Are High School Dropouts Failures Or Victims?

When children are babies and their parents look at them in their cribs and bassinets, one significant thing they look forward to is their high school graduation.

It's undoubtedly a quintessential milestones in one's life, walking across a stage at a football field in funny caps and long shiny robes.

Not too long ago I read an article on a parenting website about this prominent professor, who's considered a parenting expert, describing in detail about how she was not only okay with her seventeen year old daughter dropping out of high school, she actually encouraged it.

That this lady's daughter found her high school experience to be a complete and total hell due to her multiple illnesses and not fitting into the culture of her traditional school obviously played a big part in her decision.

I'm sure that for any parent to accept their child leaving school before the end of 12th grade, let alone a graduate school professor who gives advice on how best to raise kids, is an unfathomable thought. Although this daughter passed what is considered the equivalent to the GED in her home state of California, I will bet anything that there are many who feel that this girl was a lazy quitter, a slacker who's a loser of the highest order.

After reading the professor's article on parentdish.com and the various comments, I was convinced more than ever that conventional high schools are not for everyone.

Far from it.

From what the piece said, it was clearly evident that this young lady was drowning in traditional school hell and dealing with depression among other things, despite many efforts from her teachers to accommodate her. According to her mother, she still "...wept over her homework, struggling to complete work she just didn't see the point in doing...High school was not a good fit for her," she summed up.

When I read that, I totally understood that this young girl made a decision that was best for her; I applauded her and her mother for that, as I felt it took guts.

In addition to that, that teen made me ponder about how there are lots of kids in the same boat as her, who for a litany of reasons find the traditional high school concept ill fitting for them either socially, culturally, academically, or a combination of the three.

Simply put, traditional high schools are not meeting the needs of a lot of these adolescents who have different philosophies and different ways of learning. I believe that's a factor in options such as charter schools and home schooling skyrocketing through the roof in recent years.

From a personal standpoint, even though I attended and graduated from a large, traditional high school that was as comprehensive and conventional as they came, the fact that I had - and have - a high functioning form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome sealed my fate as far as not being cut out for my school's swim-or drown academic approach and social atmosphere.

At all.

I realized quite a while ago that I would have been a whole lot better off at a place with a smaller, friendlier, more supportive atmosphere and an educational philosophy that was nurturing rather than competitive.

There were loads of times during my high school years, especially in my first year in 10th grade, where my level of intimidation and humiliation was so pronounced because of the meanness of too many of the students and the (in my view) unsympathetic attitudes of the teachers that I often found myself shutting down and either come to school two or three hours late or not showing up at all; I'm sure I considered quitting at least a few times.

My grades, just like you would figure, took a huge hit as a result and never recovered to what they were in junior high and elementary school.

My point in all of this is, I completely understand what that poor adolescent was feeling. Conventional school doesn't work out for a lot of youngsters, it didn't really work out for me, and it definitely didn't work out for that young girl.

This is true not only due to my and her situation, but also due to the fact that while I was at the local junior college in my town after I had managed to graduate, I met a girl in my geometry class who was 16 and had passed the California State Proficiency Test, thus freeing her from her own high school Hades.

So the issue remains: Do I think leaving high school without a diploma is acceptable in certain situations?

There was a time when my answer to that question would have been an extremely huge no, because like millions of others I felt - and feel - that a high school diploma is a bare necessity in order to have any chance at success.

Today, my views on this are different.

It's now my opinion that whether or not it is acceptable for a student to drop out of high school depends on the situation.

If a teenager wants to quit school because he's lazy and wants to lay about on the couch playing the latest video game, then he is being a lazy slacker and an ultimate loser.

However, if said teen feel like he or she is in prison with a straitjacket on, feeling jailed because of the conventionality of the high school social culture or the academic system of such, that what is being taught there does not apply to real life and is meaningless, then perhaps leaving school before their big cap and gown day is not such a horrible idea.

Provided that they take and pass the GED or high school proficiency exam.

This would particularly be the case if the teenager who wants to quit school has aspirations of doing something constructive like go to junior college or vocational school, or pursue a career in music or acting or something like that; if that is what a kid wants to do, I think they should follow their dreams.

After all, it worked for folks like Christina Aguliera.

In the coming years, I'm convinced that more young people who don't fit into the traditional school structure will look at alternative options for getting an education, from getting home schooled to getting their GED - and that's okay. One needs not to live the "Archie" life or try to imitate what they see in TV sitcoms like The Brady Bunch in order to have a good experience in high school.

If I could talk to the young woman who bailed out of high school due to the misery that she suffered there, I'd wish her all the best, and I'd tell her that I wouldn't be surprised if she went to her ten or twenty year reunion (should she decide to go) in a stretch hummer limousine or a helicopter, being the employer of many of those classmates who have those pieces of paper. 

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