Apr 092006
Authors: Megan Schulz

A recent issue of Time magazine features an alarming cover story. Choosing to tackle the topic of America’s schools, the article informs us that almost one in three public high school students will not graduate.

For black and Hispanic students, the rate moves toward a staggering 50 percent. These results come from nationwide research, demonstrating that the problem transcends community differences and will continue to spread.

These statistics particularly sadden me because they demonstrate failure. When we are young and in kindergarten we are told we can do anything and achieve our dreams. Thousands of dollars are spent on each child while trying to put them through the public school system.

But what is the point? If one-third of our students end up quitting, all that money has gone to waste. And I want to know why they quit as we stand by and shake our heads.

As a product of the public school system, I admit my four years spent in high school weren’t the best. I found the material less than challenging, and the assignments did nothing to prepare me for college. But I never considered quitting.

Economically, I viewed dropping out as one of the worst decisions a person could make. As a sophomore, I’m already becoming anxious of when I will have to find a well-paying job after graduation. I couldn’t imagine making that trek after spending years in public school and having absolutely nothing to show for it.

Until now, I’ve never considered education as a weeding-out process, but apparently it is. We do nothing to stop high school dropouts because we figure if they don’t have the personal motivation to earn a diploma then they just aren’t cut out to be the future doctors or CEOs of the world.

From my experience, high school curriculum wasn’t difficult. If someone barely could pass high school classes, then I certainly don’t want them sitting next to me in college courses. And if they can’t meet the minimum requirements to stay in college, then this should be a sign that college isn’t for them, and it’s time to pack their bags.

The problem is that there is a preconceived notion about people who choose not to go to college, and to resist that, square pegs are forced into round holes.

I have no judgment against people who don’t attend traditional college. They are mature enough to accept the fact that college isn’t their best choice, so they chose other paths.

There is nothing wrong with this. As a society, we need hairdressers, plumbers and the like. I would even say we need less self-righteous liberal arts majors who will go on to jobs that have nothing to do with their path of study, but will still maintain a “This work is beneath me” attitude.

So why, as a society, do we shun people who make decisions that are right for them? It’s also not in our best interest to give up on people who are perceived as “failures.” High school is a difficult time, and I’m sure that a lot of teenagers are more depressed and pressured than they let on.

It would be easier to help young and receptive students who are slipping before they become accustomed to a substandard lifestyle that burdens society – financially and collectively.

This is where high school counselors can take time out from planning the senior picnic to actually help troubled students. In my high school, this duty was assigned to the vice principal, who handed out in-school suspensions and “referrals,” a piece of paper that was designed to stop us from misbehaving.

The actual “counselors” helped people with college applications and class scheduling, much like CSU advisers. I don’t remember a full-time staff member who was specifically there to listen.

Now that we have been presented with this information about the sub-par performance of our schools, we can’t remain blissfully ignorant. It would be beneficial to address the problem at the source and start with providing public schools with the change they have needed for so long.

Megan Schulz is a sophomore technical journalism major. Her column runs every Tuesday.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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