Abolish high school?

Recently, author Rebecca Solnit (Men Explain Things To Me) proposed in a Harper’s article that high school be abolished. Solnit herself went through junior high school, took a general equivalency diploma (GED) at 15, and then went to college, skipping high school. She wrote:

“What was it, I sometimes wonder, that I was supposed to have learned in the years of high school that I avoided? High school is often considered a definitive American experience, in two senses: an experience that nearly everyone shares, and one that can define who you are, for better or worse, for the rest of your life. I’m grateful I escaped the particular definition that high school would have imposed on me, and I wish everyone else who suffered could have escaped it, too.

“For a long time, I’ve thought that high school should be abolished. I don’t mean that people in their teens should not be educated at public expense. The question is what they are educated in. An abolitionist proposal should begin by acknowledging all the excellent schools and teachers and educations out there; the people who have a pleasant, useful time in high school; and the changes being wrought in the nature of secondary education today. It should also recognize the tremendous variety of schools, including charter and magnet schools in the public system and the private schools—religious, single-sex, military and prep—that about 10 percent of American students attend, in which the values and pedagogical systems may be radically different. But despite the caveats and anomalies, the good schools and the students who thrive (or at least survive), high school is hell for too many Americans. If this is so, I wonder why people should be automatically consigned to it.”

Washoe School Superintendent Traci Davis responded, “I think that high schools are an opportunity to really learn more [of] the social aspects of it. I loved my high school years. I have a brother who probably did not love his high school years. The question probably isn’t if high school should be abolished. The question is, does it meet the needs of the learner or are there alternative high schools? And I believe that every child does not fit in a box, and so every child might not be successful in a comprehensive high school. … And that’s why we provide a variety of options for kids.”

She pointed to Washoe High School, now called Innovations, and RISE Academy for Adult Achievement.

Another local source said, “I know we have students at Truckee Meadows High School who are taking high school diplomas and associate degrees at more or less the same times.”