“In college, they are gonna have to work.”
Well, not all of ’em.
According to a 2006 study by the Department of Education, 30% of college students drop-out after the first year, and 50% of those who enter college do not graduate.
High school is doing pretty good.
And the college kids chose to go. Which brings up the next point: in college you chose what you want to take. The student in a college Literature class has to read and write two-to-three times what was asked of them in high school… but the students in that college class are literature students. They wanted to take that class; they (presumably) enjoy analyzing literature; they were likely frustrated in high school by the pace of their English class (and by their classmates).
The value of academics on real life is grossly over-rated. And the importance of maturity, discipline, and enlightenment is grossly under-rated in school. These things, so vital to life, are left as a by-product at best. One teacher said, “There is the lesson. And then there is the real lesson.” Meaning that in a particular lesson, the students are learning about Homeostasis, but they are really learning about the importance and difficulty of reaching consensus.
In other words, the most important topics are hidden and unspoken, and the mundane, largely-irrelevant topics are daily pushed upon students. A percentage of students do engage in the academic topics. But only because they have some interest in that topic, or they want to please grownups, or they understand–at some level–the principle of “if you can’t get out of it, get into it”, or they like the teacher. But not, you’ll notice, because they suddenly see how analyzing poetry will help them throughout their life.
Education is the most important topic and task. And education, as we do it, is irrelevant to life.
What will happen is we will continue to play this game, that we began so long ago. We will continue to claim that covering the lowest common denominator is what we ought to do. But history is fraught with stories of people who failed at school and hated school, yet changed the world. In fact, the story of history is the story of people who found their interest and educated themselves in spite of their schooling.
This is why people scramble and scream to explain why schools are “failing” every year. This is why districts “shop for lighting” each year and why new programs are created before the last programs are even implemented.
In short, no education system will produce significant results unless it’s only lesson is: “know thyself”.
Furthermore, all we do is thrash about trying to make the train go faster and pull more and do it more efficiently, and the sum of our blind thrashing is to increase the burden on teachers. Now there are more students per teacher; now there is more paperwork, meetings, and bureaucracy. But education cannot improve by increasing the burden on teachers. In fact, increasing the burden on teachers only makes it that much more difficult to produce better education. It is as absurd as assuming that making a train pull more will make it faster.