Saturday, May 13, 2006

Time Magazine's "Dropout Nation"

In the middle of April, Time Magazine ran a cover story called "Dropout Nation." Nathan Thornburgh wrote the article, and he claimed that thirty percent of America’s high school students end up dropping out of high school. There is little doubt that most people reading this would wrongly assume that this is just another failure of public education.
First of all, while there are areas in the nation where the dropout rate is high, the claim that the overall total is thirty percent is dubious. What makes me want to scream, however, especially at this time of year, is the message sent in the article that when a student drops out, it is actually the school’s fault.
Thornburgh interviewed three dropouts from past and present generations, and (Surprise, surprise!) all three indicated that their decisions to drop out were the fault of their schools in some way. One woman, who is now twenty-eight years old, spent much of her high school career skipping classes. She blames her dropping out on a frustrated administrator who finally asked her, "Why don’t you just quit school?" Now the young woman says that she wonders what would have happened if someone had asked her to stay. I guess we are supposed to assume that she would have turned around and become a model student if only somebody in that nasty school system would have cared. I say, "Good for that administrator!"
Another young woman, who recently dropped out, seemed to blame it on the cheerleaders in the school because they weren’t nice to her. Her mother, who also dropped out, blamed her own decision on that all-time popular favorite—the school’s indifference. Why am I not shocked that none of the three dropouts are willing to take full responsibility for their own actions and decisions?
Let’s face it--dropouts are usually non-performers. The Time article says that dropouts rarely report being overwhelmed academically, and that strikes me as true. When kids drop out it’s rarely because they CAN’T do the work; it’s because they simply WON’T do it. Our public schools invest more time, attention, and money on kids like them than anyone else. Most of the letters and phone calls home and meetings we have after school involve them. We have special education programs, 504 plans, counselors, school social workers and probation officers; and we don’t have all these things because someone decided the honor roll students needed extra help. In the classroom we’ve tried having basic classes, we’ve tried mainstreaming, and we’ve tried various new teaching methods—some of them idiotic—in an effort to bring the non-performers along. So please don’t tell me that we have dropouts because public schools are indifferent.
Time’s approach to our "dropout crisis" is typical of the way our society has approached all educational problems involving students who don’t perform. We blame everyone except the non-performers. For some reason, we have decided to treat the non-performers in our schools as victims. If they are victims, they are certainly not victims of our public education system. In many cases they are victims of poor parenting, in some cases they are victims of the bad influence of the friends that they have chosen, and in others they are simply victims of their own lousy decisions.
Public schools should welcome kids of all ability levels who really want to get an education. They should welcome kids with legitimate learning and emotional disabilities, and they should do everything they can to help them as long as those kids show a desire to learn and to be successful. Schools should also welcome back dropouts who have had an honest change of heart like one young man portrayed in Time’s story. But when a student has made up his mind that education has nothing that he wants, there’s not much we can do for him.
There should be real efforts made to turn potential dropouts around, and public schools do that. But for some kids there is a time when it becomes clear that nothing good can happen from their being in school, and they actually become detriments to their classmates’ education. When that happens, the school shouldn’t be blamed, and the student shouldn’t be encouraged to stay. In fact, if we really want to improve public education, when a student like this doesn't make the decision to leave school on his own, the school should be able to make that decision for him.


Blogger the anonymous teacher said...

I totally agree. Those students who don't want to be at school are simply a distraction to those who are trying. They usually get put into classes with the lower-tracked students, who have enough problems staying on top of things anyway. Then they have this distraction of a student who simply doesn't care. Teachers and schools can't make students learn. Making students go to school is difficult enough, but even getting students into a classroom doesn't mean they're learning. Oftentimes if students don't want to be there, they are a hinderance to learning, and they set a bad example for those students who are there.
Good for you on this blog!! It's time someone put the blame where it actually belongs!!

5/13/2006 1:01 PM  
Blogger EHT said...

