Last week I had a nightmare and woke up in cold sweat. I dreamt that I was forced to go back to high school and re-do my matriculation exams. I don’t think I would have been that frightened if I had dreamt of being sentenced to jail. And in a way, I feel I am partly there, doing my high school the second time around, due to my high identification with my daughter’s experience in high school.
If there’s something I regret, now that she is in 12th grade, about to finish it in 5 months is that I let her do the whole 4 years in high school. That I insisted, when she was in 9th grade and then when she was in 10th grade, that this is an important experience, that she doesn’t need to rush to university, that she must preserve her last bit of childhood by being a high school student and that high school bears some social meaning too. When she was in 11th grade it seems simply silly to leave school, she was halfway with her matriculation exams. But regrets keep growing. I guess she had to pay the price of being a first born.
In retrospect I realize that high school, like university, like any other form or frame, isn’t made for everyone, doesn’t always fit. For her it was totally redundant. She could have finished all of her matriculation exams with a perfect score independent of high school, would have done it much better and much quicker. Not wasting time in a classroom where a teacher is standing up dictating a book to the students. Her social circles have very little to do with her high school. In fact, most of her friends are from other high schools in the area. Her last childhood years, which I was so anxious for her to preserve, have been lost in favor of excessive homework assignments, too much time in the classroom and redundant tests. She barely has time left to play her music, read her favorite books, do her D&D, travel, party or simply have fun and relax. Why did I insist she stay in high school??
Now my son is about to finish 8th grade and we have started to search for the perfect high school for him. He is different from her, but I can’t help that sense that here I am about to do high school for the third time around!
We are looking for an arts high school for him. There are a couple of those in the vicinity, both with great reputations. One is the National High School of Arts (free translation from Hebrew). Considered “national” means that it gets its budget from the state and not from the city where it is located. Parents are requested to pay higher fees, yet the infrastructure is relatively bad reflecting in the very old and neglected buildings. The second high school we visited is the Tel-Aviv High School of Arts – a high school which enjoys high budgets from the city and presents a very high standard of buildings and equipments. It’s the visit in that second school that brought up the nightmare again.
The first school prides itself in having a reasonable table of classes – about 45 a week, out of which 15 are dedicated to the arts classes and 30 to the ‘regular’ subjects – to complete the matriculation exams. The second high school offers 12 hours a week dedicated to arts studies, and about 50 more dedicated to the ‘regular’ subjects. Both schools show great results in matriculation exams and the only question I am left with is – how does this school achieve it with 30 hours a week, and the other requires almost 50.
When I asked one of the school representatives about it she said “but the kids love it here!”. She then asked one of the senior year students to tell me and he said: “yes, we spend here long days, but we love it here”. How about life outside school? – I asked. “Well, we live our lives in school”, he confirmed. “This is it”.
I thought this to be sad. I mean, it’s nice that if you have to spend such long hours – sometimes 8 AM till 6 PM and more – at least you spend those hours in a friendly, pleasant and interesting environment – but don’t kids deserve to have some life outside school?? Is this what we have reduced their childhood to – School and tests??
I try to push aside my expected 4th time in high school. My youngest son is only in 4th grade. Looking at him I think he might not go to high school at all. He is the type who can do it his way. With grand plans – since he was 5 years old – to save whales and endangered species – high school will be a setback.
Why does it have to be like that? Why are high schools all about matriculation exams – SATs – Baccalaureate instead about knowledge and growth? and some childhood time…
It’s been several years since I graduated from high school… I am asking myself could I have evolved and be what I am today if I hadn’t finished high school, and it was during a much more conservative era. The answer is – yes. I started my writing career when I was very young. Not relating to the books I wrote (and never attempted to publish) when I was 10 and 14, at the age of 15 I was already a paid journalist. My grade at the “written expression skills” matriculation exams was somewhere around 60-70 percent. No one had ever asked me about it.