What would you change about your high school education?

This can be either something you would change about the curriculum, or about your actions in general in high school: you have carte blanche, regardless of actual feasibility.

Personally, I would change the history curriculum at my high school. We had a really cool team-taught Freshman Humanities program which won all sorts of awards – it was coordinated English and history, so that while you were learning about, say, the Renaissance, you’d be reading the literature of the period, as well as learning about the music and fine arts of the period. It was a great course – I wish I’d had something like it at the college level – but it completely ignored anything outside the U.S. and Western Europe. The American educational system is insular enough without leaving out the majority of continents. (We did have a World History class you could take instead, but that was considered an easy class – the Humanities program was considered more challenging and the only class suitable for college prep students. World History wasn’t even offered in the honors track. There was also a Humanities II for sophomores which covered Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and a Russian History class for juniors, but those were both electives – hardly anyone took them.)

Also, the Advanced Placement science program at my school required participants to devote 2 class periods a day to science, which inevitably meant something else (foreign language, arts, any other electives) would have to be left out. This essentially meant that kids who didn’t want to make science classes the primary focus of their day – like me, the humanities person who actually also liked science – were left out of the most challenging science classes.

And why the heck did they require Freshman Advisory? Boy, that was a waste of time – it was basically an entire class period devoted to how to adjust from middle school to high school. What a useless time sucker.

Gosh. What wouldn’t I change. Well, okay, the AP literature program–that kicked ass. But everything else…

For one thing, I wouldn’t have allowed them to put me in the two-year-accelerated math program. I had been doing fine in elementary school, but in sixth grade they threw me into algebra, and from then on, I basically kissed any desire to understand goodbye. I actually ended up re-taking the Junior year course in my Senior year, and I understood it! Joy! Yikes! Wow! And it helped a lot in college calculus, too.

Then, I would have taken the Freshman and Sophomore year history/literature block out of the hands of those raving (sorry, folks, it’s observational) liberals who didn’t give a crap if we knew who Henry VIII was and don’t even *ask * if he was ever married, and put it in the hands of teachers who did. Since I left high school I have run across the term “Age of Anxiety” exactly once; I’ve run across Henry VIII continuously. I think the Age of Anxiety six weeks were mis-spent. Sorry.

I would have had the AP Chemistry teacher get around to teaching equilibrium equations, because then not just I but everyone would have had a fighting chance on the AP Chem exam. As it was, we didn’t.

That covers the major areas. As I said, AP Lit was faboo. I don’t have problems with the way the foreign language classes were conducted, either.

I went to high school in rural northern Louisiana. The school was built and literally never updated from when it was built in 1923. We didn’t have air conditioning. We couldn’t wear shorts due to the conservative political atmosphere. It got so hot during August, September, October, April, and May that students tended to pass out. To fix this, the school instituted mandatory water breaks mid-way through each class. That meant that we would have class for 25 minutes, line up at the water fountain with other classes, drink water, and then return to finish class. We weren’t allowed to have water bottles.

I was the only student in my class that planned to go to college. State law mandated that the school offer two years of foreign language and there years of science for college-bound students. We didn’t have that. We only had Spanish I, chemistry, and environmental science. To remedy that I took Spanish I and then took Spanish I again, only they listed it as Spanish II on my transcript.

I took Chemistry, and then Chemistry again, only it was listed as Physics on my transcript (it was much easier the second time.)

During Christmas break my senior year, some gang members burned the school down. The entire school was gone except for the gym. The school quickly built partitions in the gym for classrooms but we missed the first three weeks of the second semester. We didn’t have books so other districts sent us their old ones. The problem was that there weren’t enough of the same books to supply a whole class in most cases so we just mixed and matched. When it wasn’t raining, the teachers just let us outside and we played games and just hung around until the year was out.

It sounds bad, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I went to a good college and an Ivy League graduate school and that is really all that you can ask.

I definitely could have benefited from some more “Life Skills” sorts of classes. I realize there are only so many hours in the day, but my high school was oddly tracked so that it was difficult for students who took mostly Honors classes (our school had a different name for those classes, but darned if I can remember what it was) to take certain courses such as business math, which would have been far more useful to me later in life.

There was a big push at my high school to take AP/college level classes, I wish I had resisted this. I went on to college, I now WORK in higher ed, and in hindsight, it would have made more sense for me to take college classes in, ya know, COLLEGE. Then I would have had time to take business math. One or two AP classes? That seems fine. But four or five? That’s nuts. It didn’t help me in college at all.

