Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Want to Go to High School Today!

Many of us like to compare today to the “good ole’ days”, noting that everything was better during our idyllic high school days.   Wait a minute!  Maybe there are things in the lives of teenagers today that we would have loved to have experienced “way back when”.

Here are my thoughts about what aspects of high school are better today.

  • Enrollment in classes is open to boys and to girls.For example, in my high school, girls were not allowed to take Physics. This rule was made by the teacher. He didn’t think girls would ever use Physics, so he wouldn’t allow girls in his class.  No one challenged his idea—this was way before Title IX addressed such unfair rules. 

  • Similarly, today there are no “girl” classes and “boy” classes.  Girls were required to take home economics; boys were required to take shop.  A girl  could not enroll in a shop class.  I think I would have loved shop!  My husband, who loves to cook, probably would have loved home economics. 

  • Students have amazing choices for their class offerings:  psychology, Mandarin Chinese, digital photography, classic film studies, jazz music, statistics, world cultures, java programming.  Sometimes educators talk about today's high school being like a shopping mall.  I know I would have a hard time deciding on some of the courses to "buy" from today's academic "mall".

  • The 1970’s landmark legislation, known as Title IX, opened up athletics to girls.I think I would enjoy volleyball, tennis, and cross country.  I might even be tempted to try “modern” basketball— the game where all the girls could run the full court, not just the anointed “roving forward”.  I love seeing boys cheer for girls' teams and vice versa.  Athletes respect athletes, no matter what gender.

  • Social media has a place for most people today. I remember sharing the phone with my family.  How could they not understand that I needed to talk for hours to my friends?  I have to confess that  today I would probably be the girl you would see texting in the mall getting very close to falling into that decorative fountain!  Because of Facebook and Twitter, my daughters have more contact with their former high school classmates than I ever could imagine.  Fortunately, my graduating class is making tremendous strides in finding over 650 people via the Internet.

  •  Diversity has become so natural in some areas of a teenager’s world that the term diversity holds a somewhat hollow meaning.  Students can easily interact with young people who come from different backgrounds or practice different religions. Paradoxically, students find more similarities with the students who  first appear so different.

  • Classes for students with physical and mental disabilities are no longer in the basement!  My grade school had a class for students with disabilities, which was tucked in a corner.  We rarely saw these students, and,sadly, those students had little chance to interact with any other students.   Finally, we understand that all students deserve respect.  Our lives are enriched as we get to know one another.

  • Today's world really is smaller! Seeing videos and listening to music from all over the world allow today's students to have a connection to other places.  Students often have the chance to travel to foreign countries for education or just for fun.  My most international trip was over the Rainbow Bridge to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls!

I want to assure you that my name is not Pollyanna.  I know that each benefit for students today holds potential  and/or real problems.   Why focus on the negative?  Let's celebrate the parts of our teenage society which have changed for the better.
A song from "Wicked" comes to mind, as I challenge young people and young teachers:

"You can do all I couldn't do, . . .
So now it's up to you
For both of us - now it's up to you..."