Do high school students need school?

An idea was expressed today in the workshop that after the age of 14 or 15 it isn’t necessary for students to have social contact in learning.  It was further suggested that the trend of high education will be towards online learning and that high school teachers will eventually merely help students source their education.   I’m not sure if I agree with this for several reasons.

First of all, not all students are independent, online learners.  For the students at our school completing online classes, it is difficult to stay current with assignments and manage their online workload.  Additionally, they simply do not enjoy those classes.  They would much rather sit in a classroom with peers and a teacher.

Furthermore, I remain unconvinced that simulations and virtual labs are even remotely like “the real thing”.  There simply is nothing like wrapping your own hands around a pig's heart and performing the dissection.  Nor can a computer give the same experience of handling dialysis tubing, tying it up, filling it with starch solution, and setting it in a beaker of iodine solution and then observing the drastic color change as the iodine diffuses across the semi-permeable membrane. It just isn’t the same to use a flat screen as it is to do it yourself.  It just isn’t.  And for now, I have not seen any evidence that can convince me otherwise.

Additionally, don’t human beings need some social contact?  Don’t human beings need to be encouraged to be compassionate individuals with feelings?  Isn’t that what partially sets us apart from other species?  Don’t students need to be around other humans to foster the essence of what makes us human?    

Maybe time and/or technological advances will persuade me otherwise but tonight I am convinced that there remains a purpose and a need for high schoolers to attend school and interact with other people in the context of their learning.