One thing that strikes me as hilarious is the “computer” classes I took in high school. I kid you not, they involved punchcards. I know it’s hard to predict the future and all, but I still feel like that was such a huge waste of time, especially since it was already clear to the teacher that punchcards were on the way out. In a very esoteric way, I think there is probably something to be gained from learning about the ol’ punchcards, because it does give you some sort of appreciation for the theory of information processing, but an entire year-long class devoted to this was way too much especially when there are so many other things a high school student should or could be learning. Like business math.

Can you tell I’m a little bitter about the business math thing? :wink:

I would’ve had a class to teach me to harness my mind-bending martial arts skills, in order to facilitate my eventual bid for world domination.


Nothing in particular about the school itself… I’d’ve just changed my interaction, both social and academic. Maybe if I had actually made a lasting friendship or two and did my work instead of sleeping in class, I’d be in a better place right now.


I got through Math Analysis in high school, got enough credit that I didn’t have to take math in college, and it took me nearly 10 years to figure out how to balance my checkbook.

Funny enough, I haven’t used a lick of Math Analysis. Formula to figure out the volume of a cone? Ha ha ha…

I really think there should be more of an emphasis on basic life skills on school. I don’t really think someone is ready for the world until they can:

Plan meals
Cook some of them
Balance checkbooks
Understand credit
Fill out job applications, and write resumes
File taxes

Knowing these things would set you up pretty well.

My dream scenario involves poaching college professors with freshman-friendly demeanors (ie, college profs who are good teachers, who engage their students) and throwing them in with high school freshmen. So many high school teachers are incompetent, and it’s always amazed me that the students who need the best teachers most either won’t see them until they’ve fought their impressionable years through HS, or won’t see them at all.

I’d also like to see mandatory critical-thinking classes, if only one semester or one year, that teach kids how to construct and evaluate arguments. We nodded at it in English, but no one seemed to grasp it.

Oh, and in my case, I’d love to see more pure philosophy in high schools, but that would be disastrous for most students.

Some of these things should be the responsibility of parents, IMHO. It’s called “bringing up your children”. :smiley:

When I was in seventh grade, I took final exams at the end of the school year. Then the superintendent listened to some “Schools Without Failure” guru and bought his brilliant idea that finals put too much emphasis on cramming in June, as opposed to learning (and being tested on) smaller amounts of material throughout the nine months classes were in session. So when I got to college, I was not prepared to take finals. I knew the material well enough – indeed, I knew so much of it that I often spent two hours of a three-hour exam session covering the first half (or less) of the topics to be addressed, then had to rush through the final hour and try to fit everything into my essays. Had I been taking finals through junior high and high school, I’d have been more efficient in writing them as a collegian.

The one thing I have always been pissed about is the fact that my school only offered French as a foreign language. Spanish would have been much more practical in the southern US. My teacher always pointed out that French was practical for use with French Canadiens but that was just hog wash. The dialect is so different that I was never able to use anything I learned in two years of French. Since then I have learned to speak broken Spanish and it is so very useful on a regular basis. All that freaking homework…mucho trabajo para nada.

A lot. I went to a really, really bad school in the DC area where students were passed just for behaving well - a lot of "Johnny can’t read"s came out of my high school. As a result, because I was too academically advanced, I was put into a night school/summer school course so I could graduate a year early and start college. I was already a year ahead, so that meant starting college at the age of 16. Which I was not emotionally prepared for, and the end result was a lot of wasted years (and I mean “wasted” in more ways than one, IYKWIM).

I think I would have been a lot better off graduating at a normal age from a decent school.

It was strongly advised in my high school to do the full Matriculation stream in year 12 (Matriculation, I believe, being the equivalent of the AP and ‘honours’ mentioned elsewhere). Doing the ‘normal’ classes like business math, typing and computing was very much discouraged if you had a chance of completing Matric instead.

We were told outright that our chances for employment were hugely impacted by whether or not we passed Matric. Much pressure, do you think?

Well, I passed Matric. I did not want to go to University as it’s hugely expensive and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to really do, career-wise, so it seemed a waste of money to study for the sake of studying. So instead, my folks decided to send me to Legal Secretarial College.

Where I learned to type. Use computers. Do bookkeeping. Everything I could have learned in High School had I not been doing Matric.

I never went to University. I discovered that - while I totally disliked Legal Secretarial work - I’m a very, very good Personal Assistant.

And never, not once in my career, has anyone ever asked to see my High School Certificate, or cared whether or not I did Matric.

Given the opportunity again, I would leave school at year 10, or 11 at most. I’d spend a year or two doing ‘fun’ classes (creative writing, arts, Religious Education, Classical and Mediaeval History - all that fun stuff) through community college, and then I’d join the workforce with the rest of my peers.

