An 81% High School Graduation Rate is Great?
The U.S. Department of Education thinks so. So, on average, two out of every ten teens starting out in life (and if you’re black it’s three out of ten) don’t even have a high school diploma in a society where college educated individuals, young and old, can’t find jobs. So what are your prospects? Shoveling shit till you’re 65?
It comes as no surprise that non-grads make ten thousand dollars a year less than their graduating counterparts. And each costs taxpayers $300 thousand a year over their respective lifetimes when they go on public assistance because they’re often non-employable. Half of all the people on the dole are high school drop-outs.
And I’m making a big assumption here that the high school diploma itself means anything in a country that spends more money on education than any other country in the world yet ranks twenty-third in reading , thirty-fifth in math, and twenty-seventh in science.
Why are students dropping out? Sure money has something to do with it if you’re a kid in a single parent household that needs another income, however meager, to survive, or grows up in a household or subculture where education isn’t valued, or you’re pregnant, though the teenage pregnancy rate has dropped significantly. Kids who feel overwhelmed or with undiagnosed or poorly treated learning disabilities or who just plain don’t like the regimen of school (i.e., life) fall into that same purgatory. But the experts also blame feeling left out or alienated or bullied by their peers or parents (maybe if you’re gay?) as other contributing factors.
As a former educator, I think an even larger culprit is our own media-crazed society’s elevation of entertainers, sports figures and just plain do-nothing celebs to some iconic, even religious status. (The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic.”) If these guys can make a million dollars a week, why not me? Well, how about us glorifying the researchers or engineers or health care professionals, yea, and the educators who are making a real contribution to our society? Hey, I know why – they don’t sign mega-million dollar bonus contracts.
I also think the whole high school curriculum needs to be overhauled to reflect the real world. Take English. I was an English major in college, but the way the subject is taught in most classrooms would bore even virginal Emily Dickinson (Some scholars think she had a “girlfriend” so good old Emily may have had some fun after all.) . Everyone should take a mandatory course in Communications – oral and written with literature and newspaper editorials and blogs among the learning tools. Those who want to OD on lit can take an elective.
And please stop all the show-biz emphasis on extracurricular glitz to the detriment of what kids are in high school are: to prepare for life. How many of your star football players are gonna make it to the majors?
When I was in high school I was all brains, no brawn, though if they had had gymnastics or wrestling and not just competitive sports, I would have excelled. Well, if you had smarts, the implication from your peers was that you were a “sissie.” Decades later teaching college, I noticed my smart jocks were hesitant to show off their smarts for fear their less-with-it buddies would look at them funny. It’s like a smart male student is considered effeminate. (The exact opposite of the attitude of my foreign students.) Are we fucked up or are we fucked up?
When kids drop out, then, any wonder why they turn to crime and drug dealing or worse, ISIS, to feel important?