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Odd thoughts on my education - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Odd thoughts on my education
I was looking at census.gov earlier, and I realized why going to college felt like entering some weird alien environment. In my town, less than 20% of people had a college education. In my county, it was less than 15% (11.3%, to be depressingly accurate). I remember thinking it was slightly odd when my English teacher told the advanced class, "Some of you might be thinking about college... or maybe GCC." This was the advanced class. So it was a real culture shock to meet people whose high schools had been competitive and who had worried not just about college, but about name colleges. (Granted, I personally only looked at schools ranked "VERY SELECTIVE" or above by Peterson's, and it was specifically to get into that situation, but I figured I'd be competing with other applicants to the schools; it never occurred to me that it would have been competitive at high school, where the college-bound more or less clung together for support.) People had done stuff, traveled places, taken courses that were just beyond my comprehension, because it had never crossed my mind that high school wasn't more or less high school--aka, a place you wandered through while daydreaming about other things and getting as much knowledge as you could wring out of the library, if you happened to feel like it.

Hmm. It was a middling education rather than a poor one, for a'that and a'that, and Lord knows I've seen worse since, in places that didn't have New York State looking over their shoulders to make sure they hit a minimum. But until I looked at those numbers, it never really hit home just how much difference geography made.

[Nonsequitor]And while I was thinking of odd things my teachers have said over the years, I remembered my ninth grade science teacher explaining Mendelian genetics like this: "I have little beady blue eyes. My wife has little beady blue eyes. If one of my kids had had big brown eyes, I'd be taking a hard look at the mailman."[/Nonsequitor]
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From: arwencordelia Date: May 11th, 2005 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh :-) The blue eyes example is a classic that I remember fondly from when I used to teach. There would always be a few seconds right after I explained it, where every single kid in the class was doing a bit of quick thinking... "Mom... check; Dad... check. Whew."
story645 From: story645 Date: May 11th, 2005 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I want your high school experience. We had college mentors and essay writing sessions, and my mentor wouldn't send out my midyear grade requests untill I applied to more than three schools, (two safety's and a private). I'm telling people now that I'm going to a city school, and practically use it as a form of rebellion against all the name dropping going on. It's such a part of the culture at my school that I think I know most of the top teir, middle teir, and desirable engineering and liberal arts schools in the country, and a few in England. I was surprised when girls I talked to from private schools didn't know these names, but why would they. Cries again, I have way too many journal entires lamenting the whole experience, really wish for yours at the moment.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 11th, 2005 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I only applied to one school, on early decision. It seemed too expensive to just randomly apply to a lot of them when there was only one place I had any desire to be. And since it was early decision, if I'd gotten a no, I could have applied somewhere else after. My guidance counsellor told me not to bother with public universities, because they'd nickel and dime me to death, while private schools would have better endowments for financial aid.

The problem with the experience wasn't the lack of pressure, it was the total lack of discipline it engendered. I graduated second in my class, and I think I did less than a quarter of my homework. I had no clue at all how to survive academically, and spent most of my first year dropping classes before I got a handle on getting my work done.
story645 From: story645 Date: May 11th, 2005 02:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the expense, that scares me too. I know kids who applied to ten-twenty schools at sixty dollars a piece. Ick, I got lucky, I only applied to five, and two of those were city schools covered under one fee and easy, one was free and idiot proof, and the other two were private, annoying, and the most expensive of the lot. The best part was that it was all online, so conveniant. Public ones are pretty cheap though, that's why I'm going to a city one and not a private school. Shrug.

Discipline goes all wonky at my school too, cause of senior year, basically. The girl'll who'll be valadictorian missed about a month of school to be on one of ABC's new reality shows, the saluditorian does her homework in school, and two of the other top kids barely show up to class. I know all those kids, and many of their teachers cut them plenty of breaks or let them slide on things. Plus, three of them got into the habit of dropping hard classes and negotiating with teachers for better grades already. I also practically stopped working this year, doing math and the occasional paper or essay, stopped doing readings all together. No body collects assignments, not a lot of writing, and the excuse about colleges got us out of tests, essays, whatever.

I think that's the major problem, colleges are like a religion at my school, the question of the day is "where are you going?", it's our "how are you?", but because of the college mess, no one learns anything cause we're all too busy trying to get into our choice school by keeping our GPA up and kill ourselves with extra-curriculars. NYC just instituted the most absurd grade weighting (10% or so) in hopes of getting kids to take AP's cause they were all avoiding them cause it would mess up their GPA's.
leapin_jot From: leapin_jot Date: May 11th, 2005 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
My first grade teacher told us, "In second grade, the teacher won't repeat the directions!" We all shivered in fear.

Hah! Even college professors have to repeat the directions!
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 11th, 2005 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I was being homeschooled at that point, but I remember my high school teachers going on about how much harder things would be in college, and how they should be giving us two hours of homework for every hour of class to prepare us for the experience, at least for AP classes.

