Peter is right. High schools are very, very boring. What most students end up doing there could be done in a couple of years, at most. High school students are in class way too much, and high school teachers are too. The teachers have no time to prepare for class, and they’re stuck with boring books that come with test banks that they don’t have time not to use. Most high-school teachers simply don’t have the time to do much reading, and many of them aren’t even allowed to let their students (outside of English class) read anything much but the dumb, boring textbook. (The fantastic lectures of our Tony described on the first boredom thread below are a mighty, mighty rare treat for high school students.) Most of them can’t fall back on something like Tony’s fine undergraduate or graduate liberal arts majors (thanks to schools of education). And various techno-innovations such as power point only make things worse; they insult the student’s intelligence and induce yawn after yawn. There are many exceptions to these broad generalizations (many or most of them in serious science and math classes), but the exceptions prove the rule.
Whenever a new student comes to me full of enthusiasm for learning--or turns in 14 pages for a 500-word assignment, I pretty much assume that the student was homeschooled. I’m not one who thinks most homeschooling is all that good. But one of the most positive things about it is that the homeschooled spent a lot less time on school, a lot less time with textbooks, etc. than the kids in public schools. School doesn’t rule their lives, and it’s not a contemptible source of boredom for them. They haven’t had the love of learning strangled out of them.
And, of course, most college classrooms aren’t that different. The "teaching style" fading quickly is the faculty member coming to class with nothing but the serious book the students have been assigned and talking BOTH to and with them about it. College professors don’t have the excuse of not having time to read and generally prepare for class. Even those with a "4-4" load are on a leisure cruise compared to 95% of high school teachers. They have to think up pedagogical theory and assessment mechanisms to avoid doing their real jobs. They convince themselves that they can "teach without talking," or by surrendering their privileged positon in the classroom and taking one place among many in an egalitarian community of learners, or by lazily boring themselves and the students to death with classes devoted to group presentations or "peer review" or (worst of all) breaking up into small groups to "dialogue" about some generic issue or another.
But I’m sure there are studies that show that boring schools prepare us for the boring jobs that we’ll be stuck with.
There really are studies that show that students are prepared for the business world through group projects. They don’t learn to cooperate or work together like a well-oiled machine or anything like that. The fact that one student ends up doing all the work and the others get by by taking credit allegedly is a key insight into way the "real world" works.