We all know that the level of secular education in boys' yeshiva high schools is, to it mildly, abysmal. I, myself went to a very RW high school in Brooklyn well over twenty years ago and the situation then was not good. In grades 9-10, we had four subjects (math, science, social studies and English) of about forty minutes each. By 11th grade, the science class was dropped and by 12th, so was the mathematics. And, of course, there was no preperation for the SAT.
Somehow, despite the poor quality of my education, and lack of an SAT score, I managed to get into college without requiring and remedial courses. I doubt that any of my other classmates went to college.
But, of course, that was twenty years ago. While I didn't expect the situation to change much for the better, at least, I thought, it couldn't get much worse.
Boy, was I wrong.
Mrs. Wolf and I were recently speaking with one of my sons' (S1) English teachers. It so happens that Mrs. Wolf knew the teacher from college (we were all part of the EMS squad on campus, although I had graduated before the teacher arrived). Anyway, while we were discussing S1's performance in school, the topic turned to the high school. He's been teaching at the school for a few years and he's seen how the school had gone, over the course of a few years, from offering 3 AP (advance placement) courses in high school, to offering two AP courses, to offering one, to offering none. Beyond that, they have, in essence, eliminated secular education in 12th grade! There are no formal English classes in the 12th grades - the students are directed to do some independent study and hand in papers. That's it! There is no classroom instruction. As the teacher described it "12th grade is just like Beis Medrash here." The rest of the high school secular curiculum has also been watered down considerably.
While I certainly think that Talmud Torah should take precedence over secular studies (since whatever my children do with their lives, they will still be Jews and need to live as Torah-observant Jews), I find the situation at my sons' school's high school very frightening. Until now, I had no idea that this was the situation there (Having elementary school-age children, I never paid any real attention to the high school). As soon as we left our conference with the teacher, my wife said to me "we're sooo no sending our kids here for high school." I found that I could not disagree with her.
As I'm writing this post, I'm reminded of a conversation that my wife had with the Menahel of our kids' school earlier in the year when he seemed genuinely disappointed that my son wanted to be anything other than a Rosh Yeshiva. I guess that's the sort of mindset that shapes the high school cirriculum that the school has.