Well, there you have it. A scathing-er indictment of U.S. education than its 18-year-old author knows. That little nugget was turned in to me today as part of a seven-word memoir assignment, as was “Who needs school, dude, we have computers” and “Blah blah blah blah blah fuck you.”
Have you ever thought that maybe we’re extending childhood too long in North America? On any other continent, in any other era, 17- and 18-year olds are married, have their own children, and work at least 8 hours a day. At the very least, they’ve got their own fruit stand. They’re adults. None of this my-mom-is-filling-out-my-community-college-application bullshit.
So I teach according to the Fruit Stand Principle. “You don’t need me to explain this assignment half a dozen times,” I’ll say to a kid who hasn’t listened all period. “In 9 months you’ll be one of us, wondering, ‘Who the hell is FICA and how did he get half my paycheck?'”
We’re one of the only nations that offers — that pushes — free public education through age 18. But there should be better options for kids who hate reading and writing; who’d be happier learning a trade or driving a truck or farming. If we had enough viable blue-collar jobs, we could lower the dropout age to, say, 13. That way, kids who watch the classroom clock and make paper-clip weapons wouldn’t take their boredom out on classmates who do want to be there; who will succeed academically given enough resources and time. It’d also be easier on crumbling school buildings, not to mention crumbling teachers.
I wish there were more viable blue-collar jobs.
I wish my students didn’t tell me they “hate” reading. I wish I could find THE book for each one of them that would make them lifelong readers.
I wish they understood that the limits of their knowledge are the limits of their lives.