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YouthSpeaksOut! is an hour long public affairs show in Mendocino County, CA. This Sunday's show will focus on how laptops are changing the classroom and homework, what optional classes Ukiah High students are offered, how the students respond to the section on Finnish education in Michael Moore's documentary "Where To Invade Next," and how many students would prefer block scheduling.
This Sunday at 3pm on YouthSpeaksOut! on KZYX/Z (91.5/90.7/88.1fm and www.kzyx.org ) the topic is Revisioning High School, Part 6. On YouthSpeaksOut we have had a recurring topic about how high school could be improved. On two of these revisioning show we have had interviews with high school principals, Gordon Oslund in 2003 and John Kirchiro in 2014. In 2012 the show was hosted by Native American students from Round Valley High discussing the relevance of California high school curriculum to the indigenous population. The other two shows focused on the practicality of high school classes, overcoming the inefficiency of learning in a class full of distractions, and whether graduating from high school has given one any skills to enter the job market with. Those shows are available to listen to at our website www.youthspeaksout.net
This Sunday's show will focus on how laptops are changing the classroom and homework, what optional classes Ukiah High students are offered, how the students respond to the section on Finnish education in Michael Moore's documentary "Where To Invade Next," and how many students would prefer block scheduling. There will be a call-in section during the show.
Today our topic is Revisioning High School, Part 6.
A recent documentary by Michael Moore called Where To Invade Next has a section on how Finland made huge strides in improving their educational system. One of the main changes they made in schools was to consider homework obsolete. Elementary schools are in session for 4 hours per day, there are no multiple choice exams, and they never teach to standardized tests. The teachers say that school is about finding happiness and a way to learn what makes you happy. They say that they teach the students to think for themselves, to be critical of what they are learning. All schools are equally funded, offer the same classes, and private schools do not exist because of a ban on tuition.
We all attend Ukiah High School, the largest high school in Mendocino County. Our classrooms are quite modern, each student receives a laptop for use in the classroom and to take home, and we are offered a much larger range of classes than the more rural high schools in our county. We are in a journalism class taught by Matt Lafever and our group is focusing on creating podcasts. Other electives at Ukiah High include psychology, machine shop, auto shop, photography, welding, creative writing, scrubs, and drama. Actually the list is much longer and we will describe these elective classes later. We have been told that the smaller more rural schools in Mendocino county have far fewer elective classes.
For the first time this year, all Ukiah High students have been issued a laptop computer for use in the classroom and to take home for homework. We can write our essays, take tests, access reading material, and get class notes through these devices. At some point, many of the books we use in classes will be eliminated by them, potentially offering a huge savings to the schools. Through these personal computers we can obtain audio/visual aids to our studies. There is a question as to how much distraction laptops offer to students who might choose to play video games or watch unrelated videos during a class. Of course before the advent of computers, some students would find ways to distract themselves (and often others).
Some students would like block scheduling at the school. This is usually done by stitching two class periods together for two days a week. That way whatever discussions get started in a class can be developed further. Several high schools in the county have experimented with this, with mixed results. Some classes have ended up with positive outcomes, especially in subjects where student participation is a major aspect. The level of thinking in a longer class becomes more like college studies, there is a deeper investigation of the subject. Some students get restless after an hour, maybe because, beginning in elementary school, there is always a break after 45 minutes to an hour.
Class size affects the amount of attention a teacher can give to each student. At one point in American education, 30-35 students in a class was considered the norm. Later a target of limiting the number of students to 20 was the goal of numerous schools, and this appeared to have had positive outcomes. Both the teachers and students approved this shift. Since in the past decade most schools are in one economic crisis or another, class sizes have drifted into being larger again, with 25 being an average.
Today high school is widely seen as a temporary stage on the way to college. So class schedules are often based on college requirements, and these vary depending on the university or college one is thinking about attending. Class selection, even in the freshman year, is influenced by which college route one is preparing for. Students who are not planning on attending college need to make sure that they complete the state requirements for graduation. In the smaller schools in Mendocino county this is not much of a problem because the number of classes available is so limited. However Ukiah High has a fascinating amount of academic and vocational electives, which makes choosing a schedule more complicated.
In our American educational system we spend 4 years in high school. We attend classes for 5 days a week for about 9 months each of those years. This is a huge investment of our lives. We each have certain classes in school that we enjoy and feel enthusiastic about. We each have some classes that seem irrelevant and we arent sure why we need to spend our time there.
High school seems to have been around for a long time- pretty much everyone listening to this show has spent 4 years of their youth in a high school. How many of the subjects you studied have turned out to be of practical use to you? In those 4 years, do you ever remember getting sleepy and wondering what the teacher was talking about? Did you ever ask why you needed to study algebra? Did you ever ask if the stories you read in history were all true? What was it in high school that inspired you?
What we will discuss now are our thoughts about high school, what our choices are in classes, how well our time is spent. We have thought a while about how school could improve and become more efficient for the students, staff, and administration. We will discuss these subjects.