In the USA, the final stage of mandatory education, encompassing either 9th through 12th grade, or 10th through 12th grade, depending on location, or the building in which this education takes place. Like junior high, the day is broken into periods, between which students move from class to class. The classes in high school, listed in chronological order, are called: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.

I just finished by senior year (awwwww yeah!!). Freshman year I was isolated, I bit lonely and bored. I had friends but they were trying to get popular. Sophamore year I had friends who were more like me. Drama geeks, band geeks, art geeks, and most importantly, Academic Decathlon geeks, or AcaDorks. I met people smarter than me, and that made me think more. We had real fun. Then i joined Academic Decathlon junior year. Its the smartest thing I've ever done. The combination of having friends with similar problems and the support of the team (we had a 40 member team) and the confidence from doing very well changed high school. Then there's this year. I've been invited to two parties today, but I'm too tired from going to parties that are important to me to go. I talk to the class Vice President every day (the class President is usually too stoned). I was nominated to be class marshal but I wouldn't run. I was voted a school leader.
To make high school tolerable do the following things.
  • Find other geeks/nerds and make friends.
  • Be confident. Everyone can tell if you are. If you can't, pretend you are confidant and it will come.
  • For me the most important was...
Ignore the teachers/administration. Get good grades if thats what you want (I didn't particularly but then I didn't do a scrap of homework this year in honors and AP courses). Find out which teachers give a crap. In my school of 200 teachers, we found 15 good ones that we respect and listen to. A few we'd do anything for. The rest we don't listen to. We are important enough] to our school that we can. We took over the teachers lounge and none have been able to get it back. Be confidant and a geek and they won't touch you. Then you can go about being happy.
I'm not quite sure why there is pretty much nothing but hatred on this node. I especially refer to comments like DMan's. Jeez.

While I don't think that every day was a party for me during high school, I did have a lot of fun, and I was pretty much the typical geek. By the time my high school got PC's, I'd had one for several years already. I took AP Computer Science. It was all good. And on top of it all, I learned a great deal.

I don't think you people get it, though. Ya, a lot of the stuff they teach in high school is crap, but that's not what it's about. High school, elementary school, university, or whatever is about the chance to interact with other humans in a time when our minds are very impressionable. We do the most learning when we are young and the older we get the harder it is to learn. If you judge high school solely on what it is they teach, you are missing the point. The point is classes, lockers, dances, after school hang outs, and crappy jobs and everything that makes up your life up to that point. High school is basically where you learn about yourself.

University is much the same way, though the learning is a little more focused on learning itself rather than learning about yourself. I have always maintained that while university teaches you a great deal, it is more about teaching you the foundations of your area of focus. And more importantly, I think university teaches you how to learn. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you don't know how to learn or that you're stupid if you didn't go to university. I think you also learn how to learn in the real world, but to a different extent.

Downvote this as you see fit, but if you don't agree with me, sit back and think about it. Ya, you learned a lot of seemingly stupid stuff. Why would they teach you that? Just cause it's stupid? I highly doubt it. Someone, somewhere has decided on what is taught. And think about what you are exposed to when you learn. Tom Sawyer. Would you have read that book otherwise? Probably not. Playing golf in Phys Ed. Would you have tried that sport otherwise? Maybe, but who knows. And if you're really adventurous, sit down and look at your daily routine. And look at how much of it is built on stuff you learned in school. From knowing how much change to expect (elementary math) to knowing how to tie your shoes (kindergarten) to whatever.

Anyway, those are my thoughts... not yours.

DISCLAIMER: This is based upon my high school. That's all I know, all I can write about. Your high school may be different and then none of this will apply. But I suspect that in most situations, at least some of it will...

In response to some of the negativity...

My best bit of advice is, if you feel confident enough (see Woundweavr's writeup above), try to befriend the really popular people. It's been my experience that the only moderately popular people are the scummbags that hate everyone different from them. Talk to the folks who get "Class favorite" in the yearbook (in my yearbook, it's called that, it may be different or nonexistant in yours). They don't get to be class favorite by ignoring or hating people. They are the class favorite because they get along with everyone and everyone gets along with them, for the most part. Obviously, if you're a real asshole to them, this doesn't apply.

If you're not friends with these people, stay away from the folks lower down on the popular branch of the high school tree. They are the ones most likely to humiliate and make fun of you. I imagine they do this to try and get higher up on the popularity scale. But guess what? They won't, not without being decent to everyone. That's what is required to be the most popular.

