Whenever anybody starts talking about solutions for education, I get very sensitive about how wrong they usually are. So when Obama said that he thought it should be mandatory for people under 18 to stay in school, I had trouble understanding why.
I suppose the theory is that they shouldn’t drop out of school because it will just make it that much harder for them to get a job later on. This is partly true, but I don’t think it’s just the lack of a high school diploma that prevents them from getting a job, it’s also the factors that went into them not getting a high school diploma.
I don’t personally know anyone who didn’t graduate from high school. But my guess is that when people don’t finish, it’s because they’ve got problems, both financially and emotionally, with their home life. I don’t see how forcing them to stay in an often prison-like environment until they’re 18 is going to help much. Even if they get their diploma, their backgrounds will hinder their ability to find a job.
Perhaps the other theory is that law enforcement will better be able to prevent drop outs from forming gangs and committing crimes? Eh…
I have already described a better solution in a previous post: If I were the God of Education. If educational institutions followed my system, high schoolers wouldn’t want to drop out in the first place. School would naturally be a fun and interesting place to work in, not the prison that it is today.
So… should we make it mandatory for high schoolers to stay in high school until they’re 18? To be honest, I don’t know. Ideally, no. I don’t think teens should be forced to do anything in general. But with all the other societal enforcements that are already in place, will a new mandate such as this ultimately make life better for them? Since I have no experience with an environment in which dropping out of high school was ever a possible option, I really can’t say. Which is not to say that I would immediately trust the opinion of someone who was from such a place; I just have little basis to form an honest opinion myself.
However, the idea that a law such as this is needed completely misses the point of the problem. The problem is not that high schoolers are dropping out of high school. The problem is why they’re dropping out. It would be wiser to search for and attack that problem.