COLLEGE PREP: LESS RIGOR, MORE FREEDOM

Many look back fondly to their high school days.
Perhaps their college days were even better.
But Stan Beiner, head of the Epstein School in Sandy Springs, Ga., just outside Atlanta, believes we are turning our middle school students over to high schools who will prepare them for colleges that don’t exist.
They’ll get lots and lots of homework. They’ll take lots of Advanced Placement and honors classes. They will have multiple extracurricular activities.
In other words, to paraphrase Beiner, we are preparing our kids for the “rigors” and “challenges” of a tough four years of college.
If you have gone to college, how did it compare with high school? Were you faced with tough task-master professors beating you up, and bogging you down with the drudgery of academia?
Beiner does not de-emphasize school work. Contrarily, school work should be an integral part of both high school and college. But neither high school nor college should be a mere endurance test. Both should teach students the balance of school work, a part-time job, extracurricular activities and, yes, fun!
“The high school years should be about friends, sports, clubs, youth groups, summers off and, of course, school work,” Beiner says. He uses the story of how he and his wife were informed by his child’s private school that 10th-graders could be invited to college orientations. The parents politely declined. The only expectations they had for their 15-year-old was that she focus on her classes, play sports if she wanted, engage and debate youth group politics, hang out with her friends and worry about boys, he said.
Before anyone expresses outrage at what may seem to him as a lackadaisical attitude of parenting, think about this: when you left high school for college, you were on your own. You had a looser schedule. In some cases, you could set your own schedule. You could, say, arrange your classes to have every Friday or Monday off. In most cases, as long as you did the work, the teachers didn’t care how you did it, as long as you didn’t cheat.
In an old school of thought, piling homework on high school kids was a way to keep them “out of trouble.” There was little worse, in some minds, than a teenager with too much time on his hands.
The fallacy of that argument is that no amount of homework would put the kids most at risk of getting in trouble on the straight and narrow. They simply would blow it off. Meanwhile, bogging down good kids with homework, particularly the kind that is deliberately designed to be tedious and time-consuming, keeps them from getting into activities that would enhance their education and experience – sports, arts or a part-time job, for instance.
They may also miss out on the fun that is an integral part of growing up. They may soon grow resentful of the “prison” they are in. They may “act out” in response.
Beiner’s ideas may be over the top for some. But his point is that college is NOTHING like high school. Anyone who has gone to college knows this. Also, just as important as school work, a student needs to have freedom to learn to manage and use time wisely. This will also help students manage money better – watching what they spend and how they spend it – on their own. The good students will mature more quickly. Those at risk for trouble may find it sooner.
Speaking of managing time, is anyone out there working full time at a job, and looking to build a fortune that could retire them early? If so, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. A few hours a week, without affecting what you are already doing, may change your life.
Beiner says it’s no wonder that cheating, eating disorders and depression are too common among students. He advises parents to make sure kids have time to do what they want, and find out who they are. With today’s gadgets, you need to encourage them to get up from the computer and go out and “play.” Do what they need to do, but also do what they LOVE to do.
In Beiner’s mind, they’ll be much more prepared for college.
Peter

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