The latest report on the 2006 High School Survey of Student Engagement tells a somewhat predictable, not to mention disheartening, story about how teenagers approach their education and school environment. Turns out forty percent of students reported spending two to five hours per week on homework, and another 40 percent reported spending the same amount of time playing video games. Forty-two percent say that “socializing with friends outside of school” is a very important activity, more than any other category, including working for pay” and “reading/studying for class.” Unsurprisingly, nearly half of all students surveyed report being bored in class every day, attributed to a combination of factors including a lack of interesting (75 percent), relevant (39 percent) or challenging (32 percent) material.
Yet Yazzie-Mintz contends that a rigorous curriculum isn’t the way to cure teenagers’ disaffection for high school coursework. He creates a distinction between academically challenging and intellectually challenging curricula, and claims that the survey results reveal a “desire for a different kind of schooling” based on “discussions and activities that push students to think and interact on a deeper, more conceptual level.”
Readers shouldn’t be fooled by such parsing--a sound, rigorous curriculum meets both criteria. And ample grounds for such an academic curriculum lie in the student responses at the end of the report, many of which paint a disturbing picture of just how far students lag in even basic skills such as vocabulary, diction and spelling. Ohio policymakers and educators seeking further evidence for ratcheting up the state’s academic expectations can find the survey here.