Let’s give adolescents a chance to grow up, writes Ted Kolderie of the Center for Policy Studies in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Adolescence “infantilizes” young people, he writes, citing psychologist Robert Epstein, author of Teen 2.0, on adolescent stupidity.
Deny them serious responsibilities, keep them out of real work, give them virtually no contact with adults, tell them they have no function except to be schooled (and marketed to): Why wouldn’t they behave as they do?
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High schools are filled with disengaged students, writes Kolderie. “Though not everyone’s aptitudes are verbal/conceptual/abstract, today only academic success is rewarded.” There are few vocational schools or opportunities to learn from experience.
Young people can do amazing things when they’re challenged, he writes. “In his history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda writes that by late summer 1940, more and more of those flying the British Spitfires and Hurricanes were, in our terms, high school seniors.”
How could we tap the talents of the young?
We’d begin by changing school to let young people advance as fast and as far as their efforts and abilities will take them, in every field.
In traditional school, students are sorted by age and “instructed” as a group. Most students move a grade a year, however much (or little) they’ve learned.
If learning were personalized, those who needed more time would get more time and would learn more. Those who could go faster would go faster and would learn more.
. . . Finland, much praised for its students’ success, ends compulsory education at 16. Students move to “upper secondary,” almost half of these into vocational school that leads on to postsecondary “polytechnics.”
A competency-based system would let young people “test out” of conventional schooling, Kolderie suggests. Some might start college early. (“Dual enrollment” in college classes is a growing trend for high school students.) Others might start learning a job, like young Finns.