Published May 30 2010
Swift: Different worlds for grads from past, presentI sat in the coffee shop and listened to two moms debate the intricacies of high school graduation requirements and college admission exams.
I could only think of one thing: “Man, I’m glad I’m not 18.”
When did high school get so complicated? When did acceptance into the right institution of higher education need to be strategized like a covert military operation? When did teenagers have to start juggling jobs and extracurriculars along with college-level classes and a platinum GPA?
I realize this puts me in the “old men sitting by the post office and bemoaning the future of mankind” category. Yes, I’m old. Sure, I used to ride a pterodactyl to my cave school.
But life – especially high school life – has changed dramatically in the past few decades.
- Now: High school students are so well-versed in the language of preparation for higher education that they can spit out the related acronyms at a dizzying speed: AP, SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, ACT, FAFSA, PSEO.
- Then: You knew three acronyms: MIP, BFF and ELO.
- Now: From an early age, students are educated on the dangers of drugs – especially meth.
- Then: The only time students heard the term “meth” was if your room was dirty and your mom had a lisp: “Clean up your meth!”
- Now: Kids are savvy about the latest trends and are conditioned to wear certain expensive brand names.
- Then: You could tell who the richest girl in school was because she owned two pairs of HASH jeans.
- Now: In addition to juggling academics and extracurricular activities, many students are expected to work a job or two to pay for their brand-name clothes and gas money. Ideally, this is a meaningful position that has something to do with their future career plans and will look good on their resume.
- Then: There were only three jobs for high school students in your hometown, and your sister had the best one: waiting on people at the Tastee Freez. The neighbor might occasionally hire you for babysitting. This usually consisted of watching, feeding and bathing five half-wild children between the ages of 9 months and 6 years for 75 cents an hour. You might get a bonus of $2 if the parents didn’t get home till 3 a.m.
- Now: Guidance counselors are acutely tuned in to the skill sets and career ambitions of each student. They may administer a battery of occupational tests, encourage students to take college-track courses, alert students to certain scholarships and coach kids on strategy for taking the all-important college-admission test.
- Then: The guidance counselor was also your junior high gym teacher. He reminded you of the Lions Club’s $50 scholarship every spring and made the girls in your class watch a film called “Story of a Teenage Mom.”
- Now: Career-minded students vigilantly take “advance-placement” courses so they can hit the ground running when they reach college.
- Then: As a sophomore, you took an advanced biology class because there was a cute boy in it.
- Now: Even students with excellent grades, a well-rounded resume and a great college career have no guarantee they’ll find work after college.
- Then: If you said “I’m a people person” in the interview and knew how to turn on a computer, you were hired.
Hmmm. What a meth we’re in.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org