Retooling education

Connor Guy

Most students who drop out of high school do so because they are bored, but can we really blame them? Lots of people love to belittle these kids, calling them lazy and pathetic, and if deriding these kids will help these people feel better about dropout rates, then good for them, but they’re not going to solve any problems.Retooling education | Illustration by Avi Conant

Such an overwhelmingly universal cry should warrant some attention; if these people who are so quick to scorn the dropouts would merely poke their noses into many a high school classroom these days, they might understand. In such a horribly underfunded organization as our public education system, incompetency runs unchecked. This results in unstructured curriculums and teachers who don’t know the subject matter any better than their students, and as such present it in the most uninteresting way possible.

It’s understandable, then, that students get fed up with all of the b.s. and feel like dropping out is their only option. Of course, as many of their detractors would be quick to point out, they are then left to decide between a life of crime or a career flipping burgers.

Instead of trying and failing to provide these students with a traditional high school education: which is of little use in an occupation without continued higher education: the public school system should have given them the opportunity of technical training.

Middle school is when students usually begin to become frustrated with the system and bored with their classes. Because of this, middle school is usually a critical turning point. At this time, a student will decide either to take academics seriously or that education isn’t worth the boredom. When they choose the latter, chances are good that they’ll end up dropping out

And while it’s unfortunate for politicians and averages and percentages that these kids drop out, the only difference it really makes for them is that they don’t have that diploma to show off when they go to look for a job. They weren’t going to learn anything applicable to the real world in those last few years of high school. If they had already decided back in middle school that school is boring and not worth it, there’s no way those last few years of high school are going to make any difference. We might as well hand them a diploma when they drop out.

Here’s what the public school system should do:
1. Starting in middle school, divide the school system into academic and vocational systems.
2. Continue to provide the same sort of traditional college preparatory education to students in the academic system but reorganize and improve it.
3. Provide comprehensive technical training to students in the vocational system.
4. Within this system create many separate job “tracks,” which would train students for a specific job, set them up with an apprenticeship in that job and ultimately make it very easy for them to apply for work in that field.
5. Create a detailed process to determine which system a student will enter. It should bring into consideration the student’s wishes, the student’s past academic performance, the parent’s wishes, the family’s ability to pay for college and a teacher’s recommendations, among other factors.

Not only would this system provide comprehensive and quality job skills that would allow high-school graduates who might otherwise drop out to be much more competitive in the job market than they could have been with a traditional diploma, but it could solve other, larger problems as well.

Despite the desires of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and many others who subscribe to their school of thought, every child cannot go to college. Sorry. It’s just not possible. Here’s proof: Temporarily ignore all the obvious reasons why everyone can’t go to college and consider an alternate reality where everyone does.

First of all, it wouldn’t work to begin with because there aren’t enough spots in every university and college for all high school graduates now, let alone in this magical world where 100 percent of students graduate.

Secondly, all students don’t want to go to college, no matter how much of a positive affect it could have on their lives. As this is a free country, we sadly have to accept this: Higher education cannot be mandatory. The vocational system would offer a workable substitute to this lofty and unachievable goal of sending everyone to college.