High School Dropouts and Societal Values

The fundamental aims and objectives of a formal education system are frequently discussed and debated, and a surprising variety of opinions tend to be expressed, whether at the local community level or in government departments. Most people who are not directly involved in providing educational services tend to have rather sketchy ideas, and they often see the role of the official education system to be little more than teaching academic programs that lead to the required knowledge and skills. They are usually unaware of the wider range of educational goals. This makes it difficult or impossible for them to hold meaningful opinions about the question of high school dropouts.

The typical North American school board usually identifies ten or twelve goals of education that derive essentially from state or provincial guidelines. These goals outline what educators are trying to achieve within their educational jurisdiction. What is quite surprising to most people, however, is that most of the objectives are not related to academic matters but rather to qualities pertaining to personal growth and to the attitudes and convictions that lead to good citizenship.

As well as reiterating the better known objectives such as ensuring basic language and number skills, and teaching a wide, comprehensive, and relevant curriculum, mission statements also stress that education goes far beyond purely academic matters, and strives to equip students with the kinds of personal skills that will make them useful and respected members of society.

Most jurisdictions identify a range of desirable qualities that students are expected to develop. A feeling of self-worth, an understanding of ethical theories and values, love of country, and the development of aesthetic and moral sensitivity are often cited as examples. Formal education systems are designed to prepare students to live in the real world, and professional educators consider it their serious duty to guide their students on the right path. Students must develop societal values such as a sense of responsibility and commitment in order to become valuable members of society, and involvement in school activities enables them to do that.
Yet students who drop out of their high school program usually do so because of academic reasons. They can no longer cope with the demands of an academic program and they feel that the formal education system has no more to offer them. This is most unfortunate because the non-academic components of education are still available to them and, in many cases it is this area of assistance that is most needed by the students concerned.

It may well be true that some individuals reach an academic plateau and can no longer benefit from formal academic courses, but this is no reason to leave the high school environment. School personnel are usually very innovative when it comes to helping students with difficulties. Many schools, for example, have placed mentally handicapped children in advanced academic programs, not because there was any expectation of academic achievement, but to give them an opportunity to learn appropriate social skills, cooperation, and respect for others. If this can be done for the severely handicapped, it can certainly be done for others with less serious needs.

It could be argued, perhaps, that we should not expect everyone to finish high school. After all, it is not so long ago that secondary education was intended only for the academically inclined minority. But times have changed, and the concept of education has widened. The current high school dropout rates are unacceptable.

Formal education must be available for everyone, and it is the duty and responsibility of schools to meet the needs of its students, whatever those needs may be. Every individual has a right to expect that he or she will be able to function in society, and it is the role of a formal school system to provide the means for them to do so.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.