Learning How To Human in High School
US public high school curriculum just isn’t cutting it anymore. For the majority of students, academic based public school has become a farm feeder for sheep-breeding, money-making university or prison, one or the other. But there are options out there. Alternative schools should be revered as an alternative to the main stream, not a punishment or lifestyle downgrade. In music, “alternative” music isn’t a negative term. It’s a lateral term, it’s a neutral term. More “oh, this is different than the norm,” than “this is bad” or “this is unacceptable, this needs to be fixed, this is below average, this is dumb, this is special needs.” We have attached positive and negative to the word “alternative” based on the sector of society and in education, alternative means bad.
The troublesome/misunderstood kids that you wan to “put into” catholic school, private school, clinics, alternative school – those are precisely the kids that shouldn’t be put in those schools. Those are the kids that need the freedom to direct what they want to do. If they are a danger to society that’s different, but we’re not talking about that. This article is going to focus on tech or vocational schools, but the concept can be applied to all the above alternatives to academic high school. Keep in mind, we are in a suburban context here. Options like CAPA in Philly and the “Fame school” in NYC are not considered for the purpose of this article.
Kind of Like Montessori
I think what I am proposing is similar to Montessori, but we need that same platform in public high school too. We need a mirror to tech school. We need “business” high school. We need “art” high school. We need “insert subject here” high school. Why is the only alternative a blue-collar tech school? Why can’t there be a white-collar tech school?
Let’s rebrand it. Let’s redefine what it means to attend a tech school. I mean, tech school has cooking for god sakes. Chefs are some of the most revered artists in the world. Why is that in tech school? In our society, there are other non-academic, prestigious careers like cooking, but they are not in tech school. They are only in college/university.
So we have traditional academic high school, which is like history plus STEM/STEAM, which is what the US system has been for centuries. But tech school is the opposite of that. Traditionally blue collar services. I think it should just plain services, especially in our post-covid world. Main academia is not considered “services.” Tech school are “services.” Services that “anyone” can do. But in the mass media the word tech is revered right? It describes the billionaire club, Mark Zuckerberg-types, tech startups, and big IT companies. Information technology. That is what tech means outside of K-12.
We should to turn high school into:
1 of 2) Half of what high school is today, which is: socialization, life skills, community building, self-awareness, self expression, self understanding, learning about the world, learning about being human. Also basic history and subjects necessary to comprehend our society, but most of those fall into the former sentence. We need science to understand the physical world, math to understand money and counting, and history to understand how we got here. But we also need to bring home ec, health, finance, and other basic human skills further into the classroom. That’s what high school should be. How do we currently learn how to be a human? From parents or families who won’t know either? LOL. Half of the high-school day should be learning to be a human. I even wrote a song about it.
2 of 2) During the other half, students get to explore what they are innately drawn to. They can elect what to put their attention on. Learn a technology. Learn an art. Learn more history. Allow students to apprentice in whatever they are drawn to. That should be where children look into, discover and figure out what is actually out there in the world. That is how you should figure out your major. Not flip through a catalog and choose it before you even try it on.
The kids in tech school, although those jobs are not as revered or financially beneficial, they at least know what they can get. They know what they’re doing. They know the path they can take. Most kids don’t go to tech school, so they don’t get a sense of security that tech school students do. But then on the flipside, kids that go to tech school don’t get that financial comfort or respect. Grass is always greener, but it can be green on both sides.
Turn high school into half learning to be a human, half occupation/vocation discovery. Apprenticeship and self and world discovery. Stop forcing children to decide what they’re doing with their entire life when their life just began.