Remember your Senior Year in high school? Was it a great year? Was it the highpoint of your athletic career? Did you win the science fair? Did you have a memorable time at the prom? Did you learn more as you prepared for college? Did you go to some great basketball and football games? How about all those graduation parties? Or was Senior Year a painful time filled with awkwardness, acne, and adolescent angst? Well, a Utah State Senator, Chris Buttars suggests that for many students, 12th grade is a waste of time that costs the state millions of dollars. At first, he suggested that the state cut out 12th grade altogether. Since then, he dialed it back to propose that Senior Year be optional. He just doesn't think 12th grade is necessary for many students, because so many "kids are just goofing off." Of course, many of us feel that state senators aren't necessary, because so many of them are just goofing off.
If kids are goofing around and wasting time in school, I don't know that this behavior should be rewarded by telling them they don't have to go to school anymore. Maybe making sure that 12th grade isn't a waste of time would be a better way to go. If the results of Drivers' Ed aren't so good, you don't stop teaching kids to drive safely. You teach them better.
Similarly, William Sederburg, Utah's Commissioner of Higher Education, said the bill was a move in the wrong direction. He pointed out that half of the students who graduate now are unprepared for college math and about a third do not have the writing skills for college.
Anybody who feels that kids need less rather than more education today hasn't talked to too many teenagers lately. If the Senator would just go to the nearest mall, he'd hear things like, "So, uh, like, I thought it was so random when he asked me if this is a new sweater since me and him were shopping when I bought it." Or, "So she went all Lindsay Lohan with me and I was totally, like, duh." Or "I gave him a ten dollar bill for the burger and Coke. Is this the right change? I think I took a mental health day from school when they did subtraction." Do you think the Senator would still say they don't need more education?
And of course, let's not forget all those once-in-a-lifetime Senior Year moments. Do we want to deny kids the Prom, the Big Game, or that magical moment when they find out that there's no such thing as a "permanent record?"
When kids go off to college or work, they are going to have to answer "yes" or "no" to questions about sex, drinking, and drugs. Do you really want them to be out in the real world dealing with things like that earlier rather than later? A year to grow and mature isn't a luxury. How can we expect 17-year olds to handle the real world when many adults can't?
J.D. Williams, the student body president of Utah's West Jordan High School doesn't think 12th grade is a waste of time. He says, "If you're the type of kid who will slack off, you'd find a way to do that in sophomore or junior year anyway." That's a good point, but if Buttars and those who agree with him hear that statement, they might want to cut out the sophomore and junior years, too.
One thing that happens when children aren't educated properly is that they become adults who haven't been educated properly. We hear adults using bad grammar every day. How often do we see someone making a speech on television, and hear her say, "We all have to think more positive about this issue" -- instead of "more positively?" Over and over again, sportscasters talk about how teams "have to play more aggressive" -- instead of "more aggressively." And these are people whose high schools had a 12th grade.
In case you haven't guessed, I'm not in favor of cutting out the Senior Year. I'm hoping that you'll be convinced by something William Sederburg, Utah's Higher Education Commissioner, said on CNN: "We would like the high school system to take the 12th year serious."
That's right. He said "serious," not "seriously." And he's Utah's head of Higher Education.
I don't make these up. I couldn't.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from Sesame Street to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.