I was a terrible student in school. I paid little attention to my teachers, and my poor father struggled to get me to do my homework. My marks reflected my lack of interest. When I went to college, I finally found courses that interested me, but by then a large chunk of my life had been expended.
What I learned from this tedium was that all students are different. I was certainly different than most other students. And my interests were different than those projected for most students my age.
What I also learned, unfortunately, was that the educational system makes little allowance for such differences. Despite assertions to the contrary, mainstream education is aimed only at mainstream students: that is, a projected group of students whose profiles match a large part of the general population. Students outside this large group fall to the wayside. The schools can’t interest them, and often don’t keep them.
A few years ago, the New York Board of Regents made Regents courses mandatory in high schools. Students no longer had the choice between Regents and non-Regents curricula. The effect of this mandate was the loss of many students.
For many students have neither the aptitude nor the interest in the traditionally taxing Regents courses. With the Regents as a roadblock before them, many students dropped out. This is particularly regrettable in that we now have a dearth of skilled labor in the U.S. Non-Regents courses would have allowed these students to fill the skilled-labor gaps in our workforce.
More recently, the state government has proposed cutting down the number of Regents exams students take. This is based on economics, and shows the priority that education is for many people in high places.
Education, of course, should be a priority. Civilization needs education as much as it needs a future. And sooner or later, the educational system should become flexible enough to meet the needs of different students. This should start, in New York, with the reestablishment of options for students between Regents and Non-Regents courses.