High Schools Crush Student Self Esteem

The high schools in America are systematically crushing the self-esteem of average and low achieving students. America’s high schools make it clear to non-college bound students that they have no value. This group represents seventy percent of the high school population. This doesn’t make sense when one would think the role of high schools is to increase the self-esteem of their students. However, many high schools require all students to take a college prep curricula that is truly only appropriate for high achieving college-bound students. The other students cannot master this complex curriculum and when they fail, are castigated as being lazy or stupid. Year after year of this abuse by the high schools tears down the self-esteem of millions of high school students.

This process of tearing down high school student’s self-esteem is not a one-off occasional problem in American high schools. This is the norm. They put kids in a no-win situation. They force them into algebra, geometry, algebra two, chemistry, biology, and foreign languages. The average 100 IQ students do not do well in these college prep courses. Below average intelligence students do even worse. High school teachers can see the average and low achieving students should not be in their college prep courses. However, it’s not their job to decide how to run the school. High school principals are in the same situation. They mean well, but they’re merely following orders from superintendents and school boards. The cold reality is that no one challenges this elitist form of education.

The result of no one really caring about creating an appropriate curriculum for low and average achieving kids is that the average and low achieving students continue to be abused by American high schools. The systematic abuse tears down the self-esteem of these students. What happens to these battered students? Some cannot stand it and drop out of high school. Then they are blamed again by the school and by parents for being too lazy to finish high school. Presently, the dropout rate is about thirty percent of high school students, which coincidentally is the same percentage that goes on to graduate from college. The middle 40 percent are also abused because they don’t do well in this college prep curriculum either. They muddle through watered-down courses get D grades that are counted as passing, and take online courses to graduate. Many of these kids drop out, but stay in school doing the least necessary. The high school abuse of these children harms them for the rest of their lives.

We know the dropouts go into gangs, commit crimes, and up in jail. The next 40 percent have no employable skills and are left to find their own way. Many spend time in the community colleges, but they typically do not get a degree or transfer or obtain an employable skill. A recent report on California Community Colleges reported that seventy percent of their students did not receive an AA, transfer, or obtain an employable skill. Thus, these kids are left with few skills to get a job.

The point is that the result of the high schools failure to provide an appropriate education for average and low achieving students is terrible self-esteem of millions of young people that leads to negative outcomes. The role of high schools in America should be to perform just the opposite function. They should be building the self-esteem of all of their students. There is every reason to believe low and average achieving students can be successful in high school career technical education. When high school students take a sequence of four years of career technical education, they are typically fully prepared for entry-level employment. The valuing of career technical education by the high school demonstrates support to low and average achieving high school students and their parents. The valuing of a place for these kids in high school is essential to keeping kids in school and to building up their self-esteem for successful lives. They can also benefit from other courses that will help them after high school that there is no time for in their college prep curriculum. Courses such as consumer math, nutrition, parenting, and entrepreneurship clearly have value after high school.

Unfortunately, the present high schools ignore the self-esteem of their non-college bound students. If the students aren’t doing well in their college prep courses, the school doesn’t care. The lower achieving students are just collateral damage. High schools just go on ignoring what happens to kids when they leave. Much of this is due to the isolation of high schools in America. There is no connection to anything outside the academic walls of the high school. Thus, the kids are damaged and no one knows or cares. The high school career academy honors career technical education. Student success in career technical education is honored in career academies. The way to change the treatment of the supermajority of students in today’s high schools is to expand career academies. Job skills are important, but so is the self-esteem of our youth. The two are intertwined in the creation of self -sufficient young people.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon.com

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on Amazon.com
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