It’s not uncommon for people to disparage the current state of American high schools. In fact, the American education system kind of gets a bad rap all across the country. Not surprising when you consider that many other developed countries mop the floor with American high school students when it comes to math and science scores in particular.
But we shouldn’t just write off the American high school experience because of a few bad years. As it is, many adults look back on their high school years with a fondness not often found in other parts of the world. Indeed, Hollywood has made billions cashing in on the high school experience, a time in life that many Americans can collectively say “defined them.”
Of course, things change. Today’s high school students are living in a very different environment from their parents 20 – 40 years ago. Let’s dig in and find out more.
High School In America: Then And Now
The biggest difference between the high school of old and the new is expectations and levels of course work. Back in the 1960s, most seniors had never taken Algebra… unless it was an elective because you were “smart.” Over the years this has changed considerably. Now algebra is commonly taught at the middle school level, an today’s average high school student will tall you about calculus and trigonometry… even if they’re not that good at math naturally.
A big reason for this is because many other countries are decimating America in test scores. As a response, the education system is now pushing students harder and harder to excel in these areas. This is usually done through state and national testing. There are many conflicting opinions on this kind of testing – especially since many teachers only teach children how to test and not how to learn – but the fact remains that today’s high school students are doing much more demanding and harder coursework than their parents.
Socializing And Activities
One constant remains from the older generations, however, and that is socializing. For a grand majority of American high school students, most socializing is done through school. These halls are where students meet their friends, for the first time and every day until they graduate. Some of these relationships will stand the test of time, but most will fizzle after graduation. Regardless, school is considered important if for no other reason than socializing children.
This is done in many ways. Students make friends through their classes first and foremost. After that, club activities and sports are another popular way to make friends, as this brings a lot of like-minded people together under a common cause besides “learning.” While many students will have been friends since kindergarten, there are also others who will be making some of the best friends of their lives their junior year of high school.
Impact On Life
A big difference between the high school of old and today’s experience is how graduates reflect on their time. Ask most older Americans about high school, and their eyes will glaze over as they reminisce about fun times after school, goofing off in class, football games, and all sorts of fun things. Ask more recent grads, and they will tell you about testing, hours of homework, and probably finding ways to ditch school altogether.
These are generalizations of course, but ones that exist to show the stark difference between high school in America then and now.
Advice For Today
That stuff we just talked about may seem rather grim, and indeed it’s difficult for many of today’s parents to relate to their children’s high school woes. Everything is just so different now, from the classes kids take, to their homework loads, to their college expectations… how can you prepare both yourself and your child for high school?
The first thing you need to recognize is that your experience will not be your child’s. This means you shouldn’t be upset if your child isn’t living their high school life the same exact way you did. On the flip side, new students shouldn’t build up an expectation that comes directly from their parents. Realize that your time in high school will not be exactly like it was for your parents.
Before you send your child off to high school in America, find out what life is like at your local school. What kind of clubs and sports are available to join? What class electives may appeal to your child? In return, make sure your child realizes that there is open communication between you two. They are about to start an education career that is demanding both physically and emotionally. Be there for them, and they will probably do just fine in high school and beyond.