It wasn’t long ago when a high school diploma meant something. Today’s high school graduates, however, are no better prepared for productive adulthood than the children who “graduate” from elementary or middle school. Public schools in the United States have deteriorate to the point of being less than baby-sitters. Students threaten and attack teachers and get away with it, sharing their outrageous actions with the world by way of cell phones and social networks and the teachers are criticized by administrators.
To be successful and worth the expense, public high schools need to return to the days of firm discipline, grades that mean something, and classes that teach skills needed by all American citizens. With the advent of the Internet, nearly all useful information is only as far away as the touch of a button. Far more important than the rote memorization of trivial facts, learning how to judge information as being both accurate and useful is a far more important skill. To create a useful and effective high school curriculum, the following classes should be mandatory:
The Written Word – Writing skills apply to every aspect of life and should be granted their proper place in education. High school students should be required to demonstrate writing abilities in personal, professional, and creative writing. No Ebonics, slang, or excuses should be accepted.
The Spoken Word – Public speaking is the basis used to determine intellect, trustworthiness, and desirability in nearly all social and professional interactions. High school students need to develop public speaking skills and see themselves in action to better understand how they are perceived by others and to know where they need to improve themselves.
Reading Comprehension – It does no good to learn how to read if students do not know how to comprehend, retain, judge, or use what is being read. Reading comprehension is crucial when learning new skills, obeying the law, or sharing information with family and friends.
Consumer Math – Remove the calculator for fundamental calculations and ensure that all high school graduates are able to balance a checkbook, calculate compound interest, develop, maintain, and edit a personal budget, and understand their earnings and basic taxes. Graduates must also have a working knowledge of the terms and conditions involved with borrowing and investing money
The Cycle of Social Evolution – Graduates must be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of major trends in human societies, including economics, politics, religion, freedom, and infrastructure. They must show a critical understanding of current events and how they will be affected by political and financial decisions made at the local and national level.
Comparative Religion – While America has traditionally been Christian, that trend is changing. Religious misunderstandings and intolerance have been the root of nearly every political conflict, second only to greed for power. A working knowledge of the world’s major religions, their similarities and differences, leaders, texts, and basic precepts will, hopefully, create greater acceptance and reduce conflict.
Personal Relationships – Family, romance, and employers all have needs, wants, shortcomings, and strengths that can contribute to positive or negative relationships. Graduates need to be taught the common courtesies that are no longer common. Etiquette, self respect, and appropriate behavior should be taught in the same way that military cadets are drilled in the proper way to handle various social and professional interactions.
The Scientific Method – While most facts are available online, the validity of the scientific method as a rule for evaluating any number of variables canon be stressed enough. Basic life cycles, astronomy facts, nutrition, sexuality, environmental health, and similar realities should be understood thoroughly enough to prevent the spread of disease and to provide a basic working knowledge of how things work.
Finally, all prospective graduates from U.S. high schools should be required to pass a driving test and the American citizenship test. Anything less than these stringent requirements is a waste of time and money and an insult to human potential.