Mr. Andy Smith
27 April 2009
Life’s Necessities: Food, Water, Oxygen, Shelter, and High School
It is customary for students to proceed from elementary school, on to junior high, and finally high school before they are able to graduate. But have you ever wondered the true purpose of high school? Behind all the exams, homework, and deadlines, why do we all have to go and what is the point? High school forms the foundation of maturity for every teenager—the time in which you get your driver’s license, play varsity sports, or become president of a school club. Despite author and school administrator Leon Botstein’s opinion that America needs to discontinue high schools in his essay “Let Teenagers Try Adulthood,” high school creates the core of teenage life experience, an essential part of growing up. In high school, students find their own individuality and place, and without it, society would suffer.
Some cases such as MTV’s Laguna Beach and Fox’s The O.C., show the superficial and clique-infested hallways of television’s version of “real high school.” Yes, it is entertaining to sit back and observe these teenagers blindly explore the social world and drama of television’s version of high school, but in all reality, these television dramas do not accurately portray true American high schools. Some people believe that high school is a germ pool of popularity contests and varsity sports, yet these believers themselves have not experienced high school with an open and welcoming mindset. Botstein has the same way of thinking when he writes, “Insiders hold sway because of superficial definitions of good looks and attractiveness, popularity, and sports prowess” (139). The hurtful assumption that high school exists for only the social elites and athletic persons is a sham. Those who are against high school may have been social outcasts or perhaps just unwilling to get involved during their high school days. Yet every single high school in the United States offers some sort of extracurricular activity and numerous and varied organizations that beg students to get involved. It is the student’s attitude and effort that determines his or her success in high school, whether it be socially or academically.
High school is not solely about education, but is also about social experience. American high schools are places in which teenagers are tested to find their own path and adventure. There is no handbook on high school. It is all about starting something new and real and finding your own unique individuality. Botstein again gives high schools a negative vibe. He alleges, “Individuality and dissent are discouraged” (140). Of course, high school administrators have rules in order to keep students from chaos, but the whole experience of high school is to find yourself and express your own individuality. High school molds young teenagers into young adults because they are faced with new responsibilities, like schoolwork, friends, family, athletics, clubs, and other after-school activities. These responsibilities help to mature teenagers and prepare them with necessary information and skills to use after graduation. High school and high school activities also help with leadership and accepting a role with responsibility and fulfilling that role successfully. High school prepares students for the start of the “real world” and life after high school. College has many responsibilities that high school prepares them for. For example, waking up and getting to class on time, getting assignments finished, and just overall earning the desired grade. High school is the place for opportunity and learning as well as a place to figure yourself out before entering the “real world,” where your decisions have a great impact on your life. Therefore, high school not only trains students for life beyond school but also gives them a greater chance of success with numerous social and academic activities.
Botstein’s solution to abolishing all high schools is to extend elementary school until the sixth grade and then secondary education will continue until graduation at the young age of sixteen. His solution is more like the start of a disaster. Today, a little less than half of college students will leave higher education without receiving a degree and seventy five percent of these students will leave in their first two years of college. Most students drop out because of failing grades due to excess partying or simply because they are not prepared for the intensity of college. In other words, maybe Botstein is right in the sense that high schools may not entirely prepare students for college, considering that some students need to drop out because of failing grades. But, the solution for this is not to lower the age in which students graduate from high school even more. There is a strong truth in Botstein’s opinion that “young people today mature substantially earlier in the late 20th century than they did when the high school was invented” (140). Yet, college is a new way of life with new choices and freedoms and is not a place for sixteen-year-olds. Not only does this young graduation age propose problems for new, unprepared college students, but also creates extreme pressures at a younger age. It is very common for the majority of students to be exposed to drugs, sex, and alcohol in college. We have enough problems with underage sex and drinking in America. This new graduation age will only lead to these pressures at an earlier age. All in all, there is an overwhelming amount of cons to Botstein’s proposed solution for abolishing high school. Not only will graduating at sixteen bring on the pressures of drugs, sex, and alcohol at an earlier age, but it will also lead to unprepared and immature college students.
Botstein attempts to bring high school down with ugly assumptions and bitter ideas. No matter what the situation may be, all educational programs want their students to succeed. High school is a place of new beginning, experience, and opportunity. It is not every day that students are able to attend football games and socially connect with others in the bleachers. Students even have the opportunity to run for student government president. You become socially involved, and even if you do not win you still learn from the experience and better yourself from it. Botstein is really missing the point with his essay; by abolishing high schools, we do not just abolish the educational program. We also erase the educational and social experiences that students need to mature and prepare themselves for life outside of high school.
Botstein, Leon. “Let Teenagers Try Adulthood.” Reading Culture: Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing. 6th ed. Ed. Diana George and John Trimbur. New York: Pearson: Longman, 2007. 139-141