Evidently, the honorable Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago believes that high school is boring.
"You go to school at 8 o’clock. Ugh,” Daley said, making a face at the thought. "It gets boring, high school. You have to really change it. I think they have to change the curriculum in the morning. I firmly believe it. It gets boring. It gets too bureaucratic.”
I still subscribe to the notion that "boredom is a self-imposed affliction"*, but the Mayor does make some good points about high school in Chicago and in most of the US. He’s right about the starting time. There are many studies showing higher achievement for students when their classes begin later (most of the high schools in our system begin around 7:30). However, starting school later in the day is a minor change and one that by itself will not substantially improve learning. The concept of high school in this country needs a major overhaul in both organization and structure.
Maybe lots of money from the Big Monopoly can create something new. The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation is donating $51.2 million to create 67 small, "theme-based" high schools in New York City. I have some doubts about the plan, and not just because of the source of the money. There’s some research to show that smaller schools can be more effective and many systems, including the one I work for, have tried organizing schools around a specific theme. But the results of these efforts have been mediocre due to lack of support from a variety of groups. Too many people – parents, teachers, politicians, journalists – are reluctant to let go of the high school structure they spent time with in their youth, even though it’s a reflection of the needs and goals from 50 years ago.
*Not an original thought and I wish I could remember who first said it.