Joshua Fost Ph.D. is Vice Provost and Managing Director of High School Innovation at Minerva.
Think back to what you learned in high school. Was it amazing? Did it change your life, transforming your adolescent brain into a powerful multi-tool? Did it give you the independence and strength of character you needed to succeed in college, or whatever else you did?
This is not a rhetorical question, but the fact that it seems like one is a sign of how much work we have yet to do. High school should be that great, but instead, most students graduate unprepared for college, lack the know-how necessary for economic mobility, and can’t use much of what they were supposedly taught (for a somewhat more optimistic view, see here).
One of the contributing causes is the well-intentioned and well-grounded desire to ensure that high school students acquire a core of declarative knowledge. We all die a little when we hear of those graduates who are unaware that Africa is a continent, or who think that human beings and dinosaurs cohabitated.
Accreditation standards are responsible for knowledge requirements and are helpfully explicit, but they also introduce a draconian stiffness to the entire system. This is sometimes exacerbated…