is high school graduation season, a time parents and teachers can celebrate an ending and a new beginning. Unfortunately, not every student will be crossing the stage, many of them dropped out of school. Although the percentage of high school dropouts in Orleans County pales in comparison to what urban districts contend with, it is still a problem.
Most people know the prospects for high school dropouts are poor. It is likely that they will face a life of poverty or imprisonment. As industrial jobs continue to disappear, and the few that remain are low paying non-union jobs, high school dropouts face tough choices and challenges that are often impossible to overcome. If you do not think it is your problem, keep in mind that a high percentage of your tax dollars are spent caring for dropouts and their families.
There is a myriad of reasons why kids drop out of high school, but all too often, I hear students say that they can get a GED and thus do not need to finish high school. I have always found the concept of a high school diploma awarded for taking a test to be a bit ludicrous. Can you imagine awarding a student a medical degree after they dropped out of medical school simply because they passed a multiple-choice test with a short essay?
A friend of mine calls the GED the "Good Enough Diploma." That is not a bad description since the test is not an indication that you completed high school, it is simply proof you can pass a test. It also devalues a traditional high school diploma. The distinction has blurred to a point where the major difference between the two is that one student gets to wear a gown and walk across a stage while the other can conceivably skip four years of high school and get a diploma.
The GED is another solid example of a great idea that evolved so far away from its original intent that it is now more of a hindrance than a help. Its original intention was for World War II veterans to get into college without having to go back to high school. That makes complete sense when you think about it; why should we expect soldiers who had already given up years of their life to fight for the country to return to high school?
It has evolved into a crutch for millions of high school students who could otherwise succeed in high school. The GED is the ultimate shortcut in education. As school standards increase to a level some students perceive as unreachable, they see the GED as a viable alternative, and it is not just disgruntled 10th graders saying that they will get a GED, there seems to be an increasing number of middle school age children mentally checking out of formal schooling.
If this nation is serious about education then it is time to abolish the GED. With the increasing accessibility of community colleges, there is no reason a student cannot complete a course of study. Opponents may point to the poster child of high school dropouts, Albert Einstein, as an example of a student who succeeded in spite of being a high school dropout. The part of the story you don't hear is that Einstein was forced to complete his high school education because he did not pass the entrance examination to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. I am sure Einstein would have passed a GED test, but that would not have made him a genius, only a dropout.