It's something like reverse Peter Pan syndrome: kids today just can't wait to grow up.
The disease is particularly manifested in high school students and their ever-growing obsession with the years to come. So eager are these budding adolescents to shed their grade school status that they willingly comprise the largest viewer demographic for shows like "The Real World," which features supermodels over the age of 18. The national college fetish, like the success of shows like "The Real World," is the absurd result of adults giving adolescents what they say they want.
Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida is the latest leader to comply. Last week, the Florida House passed a bill that would require incoming high school freshmen to declare a major, just like college students. The plan is the brainchild of the Republican governor who, according to CNN, believes that it will better prepare students for the real world while reducing dropout rates to make school more interesting. "It's a really smart way to make high school more relevant and prepare young people for what college will hold," he said.
There are two possibilities. The first is that the governor means what he says, and that he is incredibly stupid. According to CNN, a "state high school task force" recommended the change, but nothing is capitalized nor attributed to any particular expert.
In fact, the most supportive, non-elected voices in the article are that of two Florida highschoolers — a future engineer and a video game designer — who expressed gratitude at being freed from the excesses of traditional education and for the opportunity to get "stuff out of the way quicker and be prepared." This points to the second possibility, which is that it is irrelevant whether the governor means what he says, because he is satisfying a demand.
Adults are giving adolescents what they say they want, but it is not out of any serious belief that doing so will heighten their prospects or improve education. Just ask any high school teacher whether giving their students more choice by limiting their areas of study will be good for forming minds.
But ask any economist or political strategist whether giving students more choice will be good for forming minds and you'll get an absolutist non-response: the consumer is always right.
Gov. Bush's bill is a political ploy loaded with advertorial catchwords and vague promises. Its insistent rationalization smacks of an infomercial: you too can choose your future!
The problem is, most high school students can't even choose what they want for dinner. They'll refuse to eat what their mother cooked, but then they'll linger in front of the refrigerator for 15 minutes before putting the casserole she tin-foiled for them into the microwave.
There is a reason that some high school students today apply to as many as 20 colleges. Suddenly everyone has taken an interest in their lives — SAT tutors, alumnus, politicians — and their futures are in their hands. The dizzying pressure to succeed today is similar to the pressure one feels to assure a car salesman that you love your new car.
Gov. Bush's proposal to let — no, ask — high school students to choose their majors is more meaningfully beneficial to him than it is to his constituency. No adolescent or consumer, really, can resist the commodity for sale: power.
Of course, it is an illusion and will run out. They will need to re-elect him to buy more. Lost in this consumer's plight is the student's struggle to figure things out for his or herself. Gained is a concentration of power in the state.
What may be most egregious about the plan is that with the inevitable succession of self-proclaiming experts will come the further diminishment of a teacher's authority in the classroom. Teenagers may think this sounds cool, but several years later, in the real world, they will find themselves terribly misled. The Senate should resist the powerful forces at hand, reject Gov. Bush's proposal and relegate adolescents back to where they belong: in high school, without a clue.
Josh Cohen ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in philosophy.