I had a drafting class my junior year, coupled with an anatomy class the same year. Both the teachers were Vietnam vets, so they really had no issue speaking their minds. The drafting teacher always encouraged us to have healthy discussions while working and one day we got on the subject of the school system in America.
Mr. Smith, the drafting teacher, was known for vehemently defending his ideas. Which happened to include opinions on alien abductions, big foot, the supernatural, the afterlife. It was no surprise that when the class brought up the school system Mr. Smith introduced us to a revolutionary idea - What if every high school was unique?
His idea, which he had refined over several years (and I'm certainly going to leave a few parts out by mistake), would be to drop 9th grade back to middle school, leaving only 10th, 11th and 12th. Upon entry into High School, before the 10th grade year, a student would take a battery of tests determining what field they wanted to go into. You'd have a school for business, more math focused. A school for athletes (He said one big school for each sport, where the students compete amongst each other ((Like Ender's Game)) but that concept is, to me, outlandish) and a school for those students interested in the military. The schools would be so specialized that indeed even the teachers would be subject to the placement tests to see which should they would be best used at.
This idea reminds me of sort of a pre-college concept. And I loved it. It would be totally impractical, considering in a state like Florida the school for Cross Country might be 6 hours away from the school for Track and Field, so travel would be a major issue. And the funding! Where to begin? (Although, for the sake of embarrassing the state, Florida IS 47th in the nation in teacher pay)
My anatomy teacher, Mr. Gibson, felt that the system was flawed as well. But his idea of fixing it was much different. You see, to really understand Gibson you have to know him. I spent extra time getting to know him. He played full back and middle line backer on a D1 football team. He played point guard on that same school's basketball team. He also happened to catch for that school's baseball team. When he was done with his BA in one field or another, he enlisted in the US Army in the heat of the Vietnam war. He volunteered for two additional tours before, finally, he wound up in a field hospital following a grenade explosion. But, he did win the Vietnamese version of the Medal of Honor. Following his experience in Vietnam, he worked as an autopsy technician for the local morgue to help repay student loans. He was friendly with the local sheriff and was offered a job. Finally he ended up coaching our Wrestling and Weightlifting teams here, and from there took a job as a teacher.
The man isn't human, he's a machine made by the government for the sole purpose of expressing the American Way, all day, everyday. And he does his job. So when Gibson openly criticized anything American, I listened. His idea of how high school should change would be to remove the grades entirely. Currently my school requires 24 credits to graduate - 4 math, 4 English, 3 Science, 2 PE, 3 Social Studies, 2 Arts and the rest general electives. You can attempt up to 7 credits a year. There is little margin for error. Gibson supposed if a kid really wanted to take 3 English classes and 4 math classes a year, let him. If that same kid was so inclined to do extra after school and through the summer, let him. If he was ready to graduate by why would be the middle of his sophomore year, so be it. He saw no purpose for forcing a student to pace.
Neither did I. I failed English 1 my freshman year due to a lack of effort. I took English 4 Honors my senior year and passed pretty easily. If chose to focus and do work and I produced great results. Gibson feels that's how high school should be, instead of punishing those who do buckle down and work hard by forcing them to take 4 years of classes, let them knock it out ASAP. I didn't really see an issue with that.
My ideas are very similar to Gibson's. I feel that all courses should have an entry exam, if a student scores high enough on the entry exam, they should receive credit for the class. But I suppose the obvious counter to this would be to say "that would only punish poor test-takers," which is somewhat true. But if that was the way it went, you better believe every student would work hard on test taking skills. I know I would.
Anyway, that's my rant for the night.