Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Daily Agenda of Typical Advanced Academic Track Teens

On the average school day, the typical middle-class public-schooled teenager on an advanced academic track spends

  •          6-7 hours in school
  •          1 hour waiting for and riding the school bus
  •          3 hours on homework

Many students also participate in 1-2 hours of structured extracurricular activities. Most of them probably spend 1-2 hours preparing to go to school in the morning and eating breakfast and dinner. At the end of it all, most of them would benefit from more than 8 hours of sleep.

That leaves roughly 1-4 waking hours for their other pursuits, except that their drive for such pursuits naturally leads many of them to swipe sleep time. Most students spend their personal time networking with friends, playing online games, or participating in other entertainment.

This schedule model denies many academically motivated students what they really need most to become creative critical thinkers: Time to contemplate, to play with math, to investigate science, and to practice in the arts. Given that time for personal study, for unstructured play, for structured cooperative activities like sports, and for hobbies is so important to personal development, what can students trim to gain their best advantage possible?

My proposed solution might seem radical, but it is becoming natural for increasing numbers of students: Cut out school and the school bus!  Replace that time with educational and personal pursuits driven by the student’s actual needs, crafted by the students themselves and their parents. Academically motivated students nearly always learn better driving their own educations than following the script of public school curriculum, because they are not arbitrarily confined to continue work on topics they already understand, and they can move forward at their own paces, not slowed down by the system’s schedule. The system conditions students to think that they cannot learn certain topics without a trained teacher, but this is simply not true, especially in today’s world with so much information and free educational resources right at our fingertips.

The school culture also has deceived many students that healthy social development depends on public school, but opportunities to build social skills can be much better outside in the community than inside a school—It just takes open eyes and some determination and planning.

For those who cannot ditch the school for home education or cooperative groups, work within the system to increase the amount of time for student-driven activities at school, and for greater focus on the individual.

You may contact the author at proundy at Albany dot edu

The opinions presented here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of my employer or the State of New York.