top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

What's the purpose of high school?

Teaching "self-sufficiency and competence" should be the goal of high school -- not merely college prep -- writes Selim Tlili, a biology teacher, on the Heterodox site. He writes at Selim's Thought Space.

"This fetishizing of college has degraded the potential educational value of high school and, indirectly, college as well," he writes. Many students "see high school as something that they need to 'get through' to get to the only education that 'counts'.”

All students, including the academically unprepared, are told to go to college, writes Tlili. Most "are primarily interested in the college experience and signal of the degree, rather than actual learning." That encourages colleges to reduce academic rigor.

Students who've slid through school without working very hard or learning very much do not magically turn into learners in college. They have trouble training for skilled jobs too.

Abram Lewis, a high school junior, has completed an associate degree and will finish a bachelor's from Purdue Northwest by his 2024 graduation from 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Indiana.

Tlili suggests high schools offer more hands-on, project-based and practical classes, including an optional senior project that would serve as "a modern-day apprenticeship." For example, seniors could train as an EMT or a bookkeeper, he writes. "This would mean that college freshmen would enter college with some basic applicable skill (and maybe some understanding of debt), and students who are not currently college-bound would graduate with an entry-level skill that could set them up for work right away."

High schools can get first-generation students to college degrees -- before they graduate, says Kevin Teasley, whose Greater Educational Opportunities (GEO) Foundation runs charter schools in Indiana and Louisiana that enroll low-income, minority students.

Once they pass college-entrance exams, GEO students take classes at community colleges and universities, Teasley tells Rick Hess. High school teachers and counselors track their progress. Students "learn time management, self-discipline, as well as how to work with others who are different from them. They learn how to navigate the college campus, the registrar’s office, college professors, and more."

Some have graduated from high school with associate degrees or career certificates, and a few with bachelor's degrees.

213 views18 comments
bottom of page