Wednesday 5 September 2012

The  problem  of teenage  school  dropouts

 It is generally an accepted fact that 1 out of 5 high school students drop out of school before they graduate from high school. I was one of them. I left school in grade nine and joined the Canadian navy. I didn’t go back to an institution of learning until I was in my early forties. The University of Toronto accepted me as a student with only a grade nine education for the Criminology Program in which a bachelor’s degree was a prerequisite. During the four years I was a student of that university, I studied, criminology, criminal justice, penology (prisons) abnormal psychology and forensic science. I finished the courses in 1976. However, not all high school dropouts go to institutions of higher learning when they are older. 

 Factoring in all the potential reasons for this extremely high ratio of drop outs verses graduates is quite complicated as researchers will admit. Nevertheless, here are the top ten reasons as to why teenagers leave high school before graduation.

Please note that I have literally quoted the reasons from a blog written by Jodi Luber as she has described these reasons quite effectively. For me to alter what she wrote would do an injustice to a well written explanation of the reasons why teens drop out of high school.  

1. Lack of Educational Support

Studies conducted on 5,000 high school drop outs revealed 75% dropped out of high school because they lack sufficient parental support and educational encouragement.

2. Outside Influences

Friends and/or peer pressure from other high school drop outs, family or other outside relationships can impact a teen to drop out of school. This also encompasses teens who opt to drop out high school to join a gang or to be accepted in other teen groups and street communities.

3. Special Needs

There are a number of teens dropping out high school because they require specific attention to a certain need such as ADHD or dyslexia. This is predominately among densely populated public high schools where the overcrowded classrooms fail to recognize the special needs of a specific student.

4. Financial Problems

Often the family is in a very poor financial situation and in order to help the family financially is another reason why teens drop out of school. Teens in this case are forced to obtain employment to financially help the family, and in some cases the financial strain can be due to an unplanned pregnancy and/or parental disabilities.

5. Lack of Interest

One of the biggest reasons a teen will drop out of high school is because they simply lack interest in gaining an education. Out of 10,000 public high school drop outs, 7,000 of them confessed to their lack in interest to complete high school. Most often this is due to the generic course curriculums offered to public high school students, whereby a number of students simply become bored.

6. Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drugs and alcohol abuse is within the top 3 reasons students fail to complete their high school education. It goes without saying, that a teen on drugs will rarely complete high school.

7. Depression and Physical Illnesses

Depression and illnesses can be the result of an eating disorder, heredity, family or financial situation that will contribute to the teen's lack of interest in school or class subjects and is common reason why teens drop out of school.

8. Physical Abuse

Teens that are victims of domestic violence such as physical, verbal and sexual abuse tend to drop out of high school before obtaining their high school diploma. In most cases a number of teens experiencing abuse will run away from home, thus causing them to drop out.

9. Teen Pregnancy

In the past, teen pregnancy accounted for 15% of the high school drop-out rate among teens between the ages of 15 - 18. However, these numbers have sharply declined to about 4% on the average. A number of public schools have opted to reform the school to cater to pregnant teens. Some states have high schools specifically for pregnant teens and teen mothers to ensure they complete high school in an environment that does not judge them or discount the impact or significance of their circumstance.

10. Alternative Lifestyles

This common reason teens drop out of high school is due to their perception of an alternative lifestyle in which education does not play an important role. A teen who is introduced to drug dealing and prostitution may view high school as a waste of time because they don't need an education to sell drugs or their bodies for that matter.

The bottom line for parents to help reduce the number of teen high school drop outs across the nation is to equip themselves and their teens with knowledge and alternative methods, such as going to a continuation or alternative school to receive their high school diploma and/or get their GED. It's simply not enough to tell your teen the importance of an education, but to also guide them into the right direction. Most important is maintaining communication so that you can discover your teen's risk of dropping out far enough in advance to really make a difference in the outcome.

End of her commentary

 It is strange when you think about it. Had I not dropped out of school in 1951 while living in Vancouver, B.C., and joined the Canadian navy, I would have gone into grade ten and then moved with my mother and brother to Hollywood, California to complete my high schooling there. If that had happened, my life would have been vastly different then and it is highly unlikely that in my future years, I would have been destined (as I was) to address United Nations crime conferences around the world and been the precursor of the UN bill of rights for young offenders. (Beijing Rules)

 Statistics show that every school day, as many as 7,000 high school students drop out of school in the United States alone. That comes to 1.2 million students dropping out of school each year. That also means that as many as 26% of students in the USA fail to graduate from high school. On average, only 58% of students in America's 50 largest cities make it to graduation.

