The Outdated American Education System: How our high schools have become obsolete

I often find myself wondering, what am I really learning in high school? I have a high GPA, get straight A’s, but at the end of the day, what have I really taken away? Many classes require memorization, but this information tends to be useful for me only until we are tested on it. High school is supposed to prepare you for adulthood, whether that means college, getting a job, traveling, whatever the next step may be. I do not feel like I am being prepared for that.

At the heart of the matter, the high school system is outdated. This mass education approach was created 60 years ago with the intention of sending the majority of students into the physical labor workforce, and only a fraction on to college (Gates). In 1893, the National Education Association passed a report to standardize high school teaching, and the system we still use today was born. With the 20th century came consumerism, specialized and complex labor, international competition, industries, and the need for manual labor was left in the 1800s (Brady). Although America was rapidly changing, the education system remained unaltered.

My School

Today, we prevail with a near identical high school structure, and the problems are catching up to us. In 2005, “Only one-third of our students graduate from high school ready for college, work and citizenship. The others, most of whom are low-income and minority students, are tracked into courses that won’t ever get them ready for any of those things — no matter how well the students learn or how hard the teachers work.” (Gates). This can create a cycle of poverty, it pushes minorities further in a rut, and snuffs out potential both individually and economically. Post-secondary education is almost essential to obtain a family supporting job, yet as of 2014 only 65.9% of high school graduates attended college (Norris). This means, in theory, that 34.1% of the class of 2014 won’t make enough money to support their family.

The fact that high school students aren’t ready to take on the real world comes from a myriad of smaller issues as well. “Boredom, passive resistance, truancy, classroom disorder, dropouts, teacher turnover, an explosion of home schooling… …are obvious indicators of institutional failure, of old problem-solving procedures failing to adequately address new realities” (Brady). The bureaucratic solution to this is rigor: tougher AP and IB classes, longer school days and years, shorter breaks for lunch and recess. But this “solution” only feeds the passive behavior and boredom. It feeds the divide of standard level classes and advanced classes, which in turn feeds the disadvantage of minorities. It feeds memorization, the stress for grades and test scores and a lack of focus on understanding.

Works Cited

Brady, Marion. “What’s Worth Learning: How Outdated Curricula Are Failing America’s Students.” Alternet. N.p., 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2017. <>.

Gates, Bill. “What’s Wrong With American High Schools.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 01 Mar. 2005. Web. 18 Jan. 2017. <>.

Gearon, Christopher J. “High School Students Need to Think, Not Memorize.” U.S. News. U.S. News, 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 18 Jan. 2017. <>.

Norris, Floyd. “Fewer U.S. Graduates Opt for College After High School.” New York Times. New York Times, 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 18 Jan. 2017. <>.