Now, the further down the popularity chain, the more assholes you find. There are probably many, many exceptions, but this is usually the case. Don't try to befriend every last person in school before you are friends with the folks at the top. After that, well, if they like you, you must be a pretty great person, right?

I'd also like to add that I'm not saying you should conform. Be yourself.. I wrote this from my experience, which was I was quite shy in addition to being a computer geek my freshman year. My junior year is now almost up, and I am enjoying high school much more now, while staying a huge computer geek.

DISCLAIMER #2: Yes, it's full of generalizations. Sorry. But hopefully it will help one of the folks to whom high school is a bitch. I've done the best that I could in writing this up. It should also be noted that I practice what I preach and am having a great time in high school as a direct consequence.

First of all, a disclaimer: This node will cover the history and current state of public American high schools. The evolution of private and/or foreign high schools will not be covered; however, I will contrast the current American public school system with international school systems2 I was PLANNING to contrast the American public school system with international models, but the writeup just got too friggin' long.


In relation to the span of human teaching, the modern American school system is quite new. While education has existed since children watched their parents hit furry creatures with stones, the cohesive, (relatively) efficient machine called the American school system has only been around for about 150 years.

The year is 1837. Thomas Jefferson died nine years ago, and now, the liberal state of Massachusetts created a state board of education. The board's first secretary, Horace Mann, is oft credited with the rejuvenation of the educational system in Massachusetts.

Mann roved the entire state, interviewing and gathering data. He wrote up his findings into candid reports, sparing nothing and nobody. Of course, he made enemies, but after twelve years and his resignation, he had done an amazing feat.

During his reign, school appropriations had doubled. Teachers were paid more; they were also expected to teach more. Massachusetts built three state-sponsored schools to assist the teachers; these schools were the first of their kind in America.

The idea that forcing children to learn the same material was good had taken root in Massachusetts. Henry Barnard, quieter and more reserved than Mann, achieved in Connecticut and Rhode Island similar results to that of Mann. The idea flowered, and began to spread its seeds…

These schools focused on primary education. Once the common school was firmly entrenched, people began to wonder if it would be beneficial to allow children to extend their education. Thus, the high school was born.

The first high school opened in Boston in 1821. Originally known as the English Classical School, the institution was soon called the English High School. In 1825 New York followed suit, opening the first high school outside of New England.

However, the general idea of a secondary, tax-supported school system remained in contention until the 1870s, when Michigan's supreme court declared that the high school was a necessary part of the state's public institution.

From that point, the general format of education stayed wholly consistent, while a number of landmarks made sudden and significant changes, such as desegregation, bussing, etcetera. The material taught, on the other hand, slowly evolved as new discoveries were made.

Current State:

Most likely, you've already read the 'angsty teen bullshit' that fills the rest of this node. That is, for the most part, the general consensus amongst geeks regarding high school. A place that sucks, at its best. I will try and take a slightly less emotional approach, although it should be noted that I generally agree with the above nodes. The following draws largely upon my own high school; others WILL be different. I present mine only as an example.

There are three main types of high school in the United States. There is the common public high school; I refer to that most of the time when I speak of a high school.

There are also vocational high schools. These are designed to allow people to learn an economically useful skill, such as plumbing, carpentry, etc. A certain amount of vocational training is built into the common public high school; however, if you truly wish to learn one trade at an early age, this is for you.

Behind door number three, and by far the least common, lies the specialized school. They often teach music; many teach a more traditional kind of art. Some even teach science. See High School of Music and Art in New York City and the Bronx High School of Science

As jw_rush notes, the American high school system is broken up thusly: After completing kindergarten and first through sixth grade, students will usually go to middle- or junior high- school for two years. After this, they will proceed to high school. At 18 (or later, should they be held back) they will graduate and go beyond the free, public, state-sponsored, tax-supported school system. Some will get jobs and begin work immediately; others will go to college for however long is necessary and/or feasible.

Due to state-, rather than government- sponsorship, curriculums vary somewhat from state to state. Of course, to a lesser degree, they also vary district-to-district, and even year-to-year.

All high schools teach the basics: English, History / Social Studies, Science, Mathematics. Most also include a foreign language (French or Spanish are favorites). Music, either through an instrument or chorus, is often found, as are artistic courses. Health and Physical Education are staples of the American high school.

Electives vary from school to school; the wealthier the neighborhood, the more enriching the curriculum will be. Subjects such as Home Economics, Keyboarding, and Cooking can be found in nearly all schools. Programming, Metalworking and Business Law are examples of what may be found in a wealthier institution.

