What IS High School For?

So, it finally happened, did it?

First it was Gates, Zuckerberg, and Oprah.

But unlike those corporate-type folk who seem to know how to fix the system, Seth Godin asks the simple question: What’s high school for?

And unlike the upper-class illuminati who believe that an allegiance with corporate America is the only way to fix the static and ineffectual public school system, Godin gets it. It’s a much simpler solution; one that asks educators to reconnect with their students. So…

What’s high school for?

Godin suggests we consider moving away from the closely interwoven focus of personalization and technology, and that “perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future” what is required to be fully functioning and participatory members of western society:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved. For too often we give up ourselves, and of course, why should we expect our students to persevere in the face of adversity?
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success. Once again, in the age of entitlement (helped mostly by baby boomer parents), this is a tough rough to overhaul and repave. But, it’s one worth hoeing.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority. Sadly, the concept of self-direction may be all but dead; online courses certainly haven’t improve its chance. A diet of prescriptive curriculum lead blindly by the need for standardized testing has numbed both teacher and student. Can you blame ’em?
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor. I used to cringe at having to teach the scientific method in my science classes. And like many of my science-teacher-type colleagues, I would gloss over a simple process that requires critical thinking and analysis, and problem solving attributes on many levels. I simply didn’t know how to properly utilize this methodology and expand its relevance; a disconnect was evident.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group. As a young student, not engaging in formal public speaking assignments was not an option at the various schools I attended. And to this day, I’m so glad that it wasn’t.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people. So few of us are equipped to take the lead; to enter a place outside our comfort zone when working with others (especially, strangers) that for many adults it is a paralyzing thought.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage. As a forty-year old with a solid amount of personal finance training (both formal and informal), I’m a far better financial position than many of my peers. My focus is not about making ends ‘meat’, but enjoying it.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever. Again, if parents and teachers cannot effectively model this type of behaviour, then what chances do our students have?
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving. But, I’m not even sure that school alone can teach self-reliance. Mom and dad, are you listening?


So, another question comes to mind: Why hasn’t Godin been on Oprah, yet?

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