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Let Teenagers Try Adulthood by Leon Botstein: Are High Schools Ineffective?

By moira32123 Dec 04, 2008 1088 Words
Jessica Matthews
English 104
October 24, 2008
Mrs. M Howe
Are High Schools Ineffective?
A Response to Leon Botstein
All people have a horror story, a story that they don’t want to have retold and sometimes never want to think or hear about again. Most of these stories deal with a time period in a school setting and most of those are about something that happened to them in high school. These stories are why most students are not suited for a high school environment the way it is situated now but they have to deal with it until something is done to change things. Leon Botstein explained most of this from his perspective as the President of Bard College and as the author of Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture. The article called “Let Teenagers Try Adulthood” first appeared in the Op/Ed section of the New York Times in 1999 after the Littleton (Columbine) shootings. Botstein writes that the categories of insiders and outsiders that are so popular in today’s high schools are shaped the way they are because there are damaging cliques that hold sway because of superficial definitions of attractiveness, popularity, and sports prowess. He points out that when student’s graduate high school and go on to college they finally understand what opportunities they missed and how much time is lost (21). Botstein writes that high schools as they are now are obsolete because they were made as a place to help young adults mature but that is not happening anymore because they grow up faster now than they did when high schools were made. Botstein points out that adults should realize that just because they don’t like dealing with young adults doesn’t meant adults should isolate teenagers that are growing up physically and hormonally in a high school setting to hide them from the real world. Given the poor quality of teachers and school administrators, who are more often chosen because they were coaches before, this means that when teenagers have trouble at school they are not qualified to help. Botstein says that there should be the traditional elementary education and after that there should be four years of secondary education. After this students should either go to college or start a specialized education.

High schools are supposed to be a place of learning for the young to grow up and enjoy getting an education but that is something that has not happened in a lot of places in the country. Schools should not be a place where teenagers are shoved into the same building for hours at a time, for too many days, months and years. Teenagers are then secluded even further into groups that are very damaging to their social and educational growth. The worst cliques are sadly some of the most exploited by themselves, school administrators, and the community because they are the ones thought to be beautiful or have a distinct sports prowess. These students are the ones that are treated like they can do no wrong and are above the rest of the other students by the coaches and teachers. Students in a high school are treated like high school is the only place that matters, so that most students are not ready for the reality of life after high school. This is from my experiences watching my former classmates come back from college after quitting. Most don’t make it until the end of a full year and there are some that do not make it until the end of a semester. College is such a different place from a high school environment that the students cannot deal so they just want to go back to the way it was. Unfortunately there are also students that just goofed off in school so when they start the process of getting into college they find that they either do not have the credits they need to get into the college they want or that they are behind in the application process and have missed the deadline for their program. This is another fallback from high school where the deadlines for things were always negotiable and most of the things missed could be retaken.

There are also the parts of college that shock those coming high school environments. For one thing, you come in a freshman and therefore are not even a worth the attention of hardly anyone not in your classes. The more students that are in your college the more students there who are just as good as you can do. Just because you were the best at something in high school definitely doesn’t mean that you will be in college. Even grades fall into this, just because you were the smartest in your school doesn’t mean that you will be the smartest now. Professors in college do not cater to their student’s wishes so if you miss a test or quiz without a very good reason, like a death in the family or yourself being deathly ill then there is a definite possibility that your grade on that is going to be a zero. Also homework is something that more than likely will not be accepted after the date it was due unless the reasons fall into the categories above. The things that this article brought out for discussion were many of the things that have came to my mind when I was going to school in an actual High School and when I was homeschooled. There were some things that were not fully explained by Botstein, either because he did not want to detract from the points that he wanted to make, or because he doesn’t support keeping high schools, or just because he truly forgot to try to support the other side of the story. High schools are sometimes a detriment to a student’s education and that is why students do not benefit from an extended stay in a high school environment. . I think that most people would be surprised at how well most teenagers would do if given the chance to excel in a place that didn’t focus on looks or sports prowess as the major factors in living through a school experience.

Work Cited
Botstein, Leon. “Let Teenagers Try Adulthood” New York Times 17 May 1999, Op-Ed. Rpt. In “Additional Readings.” The Little, Brown Compact Handbook with Exercises. Jane E. Aaron. 6th ed. New York: Longman, 2007

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