Courses are usually the basics plus a few electives. A computer mixes and matches the students to create a schedule where everyone gets courses they like, and no teacher is too overburdened.

This is done some weeks or even months before school starts, in order for the students to have proper notification.

At the beginning of the school year (normally late August or early September), pupils have a week or so to 'get oriented,' where assignments are sparse and weak. Summer assignments may be scrutinized during this adjustment period.

The standard courses are generally split up so that bricks my be spit out uniformly. That is to say, 'intelligent' kids are lumped with 'intelligent' kids, while 'normal' kids attend classes with other 'normal' kids.

The high school I am familiar with classifies its courses thusly, in ascending order of knowledge required: Fundamental, Standard, College Placement (CP), Honors, and Advanced Placement (AP).

The day, for the students, starts as early as six o'clock in the morning, when they get up to have breakfast, shower, etc, before the bus comes to whisk them to school. Some kids are driven by their parents, or they walk, but they remain in the minority. The day begins at school around eight AM, when homeroom and announcements are over, and classes begin.

The students have seven (plus or minus a few) periods per day. These periods can range from a half-hour to an hour and a half in length. Five minutes are given to shuffle between classes, book bags slung low on the back. It seems that book bags are allowed to be carried with students at all times; this came as a pleasant surprise to somebody who had been forced to struggle with ungainly piles of books and papers daily.

Homework is usually given at the end of each class; the amount varies, although it seems like a total of two hours of work per night, five days a week, is considered ideal.

Midway through the day, the drones march to the cafeteria, where they buy glop, which they proceed to eat. 2 High school food should have a node of it's own, and probably does. I will not discuss it here.

Homework, test averages, class attendance, and whatever else the teacher feels like including are tallied at the 14, 12, 3/4, and at the end of the school year. The teachers give each of their students a grade. For each individual student, a report card is written up, listing the various grades that they have accumulated throughout the year in their courses.

The exact grades vary from school to school; some classes give pass/fail rather than percentage marks; some give Satisfactory / Unsatisfactory / Outstanding marks. These are from my school; YMMV:

Letter Grade || Percentage
A || 93-100
B || 85-92
C || 77-84
D || 70-76
F || 69 or below

It is customary for two large exams1 to be given at the halfway point and at the end of the school year; these are known as the midterms and the Finals. Plurals are due to the fact that all of the classes, even most of the electives, have their tests during the same two week period.

At the end of the year, the grades are tallied. If a person has collected enough points in each course, a quarter-credit is awarded for each marking period that the disciple has taken the course for. If enough credits have been accumulated, then the student is passed, ushered into the next level. A freshman (9th grade) becomes a sophomore (10th grade) becomes a junior (11th grade) becomes a senior (12th grade) becomes graduated.

Should the student fail to accumulate enough credits (that is, fails enough courses, or fails English), then they are held back: they must repeat that grade until they complete the curriculum to the satisfaction of their teachers.

There are a number of complaints about the American school system; some are legitimate, some are not. I will not cover any here, other than to say that I personally believe that the school system has done a hell of a good job at what it does.


And now for something completely different:

12:17 <xdjio> "high school is all about the cock"

See also:

1 I always have preferred the French term for a quiz: L'interro. Makes me all warm and tingly inside as I think of a torturing….

2 Random Facts about the French Educational System

The 12th grade is entirely optional. (Update:Linca says: School is compulsory until 16, and baccalaureat is nearly compulsory to get to University. How you score on it isn't as important as getting it.

However, most attend, in order to gain an edge

On the test from Hell.

Imagine the SATs, five times as hard and fifty times as important.

You're getting closer.

Known as the baccalauréat, informally as le bac, this test determines the future of whoever takes it. Do poorly on the test, and you are almost guaranteed to be barred from the best jobs; fail the test entirely, and you"ll be lucky if you get a job at all.Update: mkb says: "Splitting" to spit out bricks uniformly is called "class tracking". Scheduling is getting more complicated with blocks and stuff. The diminutif of baccalauréat is spelled "le bac", not le bacc. French students may get wednesdays off, but they have an 8 hour day AND they have to go in Saturday mornings!

It is said that the teenage suicide rate increases sixfold around the time of le bac; I do not know the veracity of the origin of the rumor, but it does not seem entirely unlikely.

French kids also get two hours per day for lunch, which isn't always held on school grounds, and they also get Wednesdays off.

