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The 1892 Committee of Ten of the NEA stressed that high schools were sadly only for the elite, but in the succeeding century, there was a marked increase of national wealth, improved living standard and a greater demand for better trained labor force. This led to reorganization of secondary education into one that would cater to the population's growing industrial democracy and the cardinal principles of secondary education were introduced in 1918. These principles stressed guidance, a wide range of subjects, adaptation of contents and methods to students' abilities and interests, and flexibility of organization and administration. High schools began focusing on stress health, citizenship, vocation education and preparation, ethics and the proper use of leisure, in addition to academic instruction. This was what "comprehensive" means.
Educators continue to experiment with the curriculum and, in the process, there have been more modifications in attitudes and methods than subject matter. Elementary school districts have evolved innovations, such as team teaching, non-graded schools, individualized instruction, open classrooms and programmed learning, while retaining the basic academic structure.
The U.S. has been sailing though a long period of relative economic prosperity and global political power, since the disappearance of a nuclear threat with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the very real and current threats of terrorism, recession, pollution, racial and ethnic dissensions, starvation, human rights violations, underemployment and population explosion demand sustained response from every one, specifically to education to be more and more future-oriented in anticipating survival and continued success, prosperity and global leadership. These Third-Wave developments prophesied and described by Alvin Toffler in his best-sellers overwhelm the teacher who must develop more options and alternatives in responsive to more and greater demands required of her. It is unfortunate, however, that many of those who make those demands are not too knowledgeable about progressive experiments that worked in the past and now feel the need to "reinvent" options. This lack of knowledge creates what William Ogburn's concept of "a culture lag," which is ignored. Workable options can be arrived at only by keeping tab of past successes and by aligning with the theory and practice education, which depend on the history and philosophy that shaped American schools. Future-oriented-ness demands the education be free of traditional binds and binds to outdated subjects and methods and that more oncoming and unpredictable social economic and political forces will continue to dictate and change schools and demand new perceptions and new programs
From the outsider's point-of-view, the American education system seems to be very confusing. American history and culture reflect no defined or unified national education system or curriculum. Education is not in the hands of the federal government, which does not operate schools, but in the control of the 50 states' districts that maintain school boards. These school districts consist of an elementary school, a middle school or junior high school and a high school. An elementary school consists of kindergarten up to the 5th or 6th grade and most children enter kindergarten at 5 and first grade at 6. A middle or junior high school follows. A middle school consists of grades 6 to 8, a junior high school grades 7 to 9 and a high school grades 9 or 10 to 12. All high school students must take and pass English, math, science and social studies, a physical education or a foreign language subject for one or two semesters. Public education in the U.S. is free and compulsory until the student is 16 or 17. He or she graduates if he or she passes all of the required courses or subjects. The grades given are a for excellent, B for above average, C for average, d for below average and F. For failure. A failure requires the student to repeat the subject.
Latest statistics show that three out of four high school graduates enroll in a college or university. The college or university admission office enrolls the student if it finds his or her high school course of study, high school GPA, SAT mark, written essay and personal interview favorable. GPA is grade point average in high school and SAT is scholastic aptitude test. The types of college degrees are associate, bachelor, master and doctoral.
Most of those in high school take up courses or subjects in health, non-occupational and occupational home economics, and business and office work. Most high school boys enroll in agriculture, industrial arts, technical, trade and industry for a career in any of these lines. At the college and postgraduate levels, enrollments have been highest in business, office, trade and industry courses or programs. If vocational education generally begins at the high school level, career education at present begins as early as kindergarten. Young children in kindergarten are exposed this early to different jobs and careers and guidance counselors help determine to which jobs or careers these young children have the strongest aptitude or leaning to. Educators today believe that even kindergarten pupils who are not academically inclined may be motivated to learn basic academic skills if motivated by the exposure. Work experience programs, which are partly funded by the federal government, allow young students participation in apprentice programs. Local education agencies provide funding for work-study opportunities for students who want to go through vocation education but whose families cannot afford the cost. There is now a cooperative vocation education that provides supervised work experience related to the student's chosen career or school program.
The American education system may be criticized for a lack of a cohesive history or culture or unity and for many educators and educational theorists' lack of grasp of what experiments worked in the past. But the overall efficiency in responding to changes and developments still makes the system the most suitable compared to other education systems in the world.
A student or child whose intellectual maturity or psychological development is not in keeping with average of normal children his or her age can be provided special education. Children afflicted with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, for example, can be enrolled in a special school or be tutored while consulting a child psychologist. On the other hand, a precocious child who learns much faster than his or her peers may belong to a gifted class separate from the average. The American education, despite serious and less serious mistakes in the past and at the present, will tend to make room for new and increasing programs as these become felt.
Meantime, a creative professional is easily spotted when he or she is in high school, where he or she normally gets high marks in English composition and literature. Or he or she may also excel in Art subjects. He or she may not be on top of the class because she or he is required to excel in all subjects and majority of those who do very well in language do not do well in figures and vice-versa. Most of those who get high grades in math and statistics do not demonstrate well in languages and in written English. Those inclined towards manual or mechanical fields, such as engineering and architecture, often do poorly in oral and written communication.
My field of specialization is telecommuting and I finished elementary, high school and college. In my many years of professional practice, I drifted from strictly communication functions to more technical jobs with the constant use of internet research, although what I learned in the elementary, high school and college certainly has been handy by way of basic inputs. But the skills and massive information I have recently gathered through the mass media and the internet can let alone have provided what schools could impart. Today's knowledge explosion or the universally available and still-enlarging sources of knowledge and skills need only guidance from a tutor and learning can occur.
The American system of education makes these possible and, in pursuit of its theories as leaders in the field, makes this possibilities and career opportunities endless and thrilling.
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