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High School: "The Giant Box Of Strangers"

There are lots of reasons to read Jennifer Senior's new New York Magazine article Why You Never Truly Leave High School (or at least save it for the weekend).

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The main reason to read it is to grasp Senior's descriptions of the importance -- and fundamentally flawed nature of -- high school and its impact on students' future lives.  High school isn't just important in our individual memories and culturally (they're making Heathers into a musical).  How adolescents experience those key years not only determines how much they enjoy high school but also influences how they do as young adults and afterwards.

“If you’re interested in making sure kids learn a lot in school, yes, intervening in early childhood is the time to do it,” says Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist at Temple University and perhaps the country’s foremost researcher on adolescence. “But if you’re interested in how people become who they are, so much is going on in the adolescent years.”  

“It’s not adolescence that’s the problem,” according to one researcher cited in the story. “It’s the giant box of strangers.”  

The article is also a pretty good overview of why school -- high school especially -- is so important, and so fraught, for adults as well as adolescents.  In every tale of success or faillure we encounter, parents, teachers, taxpayers are all re-experiencing our own teen years.  We remember more from those years, and always will.  our deepest and most vivid experiences of success, shame and agression, among other things, come from this period.
People always ask me why I think education is so interesting, and I think they mean classrooms and pedagogy.  But obviously school is much much more than that -- parents, teachers, and public officials, policy considerations, social issues, religion and ideology -- both in the present and from the past.
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In every story of achievements or failure we experience, mother and father, instructors, individuals are all re-experiencing our own teenager decades.

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