for free they're stealing dollars from the colleges. Now it's just pull your hair out stress that results in an $84 per student profit for the testing companies. It ultimately has become a gatekeeper to many universities rather than its initial intent to give students higher level material and college credit.

Interestingly, when I was in high school I took International Baccalaureate classes. There was some opportunity for college credit but it was not equivalent to the amount of work required. I realized in my junior year, that this stress was kind of a dumb waste of time. Instead of taking high school classes to prepare me for college, why not just go to college??? The only issue was I wasn't old enough to drive. Somehow my mom got a waiver so I could have a license at 15 and off I went! I took the regular classes in high school, just so I could get my diploma, but each day, I left high school and drove on over to college to "take college level classes" and get real college credit. I did this in the summers too. This is why I ultimately graduated college at 19. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life...but that's another post :-)

The big idea for parents and students is this:
Stop preparing your kids for college. Let them take those classes now. In fact, take a lesson from the unschool/homeschool/free school community and let your child take the GED whenever s/he may be ready and let them just move past high school if they're ready and hop into college. Online options also open up new possibilities. In short, take ownership of your learning. Don't follow the herd. Think outside the box and if you have a child that may be ready for college-level classes, sign em up!

Oh..and don't believe the BS that age mixing is an issue. I heard that sooo often before my first day of school and was a bit nervous because I was a young looking 15. It wasn't a problem. I was younger, sure, but age didn't matter when it came to learning a topic of interest.

And, now to the New York Times Op Ed piece.

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