Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

January 5, 2014

JACK KOVALESKI: Schools can do more to ready college freshmen

Teach students to manage time, study effectively.

— In high school, I only cared about Lady Gaga and appearing unapproachable. It made no difference to me the social consequences of Reaganomics or the chemical formula for chloroform, but I memorized class material to make a desirable grade.

This was expected of me, I was capable, and so I performed.

But the facts I learned in accordance with state standards bear little relevance to my current academic work. So my answer to the question, “Did high school prepare you for college?” is, simply, no.

That’s not to say the four years were useless, just that, in practice, the goals set by hopeful administrators were not entirely met.

Most of the work I completed for my classes at Northwestern High School were merely exercises in hand dexterity, much akin to washing dishes or preparing the monthly bills on a Sunday afternoon. I keyed numbers into a calculator, or translated French words with a dictionary.

Not only do these trials not stimulate any significant cognitive processes -- critical thinking allegedly being of utmost value to educators everywhere -- I saw no practical application for the information I begrudgingly choked down.

Let’s not kid ourselves; I’m currently a social science major writing essays about folk music and feminism, topics I might never “use” in a professional sense of the word. I am, however, learning skills that will translate into any career path I choose: interpersonal communication and construction of a convincing argument, for example.

This is an efficient use of my time, money and energy.

High school courses should build the skills college freshmen need most. Effective time management could have raised my grade in my freshman-level math course. We also need to be taught how to study; that might sound like someone asking if you know how to floss -- an unspoken routine -- but coming out of high school, I was not prepared to take an exam in which I must elaborate on course concepts through essay questions. I was not familiar with what it meant to truly comprehend class material.

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