Young People Ask . . .
Should I Quit School?
“SCHOOL was boring, too strict,” said Walter, “and it took up too much of my time.” Many youths would agree with him. Walter, however, decided to drop out of high school (secondary school). And now it is with regret that he talks of this decision. “Sometimes people use words I can’t understand,” he says, “and I feel stupid. And a lot of times I’ve applied for jobs and I couldn’t get them because I didn’t have a diploma.”
Walter’s plight has been the lot of many youths. In the United States alone, there were over five million high school dropouts between 14 and 24 years of age during the year 1980. But why do so many youths go this route?
Antonia dropped out of school because she was having difficulty with her schoolwork. “How could I do the work if I didn’t understand what I was reading?” she asked. “I was just sitting there getting dumber and dumber, so I left.”
Other students, however, are discouraged by the breakdown of morality in school. Additionally, some feel that because of school violence they are being asked to learn in a climate of fear. Still others feel that classes are too large. But a teenage youth named Annie, who is 18 and attends a private school, says: “They’re teaching kids things that don’t mean anything to them. It doesn’t match up with their real-life situation, so they don’t care about it.” Little wonder, then, that one student asked, “Why do you think I should continue school and get an education?”
Perhaps you have found yourself feeling the same way. Nevertheless, what effects might dropping out have on your life later on? Are there good reasons for staying in school until you graduate?
The Value of an Education
When Michael was asked why he returned to school to get a high-school equivalency diploma, he said, “I realized that I needed an education.” But just what is an “education”? Mastering the three R’s? The ability to recite an impressive array of facts? These no more make an education than a knife, fork and spoon make a meal.
Education should prepare you for a successful adult life. Allen Austill, a school dean for 18 years, therefore spoke of “the education that teaches you how to think, to solve problems, what is rational and irrational, the fundamental capacity to think clearly, to know what data is and to know the connections between parts and whole. To make those judgments and distinctions, to learn how to learn.”
And how does school fit in? Centuries ago King Solomon wrote proverbs “to give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.” (Proverbs 1:1-4) Yes, inexperience goes with youth. School, however, can help you nurture and cultivate thinking ability. This is the ability not merely to recite facts but also to analyze them and generate productive ideas from them. Though many have criticized the way schools go about teaching, school does force you to use your mind. True, solving geometry problems or memorizing a list of historic dates may not seem relevant to your life at the time. But as Barbara Mayer writes in The High School Survival Guide: “Not everyone is going to remember all the facts and bits of knowledge which teachers like to put in tests, but the skills such as learning how to study, and how to plan, will never be forgotten.”
Three university professors who studied the long-term effects of education similarly concluded that “the better educated do have wider and deeper knowledge not merely of bookish facts but also of the contemporary world, and that they are more likely to seek out knowledge and be attuned to sources of information. . . . These differences are found to have endured despite aging and many years of removal from school or college.”—The Enduring Effects of Education.
Getting an education, however, is a lifelong process. As an old man, the philosopher Lacydes began a study of geometry. When asked why, he said, “If I shall not be learning now, when shall I be?” Now are you thinking that if you wait until you are 25 or 30, or perhaps even 35, years old, you will be in a better position to begin learning? Actually, your youth gives you the greatest opportunity to begin taking in knowledge. And what is the basic reason given by many youths for taking in this knowledge?
School and Employment
For Yvonne the answer was quite simple. “Going to school is the means to an end,” she said, “and that end is getting a job.” Do you agree with her? Many youths do, and some have even said that they would like to have taught as a school course “How to Go About Getting a Job.” But to benefit from whatever courses are offered, you will need to stay in school and try to become skillful in every phase of your schoolwork.
Wise King Solomon said of the skillful worker: “Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.” (Proverbs 22:29) This is still true today. “Without skills, a lot of things in life can leave you behind,” says Ernest Green of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Understandably, the job outlook for those who quit school is poor. Joblessness for 16- to 24-year-olds who are high school dropouts “is nearly twice that of their peers who did graduate and nearly three times that of the overall unemployment rate.” “Those who do not continue their education are closing the doors to opportunity,” said author F. Philip Rice in his book The Adolescent. And why is this? Simply because someone who has dropped out has likely not mastered the basic skills needed to handle the simplest of jobs.
For example, Paul Copperman writes in the book The Literacy Hoax: “A recent study indicates that it takes approximately a seventh-grade reading level to hold a job as a cook, an eighth-grade level to hold a job as a mechanic, and a ninth- or tenth-grade level to hold a job as a supply clerk.” He continues, “I believe it is a reasonable inference that a job as a teacher, nurse, accountant, or engineer would demand a higher minimum level of reading ability.”
Obviously, then, the students who really apply themselves to learning basic skills, such as reading, will have far better job opportunities. But what is another lifelong benefit that can be derived from attending school?
A Better You
That lifelong benefit is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Michelle, who recently took a job in the computer field, observed that her high school training—though rigid—certainly helped to make her a better person. She said, “In school I learned how to work under pressure, how to take a test and how to express myself.”
‘School taught me how to view failure,’ says another youth. She had the tendency to view others, and not herself, as the cause of her setbacks. Others have benefited from the disciplined school routine. Many criticize the schools because of this, claiming that this stifles young minds. Yet Solomon encouraged youths “to know wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:2) Disciplined schools have thus produced many disciplined, yet creative, minds.
So even though grade school and high school have their problems, take full advantage of your school years. Prepare for the challenges of life now! Work hard if you are still in school and seriously weigh the consequences of dropping out. Never minimize the beauty of learning.
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Your youth gives you the greatest opportunity to begin taking in knowledge
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The discipline you learn in school can benefit you for the rest of your life
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Job prospects are dim for those who haven’t mastered the basic skills taught in school