There was a time in our world when a person possessing a high school diploma was considered to be a well-educated person, and they were. That time ended almost four generations ago. Few people in 1930 needed to, or could go on to, college or university. Starting about that time, a high school education came to mean less and less of an accomplishment and as the years went on, we reached today, where we all acknowledge that a high school diploma isn’t worth the paper that it’s printed on.
There are a number of reasons that account for the decline in the worth of a high school education. One of the most important reasons is that starting immediately after World War II, it became necessary to send high school graduates on to college or university to keep them out of an ever-expanding labor force, for at least four years. Another very important reason was that also starting immediately after WW II, science and technology opened up many new vistas that could not even be touched upon in high school.
On July 16 Newsday ran a story on plans calling for a high school Regents revamp, which I found disturbing. You should find it disturbing, too. The article said the Board of Regents at a meeting in Albany had decided to overhaul its high-school graduation requirements and rethink the use of the Regents exams, which have been given to students for more than 150 years in the state. Under the current requirements, students must earn a grade of 65 or better on four or five exams to graduate with a Regents diploma. In my day the passing Regents grade was 75.
Some critics of the Regents would like to de-emphasize pencil-and-paper exams in favor of increasing the number of so-called pathways to diplomas, such as artistic undertakings and civic involvement.
So, while all of humankind is looking up at the stars and is straining to find ways to reach them, students in New York need not focus on science, technology, engineering, or math. Students in New York may soon be able to complete their high school educations and receive Regents diplomas by spray painting murals on the sides of buildings, or by attending meetings of Black Lives Matter, or Antifa. Well, we did have a president for eight years who was community Organizer when he completed his education. And as far as I know, there is no Regents exam given at the high school level for community organizing.
But have no fear. All of Asia and almost all of Europe are focused on having their students achieve at the highest possible levels. While our students will be busy spray painting the sides of buildings, the Asian and European students will be reaching for the stars for themselves and for us.