Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Best Years of Your Life?

Common wisdom holds that high school is the best four years of your life. Whose stupid idea was this? Even twenty years ago when you didn't have to walk through a metal detector to get to class, there was still bullying, ostracism and way too much mindless homework. I have even read a theory that teenagers are more likely than any other age group to commit suicide because "if this cr*p is the best year of my life, what do I have to live for?"

The bigger question is whether high school should be the best years of your life. Even if you're the captain of the football team, dating the head cheerleader and the whole student body loves you, do you want your life to peak at age 18? Keep in mind that peaking early implies the next seventy years will be all downhill. Is that a good thing?

I bring this up not only because I think the "best years of your life" mantra is a lie we use to try to keep kids in school, but also because it is frequently the first objection you encounter when trying to provide appropriate acceleration for a gifted child or when deciding to homeschool. "What about prom?" "You don't want to put a twelve-year-old in class with high schoolers--they'll eat her alive." (This is the other HS stereotype--the House of Horrors--not at all compatible with the Best Years of Your Life scenario!) "If he goes to college early, he'll miss the best years of his life!"

Bollocks. I'm devoted to my high school, still keep in touch with a couple friends from those years, the music department and honors classes were first rate, but they were not the best years of my life. I hadn't yet met my husband, had no children, no sense of who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. (Still haven't completely figured out the last one!) And I definitely do not want my boys to think of high school as their golden years. There is too much to do, see and be to have done it all by the age of 18. Keep growing and evolving. Make next year your best year.

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