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Stuck in school

New Hampshire's new governor, Peter Lynch (correction: John Lynch), ran on a platform that included support for education. It's pretty much a given for most Democrats; the only question is whether they're doing it for the benefit of the kids, or the teacher's unions. But Lynch's main focus has me looking beyond that question, and presents some serious matters for thought.

Under current New Hampshire law, high school students can drop out of school at the age of 16, as long as they have permission from their parent or guardian. Lynch wants to change that to 18, keeping those kids in school as long as possible.

I can see both sides of the issue here. Lynch wants these kids to have a fighting chance in life, and it's a proven fact that lacking a high school diploma is a serious handicap to success in life. Kids under 18 are protected from making a lot of decisions that can really screw up their future (drinking and smoking, just to name two), and maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to keep them from messing up the rest of their lives.

On the other hand, they already have to get their parents' permission, and to keep them in school when they clearly don't want to be there is a grave disservice to the rest of the students, who may genuinely want to learn, and don't deserve to have their school time disrupted by these idiots who feel trapped and act out their frustrations. Perhaps letting them just leave might be the best solution for all parties.

It's a tough call, and as someone without kids, I really don't have any standing or perspective on the matter. My instincts say let the kids screw themselves; it'll be a lesson in reality to them and those around them, as well as honoring my own libertarian, no-nanny-state leanings. But I keep coming back to the fact that these are 16- and 17-year-olds, and as such they shouldn't be held to the full level of responsibilities that we adults face.

I dunno how I feel on the issue, but I do respect Governor Lynch for bringing it forward. It's a debate we really need to have. And while the cynical part of me wonders if this is a subtle "full teacher employment measure," designed to get more bodies in schools and consequently more teachers on the public payroll, I doubt it is the case. I think he's sincerely thinking about the kids in this case, and doing what he thinks is best -- and I just don't know where to stand on it.

Comments (22)

I think the drop-out age sh... (Below threshold)

I think the drop-out age should be lowered to 14 and students who don't maintain a passing average or who grossly misbehave kicked out to a highly structured public boarding school.

Education is a commodity and needs to be appreciated as such. Yes, that means that teachers need to be held to standards of excellence and let go when they don't (I will never shield a bad teacher, despite what the NEA says).

Many of the complaints I hear and read about public schools would be resolved if publc schools had the discipline options of private schools. Every student deserves to learn in a nurturing atmosphere, and those kids who disrupt that need to go elsewhere.

"...these are 16- and 17-ye... (Below threshold)

"...these are 16- and 17-year-olds, and as such they shouldn't be held to the full level of responsibilities that we adults face."

Sure they should. Our mistake is treating them like children when they are not.

I know many will disagree with me, there's even biological evidence that I'm wrong. That evidence is that male brains don't mature until about age 25, female brains about 19, IIRC.

The problem is that no amount of biological maturity ensures behavioral maturity. Don't we all know at least one 50 year old who behaves irresponsibly? (If you don't, allow me to introduce myself...)

You got to wonder why our brains don't mature for several years after our bodies do. Is there a social stimuli missing that used to be there?

I taught high school for tw... (Below threshold)

I taught high school for twenty years, and I can say I've probably seen it all. Lousy teachers, lousy administrators, lousy parents, and lousy kids. I've also seen plenty of the exact opposite. There are no quick fixes to the education problems in this country, but one thing to think about and keep in mind: It is the largest 'organization', 'enterprise' in this country, and there is no way it will ever be perfect if just for that reason.

Having a bored, fractious sixteen-year-old in your class is a serious bummer. And there are a bunch of them. Forget listing the many reasons why they're bored and fractious, they need out of the classroom for everyone's sake. But here I go a little radical. Let the military take over. I don't mean send them to war. I mean, let the military set up service for these young people and teach them some discipline. In fact, I'm all for two years of enforced military service for all high-school graduates. Have to have completed it before they can enter a university or get a job. Period. Again, it doesn't mean war. Service to our nation.

