This story about high school dropout rates appeared in my local paper last week and it reminded me of something a friend said to me a while back. This post is going to explore my thoughts on his theory. His theory is that we should allow students to drop out of high school if they are not interested in being there because those students who do not want to be there are a tremendous drain on the entire system. After considering it, I think I'm on board with his way of thinking.
It seems to me that there are two types of students who are uninterested in school. First, there are the students for whom the concept of book-learning is just unbearably boring. They may be hard-working, with a love of working on the farm or maybe they love doing auto body work. They problem is not their work ethic or even intelligence, but the entire atmosphere of school.
Secondly, are those students who have no ambition or motivation in life to be anything. All they want to do is play video games or smoke weed. Why should they be forced to sit in classes? They obviously don't want to be there. A bigger consideration, however, is that they make it impossible for other students to learn and for teachers to teach because they are a tremendous distraction.
Politicians are always touting tech educations and trade schools, but those are not necessarily the answer. Lazy or unmotivated in a classroom is lazy or unmotivated in a metal shop. And motivated will be successful. If a kid knows that he loves doing construction at age 16, and he's good with a hammer and nail but hates English, why make him stay in school? Or if he or she is a great mechanic, or a great child-care provider, provided they can read and communicate on some level, there should be no reason they have to stay in school.
So, you ask, what becomes of those dropouts who are lazy, unmotivated, or have no ambition in life? The same thing that happens to them now it will just occur a couple of years earlier. They get by by sponging off of others. They continue to live with their parents, or whoever will take them in. Most likely they will wake up one day and say it's time to grow up. If they are motivated they will get a job and be successful.
How could this work? I think it would work pretty simply if we just dropped truancy laws. What would happen if a student only appeared in class 100 of the 180 school days? He or she would fail. What would happen If you only showed up 60% of the time for your job?
Obviously we must have a literate society. We cannot let students drop out before they learn to read, but have a look at text scores. Many students never learn to read beyond a 6th grade level anyway. Maybe this plan would necessitate some sort of free GED system for when these people finally wake up but they are too old to go back to school. Even that would be cheaper than working to force them to go to school and keeping other students from learning.
As always, I look forward to being ripped apart in the comments