The perception of achievement in high school

Grant Rayfield

While there has been a spotlight on problems with high school teaching lately in national news, I believe that a major problem with today’s high schools may be less the quality of the teaching, and more the perception that we as students and citizens of the United States have toward education itself.

Despite the fact that the United States spends a lot of money on education and stresses the apparent value it places on education, the U.S. ranks 16th in the world for quality of non-university education.  And that list excludes extremely wealthy city-states like Monaco, Luxembourg, and Malta.

No matter how much we may like to pin the blame on the failings of teachers, other countries where students do better likely have at least a few ineffective teachers as well.  While there may be a host of factors leading to this general deficiency, one of them, which should not be overlooked, is that all the countries that do better than ours in education put more value on the education itself.

Many countries’ schools celebrate their top scholars as the most valuable people in the school, and while we also make a feeble attempt at this, it could be considered vain at best.

We do not value academic competitions, while we place enormous value on the victory of football games.  We do not celebrate the top students at the school (save for the valedictorian alone), yet we reward people for their popularity with titles such as “Homecoming King” or “Homecoming Queen”.

While there is something to be said for tradition, and this is not to say that no one values education – many people do – the problem is that not enough of the social world around which high school revolves is centered on education itself, but the vain, irrelevant artifacts of a barely post-industrial society.

To conclude, I leave you with the following question.  Should the pompous and inapplicable imaginings of high school replace the actual purpose of being at school itself; should learning be replaced by delusional entertainment?