Exploring the value of the high-school experience


As seen in the May 23 print edition
Robert Katz, web editor-in-chief
 The end of high school is sort of a weird place to be. I always assumed I wouldn’t get this far (not that I had a specific reason for why I wouldn’t reach this point). I just assumed that the end of high school was “over there,” and I was “here,” and “here” would just never be “over there.” But, as it turns out, I was wrong about this just like I was wrong about the end of elementary school, the end of middle school.
Well, we’re “over there,” and that leaves 481 of us looking back, which is weird enough. It feels a bit like what I imagine the Rapture feels like, with lots of nervous fidgeting and social loose ends to tie up and people setting buildings on fire (on a serious note, we should give ourselves a big pat on the back for not pulling fire alarms every 15 minutes).
So what was the point of four years of high school?
For many of us in the Class of 2014, they were a good four years. We made friends, we learned legitimately cool things and we found out that, hey, the onset of global warming doesn’t feel so bad yet! Although now might be a good time to consider moving away from the coast.
Maybe for some of us, it wasn’t a good four years. Or parts of those four years really sucked. Four years is a long time, especially for teenagers, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t had one or two letdowns on the way to adulthood.
Regardless of whether or not you’ll one day look back fondly on your years at Beverly, you probably changed. You definitely went through puberty, which is a very fun process that you may have coasted through, emerging softly from the silken chryssalis of youth as a fantastic emperor butterfly of an adolescent young man or woman. Or, like me, you were hit in the face for over six years with a cinder block wrapped in pepperoni pizzas. And that’s without a KFC corsage.
So, the value of high school may not have been to learn to love your body — even though you totally should, because you aren’t getting another one (that might be a different story for you, Class of 2017).
You probably learned a lot. Even with all the shifting of courses over the last four years, Beverly has had a lot of educational and extracurricular options which may have not only broadened your view of the world, but also pointed you toward a very viable professional path. Then again, you might be entering college as undecided, which is okay too, even if everyone at your lunch table is already interning at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Let’s leave that one on the table. I like the “learning” angle.
But beyond academics, high school comes with a rather unique takeaway: What happens when the system backfires? When we join too many AP classes or clubs to handle because we really want some person sitting in an office on a college campus in upstate New York to look at our applications and click the “yes” button underneath the summaries of our entire lives? After all, that is secondary education’s singular greatest failure: too many, such as myself, burn themselves out at a time in our lives when we should not be hooked intravenously to Coffee Bean tankards and meeting a dozen deadlines a day.
Yeah, that doesn’t sound all that great, but there may have been a silver lining to so many sleepless nights spent huddled over MacBooks. Over time we may have been able to feel about for our own limits, like little neurotic antennaed insects, and discover the things that come easily to us and those that are going to take a bit more out of us.
So, what’s the value of high school? There’s no set value to a high school experience, just as there’s no one way to cook eggs or to avoid working on post-AP projects that may be just important enough to kind of matter to your grade but not really. We probably won’t even know what we each got out of high school until the distant future, or at least by the time the Common Core is owned jointly by the College Board and Snapchat.
So, Class of 2014, congratulations on not dropping out and joining the circus (even though clown colleges are actually dwindling in support in America). Sorry about the cop-out, but this is really everyone’s question to answer: what did these four years really mean?