“If we fail to prepare all of our young people for the 21st century economy, the economic and civic health of our nation will continue to be at risk”, said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
I couldn’t agree more with Tom Vander Ark.
Recently I have read the information that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated nearly $ 30 million to boost high school graduation rates and give students the chance to earn college credits.
It is a really good initiative. It will be really helpful to many boys and girls to enter to college. The result will be good for those boys and girls, but it will not be so good as it is being expected to the economic and civic health of the nation.
There is an old Russian joke.
A policeman is coming to a drunk guy which is creeping about the road light and asking, “What are you doing, sir?” The guy is answering, “I am looking for my keys from my apartment”. “How could you loose it at such a light place?” said the policeman. “I didn’t loose at this place, I lost it somewhere over there”, said the guy. “But, for the God’s sake, why are you looking for them at here?” said the policemen. “Because”, said the drunk guy, “at this place there is the light; much more then at that one.”
Similar situation is with the improving of a high school education. The logic is simple. The nation needs the bigger number of educated people. Where educated people come from? They come from colleges. Hence we have to help high school students get in a college. The result of this logic is $ 30,000,000; and the result of that money is “by fall 2008, more than 170 early college high schools will exist throughout the country, ultimately serving more than 65,000 students”.
The only problem is that it does not mean that the number of college students will be increasing by 65,000 students. The actual increasing will be really less.
The actual result of building 170 early college high schools will be the redistribution of the high school students between the “old” public schools and the new early college high schools. But the total amount of high school students well prepared to a college will remain almost the same (I predict the changing within 4 – 7 %).
Now, let me explain my reasoning.
Probably, you already know my view on a human brain. The brain is like a muscle. The well trained brain is able to solve difficult problems. The underdeveloped brain can deal with easy tasks only. The thing is, at the age of 14 –15 the human brain – as a muscle - is in the end of its development. It means, to make a significant progress in the further brain development there are significant efforts and time needed. Hence (I know it sounds sad, but the hard truth is better than the sweat lie), if a high school student is not able to enter to college being in a public school, it is unlikely, he or she will be able to do that after early college high school. Of course, there are always “boundary fluctuations”, but they cannot be too significant.
All I just said does not mean that early college high schools are useless. The existence of those schools will give the positive effect. Every that school will become a center of attraction to high professional teachers and highly motivated students. The public schools around the early college high school will feel a pressure of a competition from the early college high school. The officials will have to find the ways to support public schools, etc. And of course, lots of boys and girls will find a better educational environment at the college high schools.
But we have to understand that we will not meet 65,000 new college students (in average nationwide) after spending the $ 30,000,000.
What kind of using of the money would be more effective in my point of view?
The answer is leaded form the “brain is like a muscle” theory.
If we want to increase the number of high school students well prepared to a college, we have to increase the number of high school students having the well developed/trained brain. To achieve that we have to go into preschool and elementary school levels and reorganize them making accent/stress/effort on the brain development (this is what the early childhood education must be about!). We do not have to pour in the child’s heads the bigger sum of separated knowledge (the head is the place where new thoughts are being created, and then only the storage for information).
We have to exercise/train the child’s brain by different tasks to help it become as developed as the Mother Nature allows to do this.