You make some very good points. What scares me is the underachieving, beligerent, defiant student is being seen in the elementary grades more and more. Their attitude is "don't care, don't have to." If they are already at this point in second or third grade how bad will it be when they reach you?

Thanks for visiting my blog and swatting my backside regarding the da Vinci Code.:)

5/17/2006 5:17 PM  
Blogger Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

For many years, I have advocated for public education on a professional and personal level. I have worked for an education consortium advocating for more than 60 public school districts. I am also a parent who has experienced more than my share of nightmares with public school districts.

I found the Time edition on dropouts to be timely. This is a trend I have been observing for several years.

My heart goes out to teachers who must deal with unruly students. At the same time, I have seen many capable students fail or drop out simply because the adults (parents and teachers) didn't believe in them.

For years, research has revealed that many dropouts are gifted students. Children today face many more challenges socially and academically than my generation did.

We parents need to do a better job of supporting our schools. At the same time, some teachers could do a better job of engaging their students, realizing that students have differing learning styles.

As for public schools being indifferent: Two of my children have been enrolled in school districts that had low expectations of the students. I could write a book on my experiences in advocating for my children.

There were times when I had to seek alternatives because the experiences were so severe. I pulled one child out of public schools and put him in a private religious school. I almost went broke before he went to college. I pulled my daughter out of an affluent suburban school district that has a long history of issues related to diversity and class. I enrolled her in a tech school, where the curriculum is not nearly as rigorous as I would like, but my daughter is happy. I make up for what's missing in curriculum by putting her in a dual enrollment program at a community college.

My oldest child, arguably my brightest, dropped out of school because he became so disenchanted. I had to fight a school district that tried to place him in special ed when he was two-to-four grade levels ahead in core subject areas. After unsuccessfully trying to work within the system, I hired a learning specialist at a respected school of education. I had her conduct a complete diagnostic on my child and submitted a written report indicating that there was no evidence that my child belonged in special education. Many parents don't realized the rights and responsibilities they have in their children's education.

Teaching is one of the most imporant professions we have. I am a strong advocate for paying teachers higher salaries. I hope all of us (teachers, parents, community leaders) will do a better job of working together. The children win when we do.

Thanks for such an introspective post. You have a great site. Thanks, also, for paying me a visit.

5/19/2006 9:24 AM  
Blogger World Geography Teacher said...

I teach Social Studies and have seen a few students that are just bumps on a stump. They have no desire to do anything. They want to sleep or be disruptive, they want to make it impossible for me to teach the others in my room. They think their wants are more important than any one elses. I blame the parents, they suck at being a parent. They wonder why they cannot control their kids and do not look to themselves, but blame others. If all a kid sees is a parent that looks out for themselves and no one else, then that is what they learn. Parents need to step up to the plate and parent, stop trying to be your kids friend and be a paent. kids need structure and disipline. The need encouragement and help. The blames needs to be put back where it belongs. AT HOME, SQUARE IN THE PARENT'S LAP!

5/19/2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, Kary. I hate to shamelessly self-promote, but I really do think you'd probably like my book, and I've got a link to it's website on my blog. Here is a quote from it that you might like:
"Having great parents doesn't guarantee that kids will be great students--my student career is a testimony to that--but it definitely increases the chances that they will at least be adequate. On the other hand, students with parents who don't make education a priority usually don't try very hard and don't do very well. But let's face it, when that happens, it's a lot easier to say we've got a lot of lousy schools than it would be to say we've got a lot of lousy parents. Well, I'm here to tell you that we do have some lousy parents."

5/19/2006 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Starc Brandam said...

IT professionals and students always deal with tough programming. When they are going to introduce their program before others then it is very necessary for them to get prepared their assignments and presentations. If you think you are unable to complete it on time then you can hire reallyprofessionalessays professional essay writers for easy completion of your papers.

9/04/2014 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Assignment Help said...

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well Assignment help| Need Assignment help

10/14/2017 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Assignment Help NZ said...

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well Assignment help| Need Assignment help

10/14/2017 9:52 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home