Design the ideal secondary ed curriculum

What if we stop teaching poetry? brought up some interesting questions on the role of education in today’s society. So, what is the purpose of secondary education? What should the goals of middle school and high school be? What is the best way to implement those goals?

What should be added to the curriculum, and what could be dropped? What should be changed and how?

I’ll chime in after I think about it for a while.

Aside from my beliefs about poetry, my ideal system would end at grade 10 when students are approaching 16 years of age. At this point they should have some ability to decide their future for themselves.

The next two years would follow what in Quebec is called CEJEP, I think, although this starts after highschool. The program would mimic the first two years of university, but in a highschool setting, OR two years of vocational/skills training. The trick here is that its publicly funded, but runs more on a university system allowing students freedome and flexability. By 19 they would be ready to either go on to university, or to enter the work force. OR they’d still have the time to go through the other 2 year stream that they missed. I think in the US this is refered to as Jr College, in Ontario it was Grade 13 (which just got cancelled).

I think we can safely say that the last two years of highschool are waste. We have yet to agree if the point is to teach skills or to produce well rounded individuals.

The beauty of my system is that it gives students the ability to make their own choices, even though they’ll most likely make the wrong one. But in this case, they make that mistake earlier in life, and have the availability to go back through the OTHER 2 year program.

I think all too often students after graduating are forced one way or another and are left with regret at too old an age. I hate the fact that I was set on a default path of higher learning only to finish graduate school wishing I had gone to community college.

I have to admit though, that I struggle with two possibilities: in one case a student decides a life, i.e. science, and his program gears him for a life of science. Sure he’s a better scientist, but not a better person. On the other had, if a student chose science as their track, the program would drill them with arts such that they get no science until university thus producing a much better person AND scientist. (visa versa if you choose arts)

The first step isn’t designing the curriculum. We first need to downsize the schools. Having several hundred kids per class is a pretty sure-fire way for people to get lost in the shuffle and increase the power of cliques. Have some magnet schools within the huge buildings. Better yet, convert the schools to apartments and build less prisony-looking buildings for education.

Oh, and teach Latin.

And go year-round, but with short terms and frequent breaks.

And support the arts!

Slash athletic budgets!!

(I’m beginning to rant…)

Some scattered thoughts. I may post more later if I have time.

– I believe the main purpose of a school is to teach students how to think rather than what to think. To this end, I think we should expose students to as broad a range of subjects and ideas as possible, make it clear that they don’t have to like everything but should at least be able to explain why they don’t like things in a coherent and intelligent way, and encourage questioning and critical thinking at every turn.

– I’d like to see less of a divide between school and the outside world – more members of the community invited as guest speakers; course credit for jobs, internships, and volunteer work; more opportunities for students to visit museums, performing arts events, and what-have-you. Too often, it seems like the purpose of those school walls is to keep students in and everybody else OUT, and that often means students don’t perceive any connection between what they’re learning and anything else in life.

– I also wish there were a more personalized system with smaller classes, corridors that don’t feel like a cattle drive, and teachers and administrators who know when students are being bullied (emotionally as well as physically) and do something about it. You cannot learn in a situation where you are not treated as a human being.

Latin is already an option as a foreign language at many schools.

The primary aim of any educational system is to create people who understand how to function in society once they get out.

I would propose that for two hours a day, high school students in all grades embark on an exercise in “virtual reality”:

Each student upon beginning participation in the simulation, decides whether or not they hold a college degree. They must then function in a simulated but realistically conceived local economy, with commercial and service sectors, businesses and organizations, politicians, the whole works. They take out loans, make major purchases, start businesses, run for office, etc. Anything not actually run by a student is modeled by real-world statistical data and fact sources. The time frame can be compressed to fit feasably into the school year. You continue participating in the simulation until you graduate. You look at your lot in your pretend life, decide if real-world college is for you, and organize the schedule of the rest of your classes accordingly.

In addition, despite whatever grades you get in other subjects, you do not receive a diploma until you present proof of voter registration, and pass the same test US immigrants must pass in order to become citizens. You are of course welcome, after age 16, to drop out if you choose.

“Rule of Four” for secondary students (age 14-18):
-Four years of English (emphasis on grammar, reading & writing);
-Four years of natural sciences (physical science or bio, chem, physics or geology);
-Four years of mathematics (algebra, geometrey, trignometrey, calculus);
-Four years of a foreign language: (Spanish, German, French, or Latin);
-Four years of the following: (U.S. History; world history; geography; governement; world religion or rhetoric).
-Four years of electives: psychology, sociology, economics, accounting, computer science, journalism, autoshop, etc.;
-Four years of physical education.