What’s Haunting Rural High Schools?
[imgbelt img=chostschool320.jpg]Chains of low-expectation rattle in too many rural high schools, holding young people and their communities down. Timothy Collins delivers a Gothic editorial on education.
[imgcontainer left] [img:chostschool320.jpg] Many rural high schools, despite good intentions, are actually conveying to students that they’re not capable, that with high goals they are doomed to fail.
Deep in the haze of restless sleep, I sense that the guidance counselor means well, greeting the soon-to-be-ninth-graders with kind words. But the real message? “We have low expectations here.” It throbs in my brain.
The shortest discussion? College prep. “But only a few of you can make it there. It’s hard.” A screaming Greek-style chorus: “We have low expectations here.”
The next discussion? Trades and agriculture, all well and good, but the sweet voice consoles the parents and their children: “Maybe these courses are too hard for you. They take a lot of time.” Terrifying. “We have low expectations here” is turning into a ghastly, off-key melody that hammers at my skull – from both sides.
The longest discussion? Basic requirements, just get that diploma. Am I witnessing a downward spiral to the darkest depths of a truly common denominator? The message echoes: “Now, those other courses are really difficult, so if you don’t want to work that hard, there’s an easier way. This is it.”
Alluring words, these. Somewhere beyond the edges of my dream state I hear some students screaming and burbling as the syrupy kindness trills and drowns their young spirits. The melody triggers an explosion of dank smoke as the refrain fades and rises again: “We have low expectations here.”
Could the nightmare get any worse? Oh yes: “Now, you have to get a high school diploma. If you get the basic one, then you can get a job at one of the two fast food restaurants in town. And if you do a good job, you can work your way up to manager.”
I struggle to awaken, but evil forces hold me down, chanting: “Low skills. Low wages. Ho-ho!”
Is this an American Dream descending? Drums from the school marching band telegraph a tattoo about the easy way out. But the rumbling cadence undermines the school’s foundations. The students are helpless. This noise is too loud even for them. Thoughts of opportunities congeal into smoldering little clouds as they emerge from the younsters’ heads. The school starts to smoke from around its foundations.
[imgcontainer left] [img:studentandmoon530.jpg] How do the voices of history resound for students in your town: with hope or condemnation?