This scared me much less after my mother pointed out that college class schedules were not 6-7 hours straight every single weekday.
miranskeeper From: miranskeeper Date: May 11th, 2005 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)
My fourth-grade teacher intimidated us with, "In fifth and sixth grade, you won't be allowed to write in anything but cursive!"
dudley_doright From: dudley_doright Date: May 11th, 2005 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
YES! The evil cursive pushers. My third-grade teacher pulled that one, so when I got to fourth, I dutifully pulled out my pencil and started writing in cursive. Teacher took one look and told me to go back to print. Never written cursive (except for signatures) since.

Incidentally, new HBP cover art today (for the deluxe American version) again with the Harry and Dumbledore vibe:

texasmagic From: texasmagic Date: May 11th, 2005 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Where I went to high school, in South Texas, there was no four year university near by. Everyone who wanted to do something with their life got out, usually by going to school, at least as far away as San Antonio. The culture is slow to change, though, as very few of the ones who left ever come back. Thus, the cycle begins again.

I was lucky in that we had a counselor whose sole responsibility was to get us into college and then get us the money to pay for it. Sr. Brenda had all our resumes on file and would literally hunt us down with a scholarship application in hand. I was very lucky.
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leapin_jot From: leapin_jot Date: May 11th, 2005 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
The only problem with my colleagues in high school was that they were focused on the symbols of knowledge, not on the knowledge or understanding itself. That is, they were interested in getting A's, but not in understanding or mastering the material. If they could ace a test with rote memorization, that's what they'd do. And then they'd forget what they memorized as soon as the test was over.

This really bothers me as a teacher. I have had parents come to me upset about a child's low grade on a progress report or a report card, but when I explained that the child was struggling in reading (the reason for the low grade) they've wanted to know if it was possible to do extra work to bring the grade up, almost as though they didn't care about the child's abilities. Good grades are nice and everything, but they are not more important than the learning. The thing is...grades aren't very good indicators. So much depends on 1. how the teacher grades and 2. what kind of work the teacher assigns. But I guess that's a tangent for another day...
From: psalm_27 Date: May 11th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
My high school experience was very similar and if I remember correctly (it was over 20 years ago!), very few of us were headed to college. I was college-bound even though no one else in my extended family had gone to college, but I still spent most days goofing off, even though I took mostly regents classes. None of the kids that grew up in my neighborhood went to college, instead they trained for a service occupation or some other blue-collar profession. Many of my closest girlfriends got married right out of high school. That was Long Island in the early 80s. I've always thought that the movie Working Girl captured my upbringing perfectly. (okay, that took place on Staten Island/NYC, but it was all the same).
sannalim From: sannalim Date: May 11th, 2005 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
My high school was pretty competetive--at least in the Honors/AP tier of classes and students. Have you heard of the book "School of Dreams," about Whitney HS in Cerritos, CA? I went to the non-magnet high school two miles away, Cerritos HS, and, IMHO, got just as good of an education as if I'd gone to Whitney. Perhaps better, from a holistic POV, because I didn't have quite as much pressure on me as the Whitney kids do.

When my family moved between my junior and senior year of HS, I was one of the top four or five kids in the class--one of the few who still had only As and A minuses on werf's transcript--and on the shortlist for valedictory status at graduation. I don't know if I would actually have been valedictorian or not after the final end-of-senior-year calculations. As it was, my graduating class at CHS ended up with four valedictorians--all the people who had been my both my closest acquaintances (I didn't have any friends yet) and my closest competitors--because their scores in the calculations came out the same.

The school year ended in June, so after the AP test in May, the teacher of my sophomore year AP European History class did a unit on college applications. We had to choose three schools, request applications, and mock-apply. IIRC, the three schools had to be different types, too--such as, one large public university, one small liberal arts college, and one private university. I know chose UC Berkeley and Harvey Mudd, but I don't remember what the third school was.

And the college recruitment mail! After my sisters and I had taken the SAT and ACT, we started getting reams and reams of the stuff, from places all over the country. It got to the point where we would ask ourselves, "and how much college junk mail did I get today?"

Um. So what was the point of that? I guess it is that I will be looking for a local high school which is like CHS was in the mid-1990s when I start looking for a place to settle down, because I want my children to have a competetive, high-quality academic environment that will encourage them to work hard and succeed, but not one so pressured that they will break down under the stress.
queenrikki_hp From: queenrikki_hp Date: May 11th, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
My highschool experience probably wasn't best. I live in Alabama and we're widely known for how much our school suck. I've had excellent teachers and I've had horrible teacher; I think anyone whose ever been to school has had that. I doubt very much that I would have been prepared for college if I hadn't been one of those annoying kids the schools put on the gifted track. Applying to colleges was never a problem. I applied only to one school. I had never expected to actually go anywhere else, so I didn't see the point of applying to anywhere else. It would have been a waste of time money and effort.
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