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In defense of public school education

Kirsten Curtis, Guest Columnist

Japanese students attend school 240 days out of the year, 60 more days than Tahoe-Truckee High and the average American school.

According to Chrissy Working, a student who participated in the Rotary Exchange Program to France, European students have an average of four hours of homework per night. With this kind of studying going on around the world, are American schools going to be able to compete in a global society?

In the past few years, I have seen private schools sprout up around the nation, desperately trying, and oftentimes succeeding, in ameliorating the education of American students. But why? Why the need for private education? Is perhaps the public school system lacking in some way? Specifically in California, could it be an issue of funding?

According to Bob Nehls, financial director for the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, every student enrolled in public school is allotted an average of only approximately $4,500 per year for their educational needs. Is that really enough money to supply the resources that can provide an education and prepare students for life beyond secondary school? An emaciated budget might be part of the reason that California public schools are ranked in the bottom 10 of the nation. So what is a parent who wants to provide the best for his/her child to do?

This question, it seems, weighs on the conscience of many concerned parents, for, being a recent grad of Tahoe-Truckee High School, I am constantly bombarded with inquiries regarding TTHS’s scholastic valor.

It is obligatory to keep in mind that each student is different, and that some, because of different needs, might be better suited for the special attention that private schools can provide – although by no means are private schools designed merely for children with special needs. However, Truckee High does a superb job, at least in my experience, of providing students with a complete education.

Oftentimes the connotation of education consists of scholarly images: books, papers, homework and projects. While these are integral elements of the educational process, there is more to learn in high school than just facts and figures. Schools who focus mainly on the connotative meaning of education look over the need that students have to take responsibility for their own education.

TTHS gives students a choice – to get by with the bare minimum, or to suck all the juice out of the fruit of knowledge. Making choices like this, in a way, prepares students more for the real world than learning Newton’s Method or the intricate workings of photosynthesis.

Truckee High doesn’t force information down the throat of its students until the gagging point. Instead, it provides the opportunity to take advantage of the exploration that learning can offer. Perhaps knowledge is not handed out on a silver platter, it has to be sought after, tracked down, hunted: but it is there and the student is responsible for taking charge and becoming accountable for that education. If a student has the passion for learning, coupled with desire and drive, then Truckee High provides the ultimate remedy to fulfill the quest for knowledge. Not only will students learn high school basics (plus more like Calculus, French, and AP Biology), but they will also become empowered by taking charge and seeking out their own education, a skill that will be used throughout the rest of their lives.

So parents, my advice to you is that your child will probably do very well at one of the many fine private schools in the area. Home schooling might be the best solution for some students. But for those who seek the ultimate challenge, and the ultimate goal, Tahoe-Truckee High can provide it.

Kirsten Curtis is a TTHS graduate and a student at Stanford University. The opinions of columnists do not necessarily represent those of the Sierra Sun.


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