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Embracing a new kind of education

By Mark Greenstein Founder, Ivy Bound Test Prep msg@ivybound.net
and Co-Founder of Kids Corner mark@kidscornerct.com
Republication permitted so long as name and contact info are displayed. 

Colleges are DESERVEDLY wagging the High School Dogs.  And high schools should embrace it. Colleges actually respond to market forces; public K-12 schools largely do not.  Colleges are imperfect, but when people across the globe seek out American Universities, you know colleges are doing enough right and high schools are wise to tailor curricula to what colleges seek among their students. 

Meanwhile:Some schools still teach cursive handwriting.  How useless.  Typing/programming would serve students better, in half the time.  Use the other half to learn library/research skills.

Many schools force students to take French, a nearly useless language for Americans.   Chinese, Spanish, or just plain doubling up on ENGLISH would better serve students.  French can be a beautiful elective, but don't foist it on 6th graders.

Were I in charge of a middle school curriculum, most students' eight courses (yes, eight just might keep Americans even with the Chinese and Indians) would include:
3 sciences
1 "Communication" (choice of English, Corporate English, or if proficient in both, a foreign language).  No foreign language until you can read, speak, and write English well.
1 Economics (starting with old-fashioned "Home Ec”, about pricing, credit cards, interest rates, avoiding scams, privacy) / Creative Thinking / Internet Proficiency
1 US History / Civics / Current Events
1 elective
1 Math, until proficient for the SAT.  Then a second elective.
Add Sports or Performing Arts two afternoons a week.  Sports or Arts prodigies can use 1/2 of an elective to push further.

Stop having students shuffle among classrooms.  5 minutes x 8 periods is over 3 hours a week wasted!  Stop lugging heavy textbooks.   Instead let students stay in their seats and have the teachers come to them.  Let students have 5 minutes, or even 10, to reflect on the prior 50 minutes of class time.  One Math/Sci room for the mornings, and one traditional classroom for the afternoons become the students’ only learning destinations.  They can set up an “office” with computers at each of their two classroom stations.  Students wanting to arrive early or stay late have those same two stations available 7am to 7pm.

Student “offices” are beautiful for collaboration.  Since two students would share two computers, one can leave notes about the morning’s classes for the other, who sits at the same spot for the afternoon.  These days, remote collaboration is more of a workplace reality than face-to-face partnering.

11 days every two weeks (a brilliant schedule that some Prep Schools invoke now) lets students finish in 36 weeks instead of the traditional 40.  This leaves a full extra month for enrichment, travel, fun, or relaxing.  Non-school opportunities abound – many of them on college campuses that welcome middle and high school students to summer programs.

Embracing what colleges offer and building oneself up to take advantage of these activities is wholesome for the individual student, and good for American society in a competitive world.    I encourage parents and students to view science catalogs of esteemed colleges and set goals for taking part down the road. 

Now, if only colleges would be more responsive to market forces and wean students away from “studies” programs that retard their progress.  But that’s for another article.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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