It is the student, not the school, that determines readiness for college

December 7, 2017 — by Ryan Kim

Reporters argues that students are responsible for their education.

“School sucks.”

“Why?”

“Because it doesn’t help at all; it’s a waste of time.”

This is a common complaint among students about high school. Whether it’s because students would rather engage in other activities, like basketball or videogames, or because they can’t seriously learn or pursue their academic passions in such an institution, students constantly grumble about high school.

It is not cynical to say that high school doesn’t prepare students for college and real life. The argument has been made over and over: “All high school does is teach you how to write essays that reflect the prompt but not the writer, or how to hate studying.”

In a sense, that is true; high school is inadequate in preparing the student for college — but that’s not the fault of many schools. It depends on how the student uses the resources and opportunities available. The ability to do so is a fundamental skill required of students as they mature, but it is accomplished by the person rather than the institution.

Proviso East High School in Illinois was the site for multiple violent fights in the second half of the 20th century, but it is also the alma mater of notable public figures like Christopher Paul Gardner, a self-made millionaire, and Martin C. Jischke, physicist and former president of Purdue University. These individuals did not let their education define them; they chose to make the best of their situations and rise above their obstacles. We can do the same, especially at one of the best public schools in the nation.

Granted, that does not mean the student has the ability nor the opportunity to be the best in all fields; each person has his or her own strengths, and students should pursue their strengths to the best of their ability. This is why it is crucial for students to take initiative and seize any opportunities that pass them by; it is not the responsibility of the school, but rather the student, to pursue his or her passions.

The key question in the discussion of the efficacy of high school teaching concerns, of course, what education really is. Education, especially that in high school, is the process of learning not only to improve one’s understanding of the world but also how to learn at all.

Through our humanities courses we learn how to write and critically think, through our math courses we learn how to compute and analyze and through our science department we learn how to analyze and apply our discovered rules on the natural world. But all of this learning requires an exchange: the institution must provide the support for such education, and the student must be willing and active in searching for this knowledge in order to better understand the world around himself or herself.

The point of college is to provide an opportunity for students to specialize in their interests and find new ones. Therefore, it makes no sense for high school to be a good stepping stone to a stage that is essentially the beginning of true learning in what each student is interested in.

High school can provide resources in preparation for this higher-tier learning, but don’t expect it to preview information for someone’s specific dreams. That task depends on student’s usage of the tools provided.

Just being physically present at a school doesn’t always prepare students for higher learning and the real world. Rather, it’s the journey to knowledge and the definitive effort to learn and improve one’s understanding that prepare students for the real world.

School teaches us how to study, or at least, how to barely write and submit an essay after procrastinating for a whole week. It provides resources and useful tools, but it is up to the student, not the educational system, that set his or her foundation for success later in life.