Should I Quit School?
JACK has been a school attendance officer for over 25 years. A truant youth is therefore hard pressed to come up with an excuse Jack has not already heard. “I’ve been told everything by the kids,” he says, “such as ‘I thought I was going to be sick today’ . . . ‘My grandfather in Alaska died.’” Jack’s “favorite” excuse? It was from three boys who claimed they “couldn’t find the school because it was too foggy.”
These embarrassingly shaky alibis illustrate the aversion many youths have toward school, often ranging from indifference (“It’s all right, I guess”) to outright hostility (“School stinks! I hate it”). Gary, for example, would get up for school and immediately feel sick to his stomach. Said he, “I’d get close to the school, and I’d get so sweaty and nervous . . . I just had to get back to my house.” Many youths similarly suffer an obsessive dread of school—something doctors call school phobia. It is often triggered by school violence, peer cruelty, and pressure to get good grades. Such youths may (with a bit of parental persuasion) go to school, but they suffer constant turmoil and even physical distress.
Not surprisingly an alarming number of youths choose not to go to school at all! In the United States alone, some two and a half million students of elementary and secondary schools are absent every day! An article in The New York Times added that so many (about one third) are “chronically absent” in New York City high schools “that it is nearly impossible to teach them.”
Other youths are taking yet more drastic steps. “School was boring, too strict,” said a young man named Walter. He dropped out of high school (secondary school). So did a girl named Antonia. 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.”
Admittedly, serious problems plague school systems around the world. But is this reason to lose all interest in school and drop out? 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
Michael returned to school to get a high school equivalency diploma. When asked why, he said, “I realized that I needed an education.” But just what is an “education”? The ability to recite an impressive array of facts? This no more makes an education than a pile of bricks makes a house.
Education should prepare you for a successful adult life. Allen Austill, a school dean for 18 years, 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 some schools go about teaching, school does force you to use your mind. True, solving geometry problems or memorizing a list of historical dates may not seem relevant to your life at the time. But as Barbara Mayer wrote 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.”—The Enduring Effects of Education.
Most important of all, an education can equip you to carry out your Christian responsibilities. If you have acquired good study habits and have mastered the art of reading, you can more easily study God’s Word. (Psalm 1:2) Having learned in school to express yourself, you can more easily teach Bible truths to others. A knowledge of history, science, geography, and math is likewise useful and will help you to relate to people of various backgrounds, interests, and beliefs.
School and Employment
School also has a great impact on your future employment prospects. How so?
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,” said Ernest Green of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Understandably, then, the job outlook for those who quit school is poor. Walter (quoted earlier) learned this the hard way. “A lot of times I’ve applied for jobs and I couldn’t get them because I didn’t have a diploma.” He also admitted: “Sometimes people use words I can’t understand, and I feel stupid.”
Unemployment among 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.” (The New York Times) “Those who do not continue their education are closing the doors to opportunity,” adds author F. Philip Rice in his book The Adolescent. Someone who has dropped out has likely not mastered the basic skills needed to handle the simplest of jobs.
Paul Copperman writes in his 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 your knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Michelle, who recently took a job in the computer field, observed: “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) Schools in which discipline prevails have indeed produced many disciplined, yet creative, minds.
It therefore makes good sense for you to take full advantage of your school years. How can you do that? Let’s start with your schoolwork itself.
Questions for Discussion
◻ Why do so many youths have a negative view of school? How do you feel about the matter?
◻ How does school help a person develop thinking ability?
◻ How might dropping out of school affect your future ability to get a job, and why?
◻ What other personal benefits may result from staying in school?
[Blurb on page 135]
“I was just sitting there getting dumber and dumber, so I left”
[Blurb on page 138]
“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”
[Pictures on page 136]
The discipline you learn in school can benefit you for the rest of your life
[Picture on page 137]
Job prospects are dim for those who haven’t mastered the basic skills taught in school