Abolish High School?
To the editors:
Re: “Abolishing High School” (Opinion, March 12):
Abolish high school? What a great idea! I have often wondered why the educational establishment had not tried a more radical approach to school reform. In the early years of our country, students went to college at an age where our current young people are marking time in high school. And it was not only the elite who were so well-educated. Read the letters of a Revolutionary War soldier for yourself or take a history test from an 1865 textbook to determine the education level of the average person.
“But that was then, and this is now,” you say? Then take a look at the Swiss. No one can deny that Switzerland is a thoroughly modern country with a high standard of living. Yet, in Switzerland, less than 25 percent of young people go to high school or college. In fact, you will find that many of the top managers of the businesses for which they are known, never went to high school. Rather, they were apprenticed into their profession at the age of 16. The next three years are spent half in on the job training and half in formal instruction.
The best part of the Swiss system is that it is student, parent and business driven. No bureaucrat armed with a state mandated aptitude test makes these decisions for them. What better way to encourage parental involvement; let the parents and students decide for themselves. I agree with Ross G. Douthat ’02 that it will never happen. But I can dream, can’t I?
Debra J. Cooke
March 20, 2001
To the editors:
The opinion piece by David B. Orr ’01 (“Legal, but Unacceptable,” April 9) advocates the removal of offensive material from the Harvard community. It veers so far to the left, however, that it comes out on the far right. In encapsulating the alarming “free speech, just watch what you say” mentality, Orr’s opinion holds that students do not have the wherewithall to decide what is and is not mindless literary garbage for themselves; it takes a top-down approach to decide for them.
He then attempts to couch these views by claiming that he’s not for deeming his targets “illegal,” only “unacceptable” in the Harvard community. This very type of rationale not only has resulted in the tainted presence across the country of campus speech codes limiting free expression, but is the antecedent for such reprehensible acts as the destruction of newspapers at Brown University, an incident resulting from perpetrators finding a news item not “illegal,” just merely “unacceptable.”
I look forward to the day when one of Orr’s written selections, works of art or political views is found not illegal, just merely unacceptable, and subsequently removed from the public forum, to see if his reaction is still the same. Perhaps he should spend a little less time trying to drop in references to the ivory-tower academics he studies, and a little more time considering the real-life consequences of his suggestions.
George W. Hicks, Jr. ’99-’00
New York, N.Y.
April 10, 2001