There’s no way I’d bother with the final years of high school. They taught me nothing except how to have a nervous breakdown at sixteen.

Amusingly, the word ‘Matriculation’ was removed from the high school system the very year after I matriculated. Not only a useless qualification, but one that ‘dated’ me as well.

I was pretty ok with most of it. The only things I’d change would be gettnig rid of the art requirement (not the classes, just the requirement. I took the one I would have wanted to take anyway (photography), but the rest just felt like a waste of time) and insisting that damnit, I was going to take auto maintenance regardless of how the guidance counselor thought it would look on my transcript instead of Chinese history.

I went to high school in northern Virginia in the late 70s. Except for one Algebra teacher, pretty much every faculty member I knew was a liberal Democrat, and they did palm their worldview off on me to a degree that I look back on now and find disturbing. I think schools should recruit faculty members who more closely reflect society at large.

That sounds like not just a bad idea, but a dangerously bad idea to me.

Who said 18-year-olds just out of high school were supposed to be ready for the world? I did have to take Home Economics in Jr. High, believe it or not. Complete waste of time. Necessary as these skills are, High School is not the place to teach them. The kids won’t listen because it doesn’t impact them immediately enough, and it’s not exactly a fascinating subject. Life experience or college are better places for that kind of stuff.

If I could change any one thing, it would actually be me. There were a few occasions where, if I’d realized that I was risking virtually nothing by doing so, I could have stood up to teachers who were doing something stupid. But I don’t think that’s what the OP is looking for. So I’ll say the teaching.

I had a couple of great teachers in High School. But I wish there had been more who were at least average. Or maybe average is a lot lower than I think it is. If so, I shudder- I took mostly advanced and honors and AP classes at a school in one of the top five districts in New York State, and plenty of my teachers stunk. Lack of enthusiasm was a problem for some, closed-mindedness for others, a total lack of knowledge sometimes, or even an apparent dislike for high school kids. This obviously sucked. Like administrators who are unnecessarily hardass and make big deals out of nothing, I suppose this is just part of High School and nothing can be done about it. If so, too bad.

[hijack]My roommates keep complaining that I never cook. When I get a recipe book, I’ll cook. I can cook just fine, I just need a recipe to work off of, unless they want macaroni or tacos every time I make supper.[/hijack]

I would make our school bigger. More students, more money. So we’d have stuff like music classes and choirs and extracurriculars besides sports and yearbook. And more French Immersion classes, so you’d have some chioce in what to take. And there would be enough French-Immersion teachers that the ones teaching Law and Global History and other such courses would actually have a clue what they were teaching. (Actually, that tranfers to the rest of the school too. I liked Poli-Sci, but my teacher had no idea what she was doing).

I’d also change some of the graduating requirements. Like Physically-Active-Lifestyles/Career-and-Life-Management. (PAL/CALM, both half-credit classes though taken in one cluster). PAL was a glorified gym class where we basically goofed off, and CALM was an equal waste of time.

I have often thought this. Like it or not, parents don’t teach this sort of stuff. My parents taught me nothing about money management except “don’t spend it”. Well that’s a great rule, but balancing a checkbook and budgeting knowledge would have been really nice!

For me it was the opposite…I hated high school social life. Everybody was so…petty. I graduated in three years as it was because of this, I wish I could have done it even sooner. I talk to none of my high school friends. Two years after we all went to college, my friends were complaining that college was just like high school. Well, duh. Most of you went to the same couple of colleges, what did you expect?

My biggest regret in high school was that I had a chance to go to Spain with my high school class. My parents forbade it…because my teacher was male. :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

While I detested my senior year for personal reasons (completely unrelated to cirriculum), my high school experience was for the most part a very, very good one.

We had college-level classes like anthropology and psychology and advanced physics and chemistry. The only thing I would change is my AP Calculus. I did really well, but only because our professor let us work in pairs with other students, even on our tests! Although I learned something about calc, my partner was the real math genius between the two of us, and also very controlling about how we did the problems. So, regardless of my desire to work on a problem, he did all the work anyway. So I would have chosen not to work in pairs for that class because I am positive I would have learned more.

Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing, except for deciding not to date the guy I did. We had a fabulous chemistry teacher who taught advanced chemistry and organic chemistry, and after school we’d all blow things up behind the building.

We also had long classes, which meant that many of our classes were 1.5 hours long. Although it was tough sitting through Eastern European History for an hour and a half, I think I learned lots more than I would have had we had shorter classes. Since the classes were so long, we alternated days for certain classes, so we had a Monday schedule different from Tuesday, different from Wednesday, etc. I felt the longer classes made me focus lots more on what I was studying than if I had had eight periods in one day instead of three or four.