High School in America

There was a column in the Washington Post yesterday by a college professor outlining his student’s general lack of literacy. Today there was a column by the Post’s education writer about how uncommon overachieving high school students are. Any chance the two are related?
In his column, Michael Skube shares everyday words his students don’t know. On the list are impetus, ramshackle, lucid, advocate, derelict, satire, pith and brevity. The author points to a lack of reading and grade inflation as reasons for this sorry trend. The result is young adults who cannot write (a common complaint from employers, BTW) or communicate beyond a very superficial level.
This reminded me of a recent letter to the editor which was printed in our local newspaper. It was written by a high school senior just days away from graduation complaining about the way a disciplinary issue had been handled by school administrators at the local high school. The letter was practically incomprehensible. The writer repeated herself several times and had not arranged her ideas in any perceivable order. It was like listening to a 7 year old tell a story, but on paper. Now, I don’t know who this young woman was, she may well have been a special needs student for whom such a letter would have been a great accomplishment. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that she’s just another run-of-the-mill senior from a supposedly good suburban school with a decent GPA who has never been taught how to properly commit her ideas to paper. In the meantime, my 11 year actually used the word “undulate” in casual conversation last week.
In his column, Jay Matthews education reporter for the Washington Post seeks to correct the popular notion that it is common for today’s high school students to be hyper-competitive, neurotic messes who are so busy striving they don’t have time to learn to become whole human beings. Quite the opposite is true, he says. Among other things he points out that the average high school student spends about 42 minutes a day doing homework as opposed to the 3 1/2 hours a day spent watching tv, playing video games and such. One study found that high school students spent all of 8 minutes a day, on average doing non-school related reading.
I suppose the good news for those of us who homeschool is that compared to that our children will enter the adult world as phenoms. Unfortunately, one does have to wonder what sort of adult world they will be entering when their peers won’t even be able to understand them when they speak.

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