by Deborah Meier
from The Progressive High School

Quote:  "Imagine an endless conference with many plenary sessions, long speeches, short (if any) question periods, no chance to talk to colleagues, no breaks: that's school.  Unlike a conference, you can't sneak out in the middle of a session to got the bathroom or light a cigarette or whatever else we all do to break the tedium and tension."  (Who hasn't been to this very conference?  Even adult learning can't get it right....)

Comment:  I started out teaching preschool, then 1st grade, and now middle school.  I see the decline from immediately relevant and stimulating learning to departmentalized curriculum.  Thinking back to my traditional high school education, I know that it only goes farther downhill as one continues in school.  Even in college, I found the same emphasis on learning "the material" than learning how to know what material TO learn and then learning to actually USE that material. 

I transfered schools four times and ultimately graduated from Prescott College:  500 students engaged in experiential education.  One thing I have found, coming from a self-directed pbl college, is that my ability and confidence to learn and problem solve is often much advanced over those who were drilled in traditional lecture-style classrooms.  I take pride in this.  However, I have also found that I am sometimes left standing outside of some "Scholarly" traditions and rituals:  as an English major, I've not read most "classic" British or American literature; I don't know Whitman or Frost or Dickinson; I've never written an extensive research paper or crafted a detailed bibliography; I've not joined an honor society or attended a lecture hall.  Do these things matter?  Should they matter?  I have to keep questioning what schools are trying to prepare students for: reality?  ideals?  innovations?  traditions?  certainties? 

Question:  I remember the GSE inviting a panel of HTH graduates  who were now in college.  One commented, "HTH did an amazing job preparing me for the "real" world but not so much for going to college."  Is this pointing out a disservice to the student or the greatest accomplishment of a HTH education?


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