Viewpoint

Beach High School offers you, if you’re a teenager, an opportunity to gain the freedom to pursue your authentic interests and develop your natural talents outside of a traditional high school. If you’re beyond your high school years and don’t have a diploma, you can earn one through Beach High School.

You can be a BHS student for any period of time during which you might work, travel, study independently, work with tutors and mentors, acquire skills and complete projects, take classes at the high school or college level, do volunteer work, or engage in any other productive activities. BHS does not offer a program that you attend daily; rather, you work toward your goals independently, knowing that you have support that you can call on at any time. Support can include help in finding necessary resources.

You may simply want guidance in getting from where you are now to a new situation. If, for example, you’re stuck in an ill-fitting high school program and want to be a lawyer, there are a number of ways to reach this goal without completing a traditional stay in high school.

You can earn a diploma based on a portfolio when you’re ready to move on. If you’re ready to move on right away, you can graduate within a week or two of entering Beach High School. If you have the courage and confidence to choose an unconventional educational path, this same courage and confidence will be the basis for your success in reaching your goals. You can follow other BHS students who have been very successful in practical crafts, business, and the arts, and who have reached the highest levels of formal education.

Beach High School’s enrollment is usually somewhere between 50 and 100 students, and they have enrolled from as far away as Alabama and Alaska.

I’m Wes Beach and I work alone to direct Beach High School. I’ve been doing this kind of work in one form or another for over 30 years. Prior to working independently, I had 32 years’ experience in grades K-14 in public and private schools as a teacher and alternative education program director. I earned a B.A. in physical sciences and mathematics at UCLA in 1961 and an M.A. in educational counseling at USF in 1987.

IF YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR CONVENTIONAL SCHOOL

and if you’re like most Beach High School students, in traditional schooling you’ve probably faced at least some of the following:

  • schoolwork that doesn’t allow you to work at the level you’re capable of.
  • study of subjects that aren’t the subjects you’re interested in.
  • teaching that doesn’t accommodate your style of learning.
  • teachers and other staff who don’t respect you.
  • social climate in which you can’t be yourself.
  • a school environment that is coercive and punitive.

If facing these aspects of school affects you in a deeply negative way, school, for you, is destructive. I believe that, when there are alternatives, the healthiest possible thing you can do about a bad situation is to take yourself out of it. It is not a cop-out to avoid an emotionally damaging setting.

Beach High School offers you many different ways to move on to a healthier environment so you can pursue your education much more happily and effectively.

SEEING YOUR INTELLIGENCE

There are lots of ways to be smart, and there are many theories about what intelligence is. As you think about being a BHS student, or about putting together a portfolio, or about your educational future, you may profit from seeing your intelligence in a new way.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence, from psychology and other fields, that intelligence comes in many forms. Schools typically reward only a very narrow range of intelligence, and if your strongest ways of being smart are outside this narrow range, you may not have done well at school. If you’ve taken poor grades seriously, you may even have come to see yourself as unintelligent. This is a false belief. If your school has not been able to provide you with ways to nurture your intelligence, it is the school that has behaved stupidly, not you.

One BHS student recently wrote in his graduation essay, “I don’t read as often as people should.” In a letter to him I wrote, “In my view of things, saying that most people don’t read as much as they should makes no more sense than saying that most people don’t go rock climbing as much as they should. or don’t play the flute as much as they should, or don’t work with ceramics as much as they should, etc.” If you’re not a strong reader, you may have come to think of yourself as not very smart, but playing the flute well, and making beautiful ceramics, and challenging yourself at rock climbing are all signs of talent and intelligence–different kinds, to be sure–but talent and intelligence nevertheless. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that excelling at schoolwork is the only way to demonstrate intelligence.

If you love making furniture and you’re naturally very good at it, or you feel most alive when you’re playing basketball, you express your intelligence through use of your body. This is a way to be smart,not, as many schools would have it, a way to be a second-rate student because you’re not “up to” reading tons of serious literature and doing calculus. A skilled cabinetmaker is no less intelligent than a mathematician; it’s just that the underlying intelligences are different. And, of course, artists, businesspeople, actors, writers, electricians, leaders, musicians, monks, and all other people are intelligent in their own ways.

It’s not a question of whether you’re smart. The question is, How are you smart? Give yourself credit for being a skilled skater, or being able to set tile, or easily connecting with people in a supportive way, or taking great photographs, or knowing how to fix leaky plumbing, or playing the guitar, or writing poetry, or being an effective salesperson, and so on. Here’s one of the greatest quotes I know of, one which you’ll read again in a packet you’ll receive if you earn a diploma: “Think of the joy and satisfaction that one can derive from the simple act of planting flowers, cooking a meal, writing a poem, solving a problem, painting a picture, dressing with flair, or doing your job to the best of your abilities. Creativity brings us to life, and by using our creativity we help bring the world into being.” (Joan Borysenko and Miroslav Borysenko, in The Power of the Mind to Heal.)