The American public high school. It is the star of both stage and screen, but few dramatic depictions capture what is really going on in our 21st century secondary schools. On a day of touring schools in southern Indiana, we managed to see three that show some of the best of what high school can be.
Gary Moenter was the longtime librarian at Scottsburg High School in Scott County, and I knew him as my grandma's across-the-street neighbor. They named the media center for him after his passing, but I have no doubt he would barely recognize what is going on if he were here today. Shawna Slayton (above, left), showed me the platform the students use in this 1-to-1 school where laptops rule the day and textbooks do not exist. Principal Richard Manns told me that with 85% of the community having Internet access in the home, this seemed like the right way to prepare these students for the future. Even for those who do not have Internet access outside the school, all needed work can be downloaded during the school day. I know I would have loved this kind of learning, especially as seen in Mr. Routt's American Studies class (above right), where I couldn't help stirring up a bit of debate regarding Marvel and DC comic characters, inspired by posters in the room.
If Thomas Kinkade was known as the painter of light, then surely Floyd Central High School in the rolling hills of Floyd County is the school of light. The motto of those who designed its renovation must have been fiat lux, let there be light, for the natural beauty of the surrounding area flows through every hall. It is appropriate to use a Latin phrase here, for one of my stops was to see my friend Tim Harbison, the Highlander Latin teacher. His class (above, right) was carrying on the tradition of Classical excellence that Tim had learned from the teacher he and I both had when were in high school, Alice Ranck Hettle, a finalist for Indiana Teacher of the Year and a Fulbright Scholar in Rome.
At New Albany High School, home of the Bulldogs and oldest public high school in Indiana, I was returning to my alma mater. There I visited another Latin colleague, Steve Prince, whose students were re-enacting the Battle of Cannae (above, left). We had as our guide a senior named Ethan, whose plans for the future may include the United States Army. He pointed out Edwin Hubble in the Hall of Fame, for Hubble had taught Spanish and coached boys' basketball before going on to a career in astronomy. This young man was an outstanding representative of the Bulldogs and just what we would hope to see defending our nation.
What links these three high schools in my mind is tradition. All three have a long history, yet each has chosen different ways to build on its heritage to continue the work of education in the 21st century. Good work is being done in all these institutions to respond to the needs of their communities and to prepare all students for the future.