Thursday, May 31, 2012

School till 18


            I wrote a post about education a while ago, and I guess it's about time that I wrote another one. Last time I discussed education in general (compared to "schooling" if my memory serves) but now it's time to tackle a more specific and pertinent subject: the age through which schooling is required. You've probably heard about the president's plan to solve our school drop-out problem; he wants to require people to go to high school until they graduate or turn 18.

            So why in heaven's name does the president care whether the youth of America graduate from high school? What exactly does he plan to fix by forcing a bunch of disgruntled teenagers to stay in school even longer than they are required to now? I don't know exactly, but my guess is that the argument goes something like this: statistics show that people who graduate high school are more likely to have high paying jobs and so have a higher standard of living than their drop-out counterparts. Using typical politician logic, this means that if we shove more people through high school, our standard of living as a whole will miraculously increase.
            On the surface, this sounds great, but there is a fundamental flaw in the reasoning. To expose this, let me give a similar example. Let's suppose that there was a set of statistics that in essence said that people with top-of-the-line computers were in general better computer hackers than people without them. Does this mean that we could increase the hacking skills of someone just by buying them a top-of-the-line computer? Of course not. Just because someone gets a new computer doesn't make them any better at using it. In the same way, giving someone a high school diploma doesn't make them any more likely to succeed in life.
            Now let's say that you disagree with what I'm proposing; maybe you're in favor of keeping kids in school until they are eighteen. If this is the case, I can only hope that it's because you're in favor of increased education for American youth. If that is indeed the case (and you don't just want to keep them in school so that you don't have to interact with them) let's imagine the consequences of such a law as the president is proposing. What exactly will it accomplish?
            The first thing that might happen if and when this law gets passed is that potential high school drop outs shape up and suddenly take an interest in their education, propelling them toward higher education and great jobs afterwards! It's a fairy tale ending complete with them marrying the most beautiful/handsome princess/prince in the world. This is the opinion of many lawmakers; apparently you can force people to become smarter even if they don't want to be. I can't believe that we didn't figure this out a long time ago! No offense to anyone who is championing this law, but usually ideas that seem too good to be true and that you can't believe that no one came up with have been overlooked because they are completely idiotic.
            That being said, let's examine the second option of what might happen should this law get passed. There are people who are predisposed to higher education and there are those who are not. This is not a condemnation to people who, as I put it, are not predisposed to higher education; in fact, I know many people who have some of the best jobs around without any college diploma in sight. People who are not going to need further education should be allowed to drop out of school as early as possible so that they can begin to work and contribute to society. Put another way, would you require a construction worker to buy a sewing machine? Then why would you require the same man to learn how to do calculus? The extra two years or so that it would take him to learn this skill would be much better used to learn pertinent information about his chosen profession.
            So, what happens if we force people disinclined to finish high school to do so? I think most people would agree with me when I say that most kids know if they are able to and if they want to pursue higher education by the time they are, say, sixteen. To force an unwilling student to stay in school for two years past this point will have some dire consequences. First, they will likely not learn anything fantastically important that will change their entire life, so the whole experience will be essentially a waste to all parties involved. Second, people with such attitudes often bring bad attitudes with them to school impeding the learning abilities of those around them. And finally, such a disinclined student would severely hamper the teaching ability of the teacher with him in their class. There is also that added problem that people not inclined toward academic education would likely not do well in their classes so for two more years they will find themselves either failing or doing very poorly at their job, something that is terrible for self esteem.
            I think that it's obvious what my stance on this proposed law is. Free teenagers, let them do what they're good at and don't keep them trapped in an educational condition that is not helpful for them or anyone around them. Since the beginning of time, teenagers have been real people with real jobs that they're good at. I think the youth of today can handle it as well.

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