Compulsory high school education began in the Interim period in the US. There were high schools before that, paid for by public funds, but they were mostly only used by the wealthy and those who valued education. Only a small fraction of the population could afford to have their teenagers spend their days learning rather than trying to help support the family. In this way, they ended up in two different tracks in society. Of course, there were many who never went to high school but did some amazing things in their lifetimes and there were plenty who went to high school who didn’t do very much. But the class system was there.
Today, every child has access to high school paid for by public funds. Of course, the irony is that there is still a complete class system. Those who have money and those who are willing to go into debt because they believe in education send their kids to private schools. I’ve been looking at high schools that cost $28K+. ::gasp:: In places like Santa Monica, there are 22 private schools and 1 (yes one) public one. Needless to say, Samo services a very different segment of the population than the private schools.
Have we equalized the system? Not even close. Then you have No Child Left Behind which regulates the public schools (but not the private ones). Interestingly, most elected officials send their kids to private schools so they don’t even feel the effects of this. Accidentally, as a part of my research, i’ve been watching what all of these standards do to our kids. They are not learning to write because standards only test things that can be measured in checkboxes. A lot of what they learn assumes they are middle class and heading to college and most of it is set up by college professors who have an unrealistic understanding of what non-college-bound youth need. Teachers have no time to actually dive deeply and help kids learn to think – they have to force data down their throats. It’s so depressing and we’re going to be worse off in the long run because of it.
Of course, we all like to kid ourselves into thinking that high school is about education. For the non-college bound, it doesn’t prepare them at all for the service jobs that most of them are going to be stuck doing. What it does measure is that they are able to show up on a schedule and follow rules. A diploma is a stamp of obedience to authority.
Of course, every teacher hopes to help their kids get into college. What about the kids who could never afford it? And frankly, not all students are meant to go to college… or at least, there are not enough jobs that are supposedly gained post-college. And unfortunately, working class notions of success are gone.
Gah, it’s a depressing picture to spend too much time in schools. I’m in awe of the teachers in this country who can maintain hope and dedication in the face of grim realities.