Inappropiate attitudes and behaviors often learned in high school

Obviously, students attend school to learn. Parents rely (sometimes too much) on schools to teach their children the things they will need to become productive citizens of the country. Skills in communication, finance and science are just some of the primary skills students need to succeed. Schools also offer the opportunity to learn and practice getting along with others, including students of different races and cultures. 

For the most part, schools perform adequately within their stated curriculum. On the other hand, there are often things teenagers learn in high school which are not as desirable to parents and society in general. These lessons fall into the category of “Things I wish my children had never learned in high school.” Basically these things fall into two broad categories; things learned through peer pressure and those learned via the school operations.

The teenage years provide the bridge between childhood and adulthood. The normal teenager is just beginning to exercise more mature judgment and abstract thinking.  Desire for more independence motivates much of teen behavior. A common joke among parent of teens states “teens know it all, so parents are superfluous.” All teens know that parents are “antiques” and “out of touch” with the real world. In this state of belief, teens turn to their peers for “education,” making peer pressure the single most important motivating force in behavior. School, then, becomes the primary place that pressure comes to bear. Often this pressure teaches many things no child should never learn.

At this time in life teens often learn from their peers to devalue other human beings.  For example, bullying appears to be gaining in “popular” behavior. Though often starting in grade school, high school bullying can become a significant problem. Much bullying appears physical in nature. Many news items report teens beaten up by other teens. Reasons given are varied.  Those bullied may be smaller in size or muscle. They may be of a lower socio-economic level, a different race or culture, disabled, accused of nerdy behavior or of a different sexual preference. Sometimes any excuse or reason seems justified.

Other, more psychological forms of bullying can be just as harmful, such as snobbery and social exclusions due to reasons listed above. Sexual or physical abuse appears to be growing in acceptance. One hears about date violence and date rape more and more.

The growth of this attitude has resulted in a rise of selfish and self-serving behavior in many teens which has spilled over into adulthood. Simple courtesies may be considered “brown-nosing” and mannerly behavior as sissified. Many teens no longer exhibit respect for adults in general, including their own parents. One hears much smart-alec ‘sass’, yelling and cursing between teens and toward adults. 

All of the above behaviors result from the attitude “I’m  okay, but you are not okay and I can use or abuse you any way I want.” Such attitudes may be brought from home, but regardless of origin, they always result in inappropriate and sometimes harmful behaviors often reinforced via peer pressure.

Another attitude often obtained through peer pressure is the devaluation of self and the human body. Lessons here include self-destructive behaviors involving misuse or abuse of ones own body. Teens among peers seem to believe that such things as smoking or alcohol abuse is “cool” rather than potentially harmful. Getting high on drugs and sexual promiscuity may be promoted as “mature behavior.” Multiple body piercings and tattoos are touted as highly desirable. While the latter may not be as harmful as the ones previously mentioned, carelessness may result in serious infections or potentially fatal communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.

In some ways school operations may also contribute things that students should never learn in high school. Schools with rigid curricula, for instance, leave little room for the exercise of creative thinking. Thinking “outside the box” may be discouraged in order to maintain what may be thought of as a more stable learning environment.  In these instances students practice only rote learning and may fail to learn to think for themselves. This, in turn, may lead to increasing the power of peer pressure.

These days schools are held to account by a plethora of federal and state exams to “measure” student learning. Often students are primarily taught what is on the exams, rather than a broad application of knowledge. Students may fail to learn how to generalize from one subject to another, instead learning only to compartmentalize knowledge. Many brighter students lose interest in this form of education, pronouncing school and getting an education useless and boring. Such forms of measurement also restrict the broader base of knowledge in a variety of subjects.

Finally, due to limited budgets many schools are often forced to overcrowd classrooms, thus limiting the time teachers need to relate to their students one-to-one. For teens already subject to the fierce pressure of their peers, this lack of a more personal relationship with the teacher, reduces interactions with knowledgeable and caring adults. Furthermore, in such crowded conditions students may come to feel like a number rather than an individual, another way of learning to devalue themselves.

When it comes to appropriate behaviors and attitudes, parents are and always should be the main teachers in every child’s life. On the other hand, teenagers spend more time at school and with their peers than at home or with their parents.  For this reason, schools stand as a vital partner providing not only knowledge,  but appropriate attitudes and behaviors. It is a sad commentary that teens often learn so many things in school that we wish they wouldn’t. Hopefully parents and teachers can stand together to make  such changes which can reduce the negative influences teens encounter as they step toward their own adult lives.