It's all about discipline and no one teaches it better than the military.

How about letting'm drop ou... (Below threshold)
Alan Cole:

How about letting'm drop out at age 18 No Questions Asked -- or letting'm drop out at age 16 with parental permission if they also take & pass the GED?

Might provide some motivation for getting the GED under their belts. Otherwise, once they drop out, getting'm to refocus even just enough to go get a GED is more difficult.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.

JT: If I were to remind you... (Below threshold)

JT: If I were to remind you that Gov. Lynch is a Mass native (Lynnfield) would that help you make up your mind? BTW: do you happen to know what the dropout rate is in NH? I always thought it was negligible.

Hey Jay,It's Gove... (Below threshold)

Hey Jay,

It's Governor John Lynch, not Peter Lynch. I think Peter Lynch is that financial guy.

Two points:1. Hig... (Below threshold)

Two points:

1. High school should be voluntary. Roll should not be taken in high school and funding should not be based upon attendence. School should be for those who want to learn and the others should be shown the door.

2. It is not the military's role to teach discipline. The last things the military needs is the unmotivated, illiterates that dropped out of school. Let those dropouts compete with the illegal immigrants for jobs.

Im a dropout myself. I dont... (Below threshold)
Aloha Mr. Amish:

Im a dropout myself. I dont know if its a law or anything, but when I left school I was able to take my GED(good enough diploma) as an 'early exit program.'

I'll second (and third and ... (Below threshold)

I'll second (and third and fourth) the comments that "students" who don't want to be in school create disruptions and distractions from students who do. My oldest is in high school and daily comments that he can't hear the lesson, or that the teacher can't answer questions because SHE (another problem - lack of male teachers) spends most of the class time on discipline.

However, believe it or not, I also hear the same complaints from my elementary school child. A large part of the problem goes back to the parents who refuse to discipline their own children. I led a cub scout troop for a while, and I honestly think that the several times I had to discipline a child(time-out only, we had strict limits on us), it was the first time ANYONE EVER ADMINISTERED DISCIPLINE! And these were 8 and 9 year old boys.

There are no easy answers, and it'll take another generation to weed out the problems, but in the mean time letting kids out early will at least ensure the ones who want an education will get one.

And besides, the ones who quit can fill in for lawn mowing and produce picking once we finally get serious about border security. (/sarcasm off).

Some of the above ideas sou... (Below threshold)
Moon Monkey:

Some of the above ideas sound like fair game to me,especially the GED requirement and the Military suggestion.
This past year I retired and moved to a part of the US that begs solution to America's education problems. In the event that anyone hasn't thought about it,high school graduation (or the lack thereof)has to be somewhere near the top of our country's social concerns.
I share Gov. Lynch's proposal idea,and I'll tell you why. Having grown up at a time when many many parents never finished school,with varying results in their lives,I think I can speak to that problem. Simply put,for the past 50 or so yrs,educators and legislators alike have failed our countries kids.
They blew it,and now that we have a society of too many recalcitrant,litigious and self-serving individuals running around...noone wants to deal with the problems in educating our youth. Noone wants to address the resolution of too many years of Permissiveness and Lowered Expectations in kids behavior and educational results.
It's been a long time since educators thought outside-the-box on much more than tenure and NEA protection.
Sometimes people have to be protected from themselves,and kids are no different. They definitely need to be guided for as long as necessary in order that they not be a burden to themselves or society in the future. It might take some extra thinking on our part,but if we continue down the path of sweeping the problem under the carpet,then we have noone to blame but ourselves for much of the civil unrest our country may be forced to experience in years to come.
Sorry for the Rant...I couldn't keep my mouth shut on this one. And to think I've only scratched the surface...sheesh!

I believe compulsory attend... (Below threshold)

I believe compulsory attendance to be a rather large part of the problem so it's hard to see *more* compulsory attendance as the answer.

