In a previous post called Question It All, I challenged readers to think critically about the news they read rather than digesting it directly. I very much appreciate listening to news radio, catching up on current events in the newspaper and magazines and watching TV news (all when I have a moment of time to spare, that is) but I try to take everything with a grain of salt. I expect reporting to be objective and unbiased, and I expect that facts have been checked, but I don't necessarily trust that it is. When there's a scoop and ratings to consider, sometimes objectivity and fact-checking are placed on hold to get the story out.
I'm especially wary when it comes to reports on statistics and studies. It may be due to my Communications course on statistics in college, but I could pretty easily create a study to support any hypothesis I like.
Last week, Newsweek released it's list of the top 500 public schools, based on academic success factors such as college-bound seniors, SAT scores and AP course offerings. I would be proud to send my children to a school that is on the list and feel pretty good that the academic consideration is well-covered. I think the matrix is a good indicator of the academic component of the high schools, but I do think it falls short of the term "best schools." In my view, a "best" school offers much more than academics; it offers education on life. I thought about it for a few days and wrote an opinion piece on Technorati that was published earlier today. A copy of that analysis is below.
writing exercise: If you were creating a matrix to determine which schools best prepare their students for life after student-hood, what factors would you look at and why?
Click "read more" for the writercizer sample response. (Article first published as How Should We Really Calculate The Best High Schools? on Technorati.)writercizer response:
Last week Newsweek released their list of the Top 500 High Schools in America. The list looks exclusively at public high schools and uses a matrix calculating on-time graduation rates, college-bound seniors, AP classes and exams and SAT test scores to rank and determine the cream of the studious crop.
It is true that a high school diploma and a college degree are helpful in transforming students into successful adults - every job application asks for educational background and college networking is an important tool for getting that resume to the top of the HR pile, but attitude and the ability to make well-informed decisions will ultimately separate the success stories from the rest.
Kids need to know more than how to take a test, write a paper, get a passing grade. They need to know how to analyze problems and be fully informed and aware of how their decisions will affect themselves, their family, and the world at large. They need to know how to cultivate relationships and how to exercise restraint, how to decipher not only what is right and wrong, but see the shades of gray along the way.
Personally, I'd like to see a list of high schools that give their students the tools not only to move on to higher education, but help them grow into responsible adults.
I am a huge supporter of a college education, but I also recognize that for an economy to be successful, we need a good mix of people, including manual laborers who do not need an advanced degree, but do need to know life skills. All too often, these life skills are missing altogether from education.
Here are the components of my proposed matrix assessing a high school's ability to confer life skills :
-Sex Education: If there is anything that will change a students life forever, it is acting irresponsibly about sex. Imagine being 17 and finding out you are pregnant, or HIV-positive. Life will forever be different.
Sex education should be an earnest conversation that does not ignore the existence of sex or present sex as a choice between abstinence and sex. The discussion should be about abstinence, safe sex and alternatives to intercourse.