Mark Twain said it: ďThe trouble ainít that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ainít distributed right.Ē To put it another way, all-purpose high schools do not meet the needs of everyone.
We live in an exciting place, with wonderful opportunities for young children to learn about nature and science, as one example of how elementary-school students get introduced to new things. For instance, this next Saturday, the Friends of the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuge will he holding its annual Kidsí Day at the Monte Vista Refuge, and each summer the Junior Ranger Day at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve draws a big crowd.
The staffs and volunteers at such events provide learning experiences that spark enthusiasm, perhaps lifelong interests or even a future vocation. A big round of applause for the parents and, often, grandparents who take time on a Saturday to bring the kids. (Letís admit that the free hotdogs at the refuge will help, too).
Those are only once-a-year events, though. Elementary and junior high classrooms should provide more educational field trips during the school year, but, instead, school district budgets restrict funds for such trips, while money for high school sports does not seem to suffer similar stringencies.
In schools and society as a whole, our priorities are confused. Education is less important than sports?
Many people are trying hard to improve education here, whether they are teachers, parents, students, or members of the community. By high school age, some kids, too, are working hard and achieving well in science, math, English, reading, writing, history, and language classes, sometimes against odds that are hard to imagine.
The reality about the success or failure of these all-purpose high schools, however, could be gleaned from the Valley Courier on September 29 in a report about our dismal ACT scores. The scores assessed the potential of high school juniors to attend a college, despite the fact that not every youngster has a goal of attending a college.
If I read the report correctly, Sanford, followed closely by Sargent, had come in slightly above the average cumulative scores in Colorado. Moffat, North Conejos, and Sangre de Cristo were slightly below the state average, and from there the cumulative scores slid down the slippery slope through embarrassing to humiliating to appalling. The good news was that a couple, like Alamosa, had inched up a tad.
By comparison, an outstanding example of achievement in Colorado was a charter school in Fort Collins with an average composite ACT score that was nearly double that of the best scores in the San Luis Valley. Obviously, the bolt of lightning that struck Fort Collins was a very long way away from here, or else we need to provide more charter schools, separate from all-purpose high schools.
Many kids in our schools have been moved along almost automatically from one grade to another, with sports or some other interest keeping up their spirits and attendance. I grant you that sports offers recreational and health benefits, but the winning ACT scores are not earned on a football field.
By high school, the differences of interests among most teenagers are fairly apparent. There is nothing inferior about one interest or another, but, in my opinion, we need different schools for different tracks of study and goals. Is that idea undemocratic?
Identifying high schools only by their immediate geographical areas does not serve the students well. Offering different tracks of study in different buildings could serve real needs better.
I myself received a diploma, eons ago, from a public high school where there were two high schools available, each with its own track, mine being the college track. Each high school bore its own name over its door and on its diplomas. The competition was tough and I had to study hard, but I was happy and loved the kids in my school, even with no football team, and the other kids were loyal to their own technical school, with a football team. Think about it.
More than 500 years ago, Columbus claimed, ďFollowing the light of the sun, we left the Old World.Ē Today, the Old World and the Eastern World alike are leaving the New World behind, because too many of us have inadequate ideas about education.