How about more choice? Make it easier for high school kids to go to vocational schools or other schools. How often is a "drop out" leaving school to get away from the social situation? Sure, it's important to go to school but for the most part students have no other choices and if "school" isn't working for them, what are they supposed to do?

I know I've read about at least one study that showed that drop outs were often smarter than average rather than just the dumb kids. Why do they drop out?

Disruptive kids ought to be... (Below threshold)

Disruptive kids ought to be expelled from school.
Not everyone wants or desires an academic education.
Vocational education should be offered as an alternative. That said, along with the carrot there needs to be a stick to motivate the kids. No graduation from high school, a GED or a completion and certification from a vocational means no welfare or unemployment benefits until you have ten years working credits. And no student loans for at least five years.
Speaking of student loans, those should be limited to vocations or professions that have a reasonable prospect of producing enough of an income to payoff the debt and making the debt not subject to discharge through bankruptcy.

Synova:You are 100% ... (Below threshold)
Moon Monkey:

You are 100% on track! Too bad your thoughts will go unheard,even worse unused.
I suspect that most school districts fall short when it comes to Vocational Education. My limited experience shows this to be so. Moreover,this incredibly valuable education option is among the first to suffer cuts in budget funding for school districts.
If you accept the fact that college is not the answer to every kids life,then it follows that there must be alternatives in order for a child to comlete his/her education.
To those who think that having more male teachers offers some solution,or allowing students to drop out because of their disruptiveness...these are only excuses that feed the problem.
And no,the problem can't be erased in a generation,that's probably one of the biggest reasons noone wants to step up to the plate.
Children didn't just start poor behavior yesterday. I was guilty of it before many of you were around. Yeah,I got my just deserts in the end (no pun intended). It worked!
Expectations,consistency of actions as a result of performance or lack thereof...over and over and over. Look at it this way,there's nobody that could convince me that today's kids are less intelligent than kids of my time. It's not that they're that much smarter today,but there's a lot more of them. And they are smarter. So something happened along the way that mucked up the equation. And that something has to be fixed,because we're the ones that broke it.

As a retired teacher, havin... (Below threshold)

As a retired teacher, having spent much of my career working with high school students in an alternative school, it is my opinion that compulsory education after the age 12 years or so is a detriment to all parties concerned. What to do with the 13 year old dropout? Why, nothing. When and if he wishes to return to finish high school, allow him in providing he is a student, not a disrupter. The notion that the public should provide day care for children up to the age 18 is silly.

While the old style of trac... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

While the old style of tracking kids was a bad idea, they threw the baby out with the bath water.

I think schools would do much better to offer worthwhile vocational training during the high school years for students who aren't interested in college.

Our local high school doesn't have a vocational program at all, and a fairly high percentage of the students have no interest or intention of going to college.

I would much rather see a student work towards certification in a trade during the high school years, than waste their time and the teachers time in classes they don't want to be in.

Hypocrisy. A Democrat wants... (Below threshold)
Charles V:

Hypocrisy. A Democrat wants to empower parenting by requiring their involvement in the education of a son or daughter but exclude them totally when it comes to the decision of life or death of an unborn baby.

Taugh HS about 30 years ago... (Below threshold)

Taugh HS about 30 years ago, outside Patterson, NJ. Two-thirds of kids, Guidance would tell me, "You don't have to take this one." But I would, anyway. Once a year I'd have them check out the want-ads (ignoring age requirements) and come in with at least three jobs each could apply for, with any hope of getting hired. Suddenly, they'd become much more interested in the class!

The reason why 16 and 17 ye... (Below threshold)

The reason why 16 and 17 year olds are seen as children in today's world is because that is the standard to which we hold them.

Once upon a time a person that age was required by society to be responsible for themselves upon pain of the consequences that follow when you're not responsible.

Somewhere along the way our society began treating children and childhood very differently indeed. Children today are protected not only from real dangers, but from imaginary ones as well. They're also protected from their own mistakes because they're never allowed to make them. As a result it is taking longer and longer for people to grow the f*ck up. The age at which someone is considered to be an adult is also creeping ever upward.

