With Apologies and Smirks to 15-Year-Old Me

Oh, I wish I had a time machine. Yes, I’d kill Hitler, but then, the next thing I would do would be to go back and surprise my high-school-sophomore self.

First of all she’d be like OH MY GOD YOU GOT SO FAT, and I’d be like I’M PREGNANT, BITCH, and she’d be like DON’T CALL ME A BITCH, BITCH, THAT’S SEXIST, and I’d be like NICE TEVAS.

Then I would show her this article that I wrote about how I want her to attend an extra year of high school, and she’d break down into sobs and wonder why I hate her (and thus me, or I guess ex-me) so much. But then I’d tell her that someday very soon boys will actually start to notice her, and yes, she will someday grow boobs (although she will have to get knocked up to do so, and I will point at mine).

Anyway, in my continuing quest to convince the people of America that we should be more like Germans, this is an article about the potential virtues of an optional 13th grade (along with the actual virtues of an actual one being pilot-programmed in my home state of Oregon as we speak). A taste:

Don’t kill me, angst-ridden high schoolers—or parents eager to get them out of the house—but it’s worth considering making the 13th grade standard, not just for students on the vocational, technical, or community college track, but for the four-year-college-bounds as well. The fact is, many American students enter college woefully unprepared. But as our friends overseas demonstrate, the answer may be to prolong secondary education for everyone, or at least make that an option.

For you Oregonians of a Certain Age out there, the piece also contains a long-awaited national-media dig at the infamous Measure 5, otherwise known as the reason my good friend’s Rorbert Gilmore of a son (seriously, she won’t mind if I tell the entire Internet that he was taking 11th grade math as a 12-year-old 8th grader…will she?) isn’t allowed to take an extra math or science class even though he wants to (???) because they simply don’t have enough free seats for his butt in the school from which I mercifully graduated after four interminable years (JK, it wasn’t a bad place, just ugly).

Oh, I guess also 15-year-old me would be like WAIT YOU ARE AN ACTUAL JOURNALIST? And I’d be like SORT OF and then she’d be like WAIT, WHAT THE FUCK IS THE INTERNET?

5 thoughts on “With Apologies and Smirks to 15-Year-Old Me

  1. We had Grade 13 in Ontario when I was in high school (they’ve since phased it out), and I can’t imagine having gone to university a year earlier than I did. That fifth year was exactly what I needed–and what most of us needed, I think–to be really ready for university. I don’t know how these 16 and 17 year olds do it! And now, seeing entirely unprepared first years come in, I really question the decision to do away with it.


  2. I did the opposite: I went to a local university during my senior year instead of going to high school. I also took one college course per quarter in the evenings in my junior year. For those of us who were smart and bored in high school, it worked out well. I would have been miserable sitting around for a fifth year of learning nothing at my garbage high school. I can’t really see this fifth-year idea working out for bright and motivated students unless a whole host of other reforms were introduced at the same time. I do see that a lot of my students are underprepared at the large state university where I teach, but this semester I’m teaching a group of students who went straight into the second course in our two course comp sequence because of AP credits or high ACT scores, and they’re not underprepared (in writing at least). These students need to be challenged to stay engaged, and high schools (especially the ones that produce underprepared students) just don’t do that. Now, if it looked something like what you describe in Germany, that would be a completely different story. But I’m cynical that we’ll ever adopt a system so sensical in the United States.


  3. Sadly, the now-defunct Ontario system that Melissa describes was really successful in preparing students for university, but we only got real proof of how successful it was once they axed it. When grade 13 was eliminated, there was a double cohort of kids that came into the universities at the same time, half out of grade 12 and half out of grade 13. University of Toronto researchers tracked their relative success and found that the grade 13 graduates radically outperformed their grade 12 graduate peers.

    That said, I think that this system worked well in part because Ontario teachers were a pretty highly educated bunch. The educational path to become a high school teacher was to get a four year degree *in your field,* and then if you had an A average and lots of volunteer experience, you could get into an education program afterwards. Makes a difference.


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