The French grading system is done on a 1 to 20 point scale. It is a very harsh grading system; 10 or 12 points is the average. Students usually hover just above the point of failing. A grade above 17 is extremely rare, and usually reserved for when the teacher is taught something significant by the student.

Britannica: Micropædia Ready Reference -> High School
Britannica: Micropædia Ready Reference -> Secondary School
The World Book Encyclopedia -> Education

And, of course, much thanks to: Apple Computer for making awesome computers, and
That crazy goat who discovered caffeine, as well as:

Released in the autumn of 2019, Tegan and Sara Quin's memoir mainly covers the space between Grade Ten and their first successes in the music industry. We see some of their earlier life, but mostly to provide context. Although they are very different people who frequently do not get along, their identities cannot be separated from the fact of being born monozygotic twins. Sara claims no clear visual memory of Tegan prior to the age of four:

...the snapshots of my mind contain no trace of her. What I can summon is the feeling of her. As if she existed everywhere, and in everything.

When they are separated at four for the first time in their lives, she writes,

I lay on her grandmother's living room couch with a fever. Opposite me, I registered the empty space.

Without Tegan, I had become me. And it was awful.

Tegan's experience is even stranger. She recalls a similar early incident. When she recounts it years later to her parents, they assure her she has the memory wrong. She is remembering the event as it happened to her sister. Despite finding aspects of their lives disturbing, she also finds "great comfort that comes from traveling through life with a witness, and identical twin" who "corroborates" her "version of things."

Growing up in conservative Calgary in the 1990s, the sisters listen to punk, worship Nirvana, attend raves and, for a time, take drugs and go to parties. These excursions do not consistently end well. Cautiously and, at first, secretly, they begin dating girls and writing songs. A few times High School verges on becoming an especially edgy after-school special, but it has been written with considerable skill and remarkable candidness. Few celebrity memoirs manage to be so literate and literary.

The book alternates between chapters written by each sister. Their relationship is not an easy one. While they can be each other's best friend, they frequently fight and treat each other with either indifference or hostility. The stressful times seem fuelled at times by a kind of jealousy, growing more intense when one of them is in any kind of relationship that excludes the other. Much of the girls' adolescence makes for uncomfortable reading. I found myself recalling a friend who said that raising teenagers is like watching someone fall down the stairs.

One exception to their narration is the transcript of a recording made by a friend for a school project, in which students discuss their views on "homosexuality." It provides a refreshing change of perspective. Tegan and Sara are in synch, expressing serious teen opinions, and joking comfortably about topics they have not yet discussed openly.

As closeted lesbians, they often confront negative attitudes. During one Christmas vacation they visit relatives in Atlanta and go shopping with a 12-year-old cousin. At a hip clothing store they see a girl with pink hair, kissing another girl. The cousin's account shocks her father:

"Vivienne, what kind of place did you take our 12-year-old to today?"

"It was just a clothing store, Marty," Mom said, annoyed now.

"Stay out of this, Sonia. I want to know where my wife was and why she wasn't protecting our daughter."

"Protecting her from what? Gay people?" I came alive. "Seriously?"

The shopping excursion gets contrasted with the fact that the men went to Hooters for lunch:

In the corner, Grandpa joked to Uncle Henry, "Well, the women don't kiss at Hooters. Wouldn't mind though." They chuckled. I felt sick.

Like all of us, however, their limited experience of the world beyond their home town partially defines them. When the newly-signed recording artists first visit Toronto, Tegan expresses confusion at what appears to be an ocean outside the window. She was unprepared for the reality of the Great Lakes.

Personally, I was glad the book concludes where it does. Tegan and Sara move from playing houses and basements and a few gigs with a band, to winning a battle of the bands competition and recording their first album with movie-montage swiftness. It really happened that way for them, and they provide some insights into some of their early decisions regarding the music industry. Nevertheless, fame makes for far less interesting reading than the struggles that took them there. The same might be said of a superior memoir, Patti Smith's award-winning Just Kids. Undoubtedly, High School will be read mainly by people who enjoy Tegan and Sara's music, or by teenagers, or by people who work with teenagers. But it says something that the book's most interesting elements are those that could appeal to a reader who doesn't care, particularly, that the protagonists grow up to be famous.

UPDATE: The book was adapted in 2022 into a series for Amazon. It stars Railey and Seazynn Gilliland, real-life twins who were discovered on tiktok. Although it makes changes to events, it's true enough to the book and, like the source, presents a glimpse of a time and place that is interesting enough to appease viewers who aren't especially interested in Tegan and Sara's music.

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