When my grandfather was young, male of 16 or 17 was considered to be a man. A female that age was every bit a woman, and a sizable percentage were already married and bearing children by then. A girl was an old maid at 20. Yet today somehow a person of 16 is considered to be a child in much the same way a 9 year old would be considered one a century ago. This is in spite of an educational system that is vastly superior to that which existed even 50 years ago. A good education does not guarantee maturity, but it sure does help. The more someone knows, the better able they are to make decisions, and isn't that part of what maturity is, the ability to make good decisions about one's life?

The reason why younger people today are far more child like than in generations past is because the other component to maturity is missing: responsibility. Young people today are less responsible because that is what society expects them to be. In fact I would argue that society actually denies young people the ability to become responsible. This is done by protecting them from not only the consequences of their mistakes, but from making mistakes in the first place, which means they never learn from them.

This is a serious problem, and one that is perpetuated by those who absent-mindedly infantilize people of an age when they should be held to a far higher standard.

So you'll really have to forgive me if I take umbrage at the idea that people this age "shouldn't be held to the full level of responsibilities that we adults face." The fact that they are NOT held to the same standard is the problem!


Now as for the original question.

There is an oft quoted statistic which states that high school graduates are x number of times more likely to achieve goals a, b, and c in life. You'll see this fact advertised on television from time to time. What these ads are selling is the idea that staying in school and graduating has some kind of an effect upon the psyche and character of a person, such that they are better able to succeed in life.

Well I hate to break it to you, but that isn't the reality here. There is a correlation between dropping out of high school and failure in life, but not the one the people running the ads would like you to believe. You see dropping out of high school and failure in life go together not because high school has this wonderful effect upon a person, which the drop-out was not the beneficiary of. The reason they go together is because losers are the ones who tend to drop out. So it should come as no surprise that a bunch of losers are failures in life. It wouldn't matter if you kept them in school till they were 30, they'd still be losers and they'd still find a way to shoot themselves in the foot.

I myself am proof of this, though not in the way that you would expect. I am a high school dropout, yet I have a high paying job in a professional discipline. You might be asking yourself how this is possible. The answer is simple, I'm not a loser. I left school because it was a waste of time for me. They weren't interested in teaching me anything I didn't already know, and I wasn't interested in jumping through their hoops when it didn't pay me any dividends. So I left and began pursuing a career in computers. The going hasn't always been easy, as I've had to work twice as hard as other people at times. I've been passed over for promotions that were given to others that were frankly less skilled and knowledgable than I am. But because I'm not a loser I've stuck with it and put in the time and effort necessary to prove myself. The median income for high school dropouts is about 16k a year. The median for college grads is 45k. I'm making 50k a year doing a job I love.

Now I'm not trying to encourage anyone to drop out. I think an education is very important, I left school because I was no longer getting one. If you can't ace the tests without going to class I'd stay in school because there is still a lot there for you to learn. Don't take inspiration from my example because I'm most definitely the exception to the rule. If you're of average ability then having a degree, especially a college degree, is VERY important. I'm also working in a field where the proof is in the pudding. The ability to solve complex and difficult problems is what matters most, regardless of how many sheepskins you have on the wall. Other fields are far more forgiving of incompetence and far less forgiving of sub-par credentials.

Right now you have to be 16 and have a parent's permission to legally drop out. I see no reason to change this. Keeping a person in school an additional two years isn't going to guarantee that they graduate. Come to think of it keeping them in school is most likely the idea behind this anyway since schools get money based upon attendance. It doesn't matter if someone is passing, failing, or even sleeping, as long as they're counted as a warm body the school gets paid.

Anyway this is getting really long winded. If you're still reading thanks for your patience.

Over and out....

Eloquent post Emmet. I've ... (Below threshold)

Eloquent post Emmet. I've known a few who left high school early and did well. They all had a plan, were motivated, and hsd a decent IQ. More p;ower to them!

