The Russian Roulette of High School Curricula

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The Russian Roulette of High School Curricula

Imagine walking down the hall of a crowded high school. Most of the students there do not envision how well school prepares them for college. Teenagers have few cares in the world! A vast majority takes the bare minimum amount of courses needed to fulfill school requirements. These graduation prerequisites usually do not come close to adequate, and rarely exceed sufficiency. Should high schools change current curriculum to better prepare students for college?The answer is simply, “yes.” Consideration of why and how holds the key to solving America’s problem.

Why would one hypothesize a change is needed? First, international comparisons show the decline in education. Tests show American high school students rank much lower than other nations on standardized math and science tests (United States 66). On a test given in twenty-one nations, American pupils only outperformed Cyprus and South African students. These results seem more devastating when one sees Asian nations, usually ranking high in competitions, did not participate (McNamara 73). Examinations also reveal pupils’ performances decline as students climb up the educational ladder toward college. “We seem to be the only country in the world whose children fall farther behind the longer they stay in school” (“Nation” 1). Yet, just comparing our students to international standards does not divulge the whole story.

A big gap exists between stereotypical “poor” schools and “rich” schools. Millions of Americans do not enjoy the option of enrolling children in schools where better teachers and materials are affordable. They are forced to remain with whatever the district can provide. Usually these children are not of lower intelligence, they just do not have the opportunities to learn educational necessities. Most parents want to place posterity in institutions where they will obtain a better education, but lack the means to do so. If the government could implement programs emphasizing curriculum, these children would have a better chance of becoming leaders of the country. From here, one must consider courses.

Current statistics and trends in American curriculum need examination. Since 1983, over twenty million American seniors graduated unable to do fundamental math. Also, over ten million did not learn to read at essential levels (1). Students graduate without rudimentary information about history, literature, art, and the philosophical foundations of their nation and civilization (Bennet 2). Tests of basic history knowledge have shown students lacking comprehension of past wars and conflicts as substantial as World War II. The public seems amazed upon discovering the details, but most college freshmen know these facts. Students realize soon after entering college courses that high schools do not adequately prepare them. More students need to achieve collegiate standards before high school graduation than in the past. Data from the U.S. Census show about seventy-percent of all youth today want to obtain a college education, up from thirty-nine percent in 1982 (Nunley 61). Why students are not learning the necessities is not a mystery at all.
One must examine the current curricula requisites to determine what must change. The National Commission on Excellence in Education recommends in the four core subject areas: four units in English, and three in each science, social studies, and mathematics. Does the average high school meet these standards? Only twenty percent of the nation’s schools achieved or exceeded these standards in 1994 (United States 67). Of those twenty percent, the courses offered to comply with these standards are generally very poor. Students earn required science credits in courses such as Applied General Sciences and Basic Physical Science. These courses tend to present material in such a manner students leave high school unprepared and unchallenged. How can students excel in college when they did not need to exert themselves in high school? Several different views exist on changing the current system.

One program mandates the increase in time dedicated to the studies of history, literature, and foreign languages (Cheney 28). The main reasons for studying history are actually quite obvious. The reformers assert history gives individuals a common cultural background and helps prevent past mistakes. Literature demonstrates its importance by reflecting the human condition. Mimetic, or representing reality in a timeless manner allowing people to understand themselves, describes true literature. Along with history and literature,