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In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama proposed that every state raise the dropout age to 18. Like many of the Obama administration’s proposals, this idea is well-intentioned, but out of touch with reality.
Of course, the President is correct that a high school degree is a necessary step in becoming a successful, contributing American citizen. According to a 2006 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, “the average annual income for a high school dropout in 2005 was $17, 299, compared to $26, 933 for a high school graduate.”
But there is no reason to believe this maneuver by the Obama administration would raise the high school graduation rate and keep lazy 18-year-olds from staying in bed. Even if government force successfully drags unmotivated teenage bums into the walls of a local school, it’s not as if they’re going to all of a sudden become enlightened learning machines.
It’s only common sense that students who are intent on wasting their talents and time will do so no matter what the laws on the books are. These students, then, will most likely cause distraction to those students who are intent on using their time well.
This leads to a situation that is uncomfortable for all of those involved in high school learning. Good students will be forced to put up with the antics of would-be-dropouts, bad students will feel even more alienated and angry than before, and teachers will have to deal with the tension.
According to The Huffington Post, 21 states require students turn 18 before leaving high school. Some of these states have low dropout rates, like Vermont and North Dakota, and some have high dropout rates , like Maryland, Massachusetts and New Mexico.
In other words, there is no real evidence to suggest raising the dropout age does anything. So why should we believe this Obama mandate will do anything?
The high school graduation rate is a complex issue, and it’s not going to be solved with a simplistic federal “solution.”
The saying is “it takes a village,” not “it takes a bloated, over-reaching federal government.”
Leave education up to the states and local communities.
By Mike Presberg