Honestly, who reading this knew what they wanted to do at age 14, 15 or 16? I sure didn’t. I mean did I ever think: Hmm, I think I’d like to be a blogger in Croatia when I graduate high school. I didn’t even now where Croatia was, and of course blogs hadn’t even been invented. And yet, we have an education system that demands our kids decide what they want to do when they are barely at the edge of adulthood.
Look, there are a lot of problems with the American education system. My home state just made the front page of the Washington Post because of the state’s brutal budget cuts. But, one thing I like about the US education system is the latitudes of choice it grants to students.
Like the movies
Lately, many of my students have been asking if American high school really is like it’s depicted in the movies. And yes it is, at least when I went to school it was. The American high school is breeding ground of subcultures. Jocks, preppy aspiring politicians, audio visual nerds, computer geeks, band nerds, artist burnouts and a host of other clans populate the high school landscape. And this is only possible because of the wide variety of choices and courses offered.
Of course each group is not mutually exclusive. In high school I was a Latin learning, trombone blowing, audio visual, artistic, punk, nerd. While my sister was a drama and debate, Spanish taking overachiever. It seems that in the Croatian school system you would only be able to be one of those things. Either your are going to learn languages, attend the music school, or enrol in the drama school. And what if you want to be an artist and learn physics? Impossible to do in a single high school in Croatia.
Part of the risk (and fun) of living in a new country is experiencing new things. Of course, I’ve never attended Croatian high school, so I don’t really know what its like. It just seems like one big question mark. I mean there aren’t even a bunch of 1980s and early 2000s movies about it that I can watch and learn from. Is there a Croatian equivalent to The Breakfast Club?
Now, I’m not planning on going back to high school, but someday my daughter will attend high school in Croatia. I worry, how can I parent, how can I help her when I don’t even understand the world she’s living in? How can I help advise her on what to study and what path to take when my own path has been so unpredictable? From this perspective it seems like it would just be easier to be a band nerd who has to learn Latin… and somewhere sixteen year-old me can’t believe I just wrote that.