Roger Schank has written some more advice for high school students. I'm not sure it's useful advice though. 

http://educationoutrage.blogspot.ca/2012/09/back-to-school-message-to-high-school.html

High school is society's last chance for giving its upcoming citizens some common ground, a lowest common denominator. Remember that today's young people will be running things tomorrow. This opportunity to expose young people to the wide scope of human knowledge and achievement is, I suspect, generally of great benefit to us all. There are certainly many shortcomings in the details of the implementation of our system of education but the broader message, "here's what we know, now move on from this and make your own decisions and discoveries" is an important one. 

I can only speak from the experience of two high school systems located in different provinces of Canada but they were both well suited to a wide variety of interests and abilities. I wonder too if high school here in Canada isn't a bit different from what it is wherever Roger Schank calls home. We do hear in Canada that the system in many states of the USA is much more focussed on mastering material for standardized tests. We have that to some degree here but it didn't seem to me, as someone who experienced high school in the 1980s and who watched two children move through it in the 2000s, that this was a very significant motivator for teachers and the system here in British Columbia. Perhaps the author is a bit geographically and geopolitically limited in his experience (I know nothing about him personally). As a professor of computer science it seems likely he, at least, went somewhere away from home for a post-doctoral year or two, but maybe not.

High school gave me the opportunity to take a lot of "learning by doing" classes: wood working, electricity (basically residential wiring and supply), electronics, and metal working. My chemistry and physics classes were busy with "doing" experiments as well as learning theory. Biology was boring memorization but I don't regret the exposure to the subject especially getting some sense of the terminology and history of the material. French class, typing (!), history and geography all contribute to the general knowledge that forms a big part of my personality. Useless practically (well, not typing) but contributing to Me. 

Sure I (and my kids) spent time learning some things we don't "need" in daily life but, I believe, this has made me a better person. Better because high school helped me get an overall sense of human society and the universe that I wouldn't have stumbled across by pursuing my own interests. 

None if this will impress Roger Schank since I suspect he's quite certain that he knows better than most others. There is a considerable smug confidence apparent in his complaints and that part is perhaps what bothers me most. He seems quite bitter about the time he apparently wasted in high school. This fits well with his smug attitude. He's sure that, if he had been left to himself, he would have made better use of that time. That's something no one can answer but I will say that there are certainly some kids (a really small fraction I would guess) that could indeed make a lot of headway into a significant, productive career if left on their own. Most couldn't or wouldn't. My guess is that this fellow wouldn't be significantly "ahead" had he skipped his useless high school courses either.

There also seems to a distinct lack of real solutions offered up to replace high school. He just concludes with a general comment about how to deal with the current system (put up with it an move on). Really, a better short term solution that would go much farther to supporting his thesis is something like: there's a lot on offer in high school, use this time to explore your interests so that you are better prepared to take on the world when the time comes for you to move on, if nothing else you will come out with a knowledge of how to deal with the somewhat mindless bureaucracy present all around in society. Of course, this would only speak to the tiny percentage of kids that are focussed and mature at an early enough age for this to make sense. 

There is certainly some truth in what he says about the broader failings of our system of general education. We do need more time to explore and learn by doing but we also need time to mature and to grow into the best adults that we can be. Perhaps we can work on making high school better by encouraging those planning curricula to be more objective about what helps people do better in society. So, Roger Schank, the challenge then goes back to you. Show us how a better alternative would work. How would it benefit most students? What about society as a whole? It's not something we can or should change too quickly or easily. 
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