Dropouts are more likely to be unemployed. They tend to be in worse health and they make up a disproportionately higher percent of the nation's prison and death row inmates. In the U.S., high school dropouts commit about 75 percent of crimes. These outcomes affect not only them but also all of Americans when you consider the high social costs and that nation’s loss of productivity and economic vitality. Recent dropouts will earn $200,000 less than high school graduates, and over $800,000 less than college graduates, during their working years.  

 Here are some other reasons why teens are so willing to drop out of school.

 Struggling with school work. Many teens are constantly struggling to keep up with the rest of the class and often receive poor or failing grades. This forces me to bring up an interesting reason for this problem.

 A typical American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail in this subject. If they fail in algebra tests, they won`t graduate. Even though they won`t graduate from high school, many of them can still succeed in the world without that high school diploma. I certainly did.

 Schools have talented students who are impeded by algebra, to say nothing of calculus and trigonometry so why must we subject these students to such complicated subjects like those mentioned in this line. The damage begins early and it begins far before the ninth grade. I was struggling with in in grade five. But then I was also struggling with Latin and French in grade five and that is one of the reasons why I was stuck in that grade for several years. During my working career, I never had to use any of those subjects to be successful in my endeavors and that is because of some of the subjects we learned in school has limited applicability outside of school. Is algebra necessary? In the strict sense, no!  Most of us can live without it.

Algebra is in the standard math curriculum where a lot of students fail. I failed miserably in math and yet, strange as it may seem, I was the first person in history to solve the so-called unsolvable mathematical problem of trisecting a right angle with only a compass and ruler. Years later, a man living in Toronto solved the problem of trisecting acute and obtuse angles with a compass and ruler—something I hadn’t been able to do.

 Denying high school students a diploma because they failed in algebra is a very big mistake. Many employers will ask teenagers looking for work if they graduated from high school. If they say that they didn’t, the job will probably go to the student who did graduate from high school.

Now I am willing to admit that there are occupations that require knowledge of algebra, calculus and trigonometry. This is why I believe that students in grade nine should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to take these courses as an option rather than have it thrust onto them.  If it is thrust upon them and they are struggling with it, they will take the easy way out and simply drop out of school.

Struggling with bullies

Bullying is a serious epidemic that can destroy a teen’s life in school.  Bullying is not limited to physical assault on or off school grounds but can also be through gossip and slander in social media channels. Many teens drop out of school for this very reason.

In a speech I gave in Seville, Spain in 2006, I pointed out the fact that the school teachers are not doing enough to stop bullies in their schools. I told the conferees that in Toronto, Ontario, bullies are sent to special schools that in most instances are some considerable distance from their homes which is an obvious inconvenience to them.

Every child has the right to feel safe at home, at school and in the community (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990).

The damaging effects of psychological and verbal bullying as well as social exclusion can have terrible consequences on its victims. The victims are forced to conclude that if they drop out of school, they can avoid the bullies at school. They are for the most part right in that conclusion but at a cost to their financial and social wellbeing as they grow into adulthood.

Being bored at school

Unfortunately, many teachers are not really suitable as teachers. They know the subjects that they are teaching but their methods of teaching bores their students to death. I had a teacher who was so boring; I slept through a great part of her lessons. She finally found me out. It was my snoring that gave me away. When I was teaching law to law students, no one slept through my lessons. The reason for this was that I made each of them participate in the legal problems and issues I put to them. It was like participating in a group discussion.

Problems at home

If there are serious problems occurring in the home such as abuse, financial distress, grief or illness; this will often result in some teenagers running away from home and of course, the teenager doesn’t return to school ever again.

Teenage pregnancy

Unfortunately, many teen moms drop out of school in order to care for their newborn or young child when finding effective ways to help them stay at school and care for the baby should be found. Unless the pregnant teenager can receive schooling while she is at home, she will not pass her exams at the end of the school years and if she fails in school, she will drop out of school and never return.

I am not going to offer any more suggestions that will solve this terrible problem that is gripping our nations as there are people in the academic fields more qualified than I am to solve the problem of teenage drop outs. The real problem is why aren’t they doing enough?

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