The ones to worry about are the unmotivated, whether disruptive or not. Its a societal problem - they either prey on folks to survive, or lean on our social support system for same.

They have grown in numbers to become a significant political force, and there lies our problem.

There's programs like Job Corps, once they find motivation, if they lacked vo tech in hs. Forcing them to stay in school is no solution. Figuring out how to motivate them earlier in development makes more sense. We need to tweak the educational system and perhaps motivate parents a little - perhaps some sort of penalty for creating more jobless social sponges rather than increasing benefits, or benefit if all your welfare kids finish school and get a job?

This is a tough question. I... (Below threshold)

This is a tough question. I'd say the first step would be to find a State similar to Hew Hampshire that has compulsory attendence until 18 and see how the results differ. My guess is that most States have compulsory attendence until 18, so it shouldn't be hard to find a good comparison.

This is a good example of why its better to allow States to choose how to handle these questions rather than have federal mandates. With States choosing, you get to see how different strategies work, and choose the one that looks best from actual results.

My ex-girlfriend had a 15 y... (Below threshold)

My ex-girlfriend had a 15 year old daughter who was bored stiff with school. She could go to school twice a week, and still ace her tests at the end of the week. She simply hated [high] school. At the start of her junior year, she turned 16 and immediately withdrew herself. She tried to take the GED in our county, only to find she had to attend mandatory night school or be 17 before she was allowed to take the test. Armed with this knowledge, she somehow finagled to take the test in another county. Within 6 weeks of dropping out, she had a GED. When winter session started at the local community college, she enrolled. While her classmates were sloshing through 11th grade, she was in college. She's 22 now, and closed on her first house about 8 months ago.

I still believe most drop-outs are losers, but there is a certain percentage of very successful and smart people who did not finish high school.

If you combine what goddess... (Below threshold)

If you combine what goddessoftheclassroom said first with the various suggestions regarding vocational training, you come very close to the system I witnessed 25 years ago when I went to high school (summer school) and college (junior year abroad) in France. I don't know if the same system is still in place, but this scheme struck me as extremely elegant in its simplicity.

The French tested their students at age 14. Those that didn't make the academic cut were enrolled in trade school, of which there were several types (mechanics, carpentry, electrical, etc). Most students were understandly anxious about passing this critical test, if they wanted to go to college. The others didn't give a rat's patoo since they assumed they would go to trade school. Or they could drop out entirely and go to work.

The French believed that a college education, under their nationalized system, was a privilege and not a right. Academic seats were limited in number and assigned by merit.

Furthermore, a graduate of a high school (lycee) or university in Paris would have taken the same course of study (i.e., classes) as a graduate in Aix or any other city in France - their national academic program was standardized. This fact, coupled with standardized national tuition rates, simplified one's college choice to selecting the city where you wanted to study (subject to availability, of course).

Getting back to the topic of high school, I graduated a year early from high because I, too, was bored to tears.

I agree with those who opine that compulsory education after the age of 13 or so is a complete waste. If students don't want to be in school, they will disrupt the learning process for those who do want to be there.

Bottom line: although we here in the USA pay lip service to being concerned about our children's welfare, our academic policies bely that posturing. This country rewards "horse sense" and not academic achievement. We don't esteem our educators nor the academic process. It isn't like that in every other country in the world.

I do not have children, but I did train in college to be a high school teacher. During one of my last classes ("Methods of Teaching"), I found out how little power teachers have in the system, how little pay they really receive, and how they are held to antiquated moral standards. I never taught a high school class after I graduated with my B.A. and Secondary Teaching Certificate.

I have, however, taught college-level computer classes, as well as the general public. Today I am a successful geekette who has never regretted abandoning my first intended career: secondary education.

I am not saying that our education system is worthless. I am saying we have tremendous room for improvement. One improvement would be to lower the drop-out age from traditional high school while offering vocational options to our youth, IMHO.






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