My name is John Shrawder. I developed this site to exchange ideas on how school curricula can better serve persons from age 14 to 18.
BEING AGE 14 TO 18 TODAY
Most people age 14 to 18 in the United States attend High School. For these students, their current high school experience includes a curriculum of language skills, math, science, perhaps some social sciences, foreign languages, arts, and vocational courses. Students this age also can participate in extracurricular activities frequently including sports, music, theater, and perhaps a school newspaper. Each week these courses and extracurricular activities can consume over 25 to 40 hours of the time of most Americans this age. For some reason, we assume these activities adequately prepare people to assume adult responsibilities at age 18.
I do not share this belief.
My background is varied. My education includes an MBA, with advanced coursework in economics, Information Technology, Taxation, and Accounting. For over 40 years I have worked in Economic Forecasting, Corporate Finance, and Workforce Development. I worked for media organizations, major corporations, governments, entrepreneurs, and have taught Undergraduate Students at several colleges. I have lived and worked in Urban, Rural, and Suburban areas and am familiar with the issues of each.
I did not feel that my education between age 13 and 25 adequately prepared me for adult responsibilities. In more recent years, I also seen that well past age 18 young people from my family and those I worked with as a teacher and employer were ill-prepared for adult challenges.
For the past 10 years, I have reviewed research on American secondary schools and have studied materials from several disciplines.
Most people in the United States are happy with their community high schools. However, after reading this research, I feel even more strongly that secondary schools can be much better.
Our current high schools are based on assumptions developed over 75 years ago. It is time to rethink these assumptions. Today’s school curricula does not include recent research of 13 to 25 year olds developed from fields like neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and economics. Furthermore it does not incorporate the great advances in public opinion polling that is now available. This new research could help us improve the high school curriculum for everyone.
Since their founding in 1892, High schools have not been based on clear guiding principles. Based on my research, I have developed materials for 14 to 18 year olds that can help prepare them to address adult responsibilities. It is based on the belief that following four goals that should be the purpose of high school:
Discuss what causes happiness and misery across the human life cycle and teach each student skills that can increase happiness and reduce misery.
Discuss the research on problem solving and decision making processes. Many important life decisions are made before age 30. Some people must make important decisions before age 18. Students should have tools to approach these decisions.
Improve students’ abilities to work with authorities, professionals, and organizations. Happiness and misery is often related to interpersonal relationships. Most students develop good relationships with peers through school activities. Some have difficulty with persons in positions of power.
Understand how to use information effectively. All problem solving, decision making, and learning can be improved by using information better and made worse by poor use of information.
These objectives lead to complex and controversial ideas. However, they should be applied to all school activities. Does each activity contribute to one of these objectives? What new activities should be added?
The material was developed because I believe that persons age 14 to 18 are mature enough to discuss adult issues directly. Even if they are not quite ready for some ideas, the lessons and discussions could be useful long after high school.
The course consists of 9 sections. The first has been developed in detail. The other eight are under development. Many take a detailed look at the current high school curriculum. Others are welcome to participate in their creation. The nine sections are intended to supplement not replace high school as we know it. It could be taught over one or two years. It can also be incorporated into other school activities.
HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE
My detailed ideas will be released on this blog over time. This can be used in schools or the ideas can be applied in other parts of the school experience. I encourage all to comment or participate including educators, curriculum developers, parents, or students.