The Silent Epidemic

graduation-capez2462 is about the high school dropout problem, one that is, in many of the comprehensive high schools here in USD 259, more troublesome than nationally.

The studies cited in the link as to the costs to the general public are to be noted. My thought is that, if anything, the costs given are understated.

How to deal with the problem is outside my paygrade. What I fear is that there will be a knee-jerk reaction (when this finally does get noticed) to the problem, which may well result in some locales in the bad result of “dumbing down” high school even more, as it will be the considered opinion of many that high school is too challenging academically for many students, which results in their frustration and ultimate decision to quit. That may seem to be the easy and quick answer, and one which is incorrect.

Many dropouts are bored students of high intellectual abilities for whom the lack of academic challenge wears on them to the point they see no reason to continue. Some of the lack of challenging curricula is due to the strictures placed on school districts by NCLB; to get “all students proficient”, there has to be (under current budgetary constraints) something sacrificed, and too often, these are honors courses. Other students are, indeed, intellectually challenged and become frustrated because they cannot do the work demanded. Many just don’t care, period, having not observed any particular advantage to a high school diploma.

Part of the problem is the insistence of our educational system that all grades have a chronological, rather than an ability, basis. Another part of the problem is that too many parents and others resist a more rigorous academic environment on the basis that we should “just let kids be kids”. Yet another part of the problem is the attitudes of parents towards school, and another part is the American attitude of “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”.

It is our money, our society, our economy that is at risk here. I’ve done a bit of mentoring, and plan to get more involved now that (due to unfortunate circumstances) I’ve more time for it. Mentors, however, won’t do it alone. We need a total overhaul of the public (and private) educational system here in the U.S., which will admittedly be costly. It is my position that the costs of the overhaul will not be as expensive as those costs realized from ignoring the problem.


Filed under Economics, The Economy

26 responses to “The Silent Epidemic

  1. Well, I thought I knew how do put a live link into a new post; obviously I don’t.

  2. Thanks, iggy for the good edit there. Appreciate it.

  3. iggydonnelly

    That link is hot now. I have trouble making paragraphs, do you use HTML tags to create them?

    I am going to re-read my dummies book and see if I can find an answer. Time to stop the deep cleaning – it is hard work…

  4. On paragraphs; I don’t use HTML tags, just hit the Enter key to separate them, which seems to automatically insert the appropriate tag (which is open bracket lowercase p close bracket at the beginning and open bracket / lowercase p close bracket at the end).

  5. fnord

    That’s all I do for paras too, just hit the enter key like I was on an old fashioned typewriter. I stick to easy, as that’s my speed.

    On this topic — my grandson dropped out of high school last winter without completing the first semester. It has been a struggle for him to stay in school, and finally he just didn’t.

    The final straw was a class required for graduation and taken by most their freshmen year. I don’t remember the name but the class was split into four quarters — first quarter was keyboarding (we used to call that typing I think), 2nd Excel, 3rd Power Point…

    He drew keyboarding first and the teacher tested them on one of the first days of class so he knew where everyone needed to begin. Grandson typed faster and more accurately than I ever have, even when I was young and typing was part of making my living. 120 words per minute accurately! Oh, what that gaming and young dexterity can accomplish!

    The teacher had high praise for his score and then said, “So, we’ll go back to the beginning and figure out how you got to where you are.” Part (most!) of grandsons struggles had been boredom mixed with the inability to respect just this attitude shown by this teacher. He has high respect for learning, little for marking / wasting time.

    Anyway, he took the GED, and the ACT and began at WSU in January. He is taking advanced French, Linguistics, Logic, and Psych. He has a job (at a local techie company where his Mother works as a User Experience Specifications Writer), so is paying his own way.

    He is doing exceedingly well — now that he no longer has to play the games of public school.

    • iggydonnelly

      I am pretty sure where I am messing up is I am not hitting the “save draft” button after I am done writing. I am making something that is easy, difficult, once more.

  6. Speaking of HTML tags, many of them are familiar to me from “back in the day” using WordStar (or similar early word processing programs) when one had to insert what then were called “control codes” within the text to obtain the desired effect when the document was printed. Thus, one would insert the b,u codes if the word/phrase was to be bold and underlined, etc.

    I know I’m showing my age here by this post, but that was the way it was back then (very early 1980s). Another thought: how many of you learned the “escape codes” to insert within some text, whatever, to make it print all neat and pretty on your Epson printer? I would experiment with these when playing around with a text editor, a Basic program, and my dear old very reliable Epson RX-80 dot matrix printer. Of course, having quick reference to an ASCII table was most important. I remember the time I was messing around, and came up with the first letter of a word being in bold, the second in italics, the third in bold italics, the fourth underlined, the fifth underlined bold italics, etc., just to see how it worked.

  7. Unfortunately, fnord, he would have needed to play a similar game in a private secondary school environment as well; perhaps not in that type of course, but somewhere along the line. In a private school environment, however, in the basic Computer Technology course (which is more or less what that class is called, IIRC) having established his keyboarding ability, there would have been the flexibility to move him around more easily into a section of the course where he wasn’t more proficient; or, if he had already mastered all the skills being taught in the course, he would have been credited with it, and allowed to be out of there.

    BTW, I know of the course you reference; I’d suspect there are a large number of students for whom it is a total waste of time, especially the basic keyboarding skills part, but most of them, I’m told, do it Freshman year for an easy “A”.
    THAT’S what I’m talking about (what fnord posted). Her grandson is counted as a dropout, and to the general public, he would be considered in the same boat as those who would not be able to complete a GED and/or gain college admission early. He is a stark example of the need for more attention to be paid to the academic needs of those at the higher end of the spectrum, who (frankly) are not thought about too much other than in the “Well, he’s bright so we won’t have to worry about him” way. BTW, fnord (shameless plug coming), that’s what is good about NEMHS; the close availability of WSU to the school, so those who really are ready from an academic achievement perspective to be out of high school and would be, except for needing a statutorily required course or two, to get going with college courses early.

    Congratulations to your grandson, fnord; he’ll do very well, I’m sure.

  8. fnord

    I haven’t seen him be this pleased, this motivated in too many years! They almost took the life right out of him.

    • No surprise to me, fnord. While I don’t claim the same level of intellectual ability as your grandson, I’m familiar with the causal relationship that exists where a bright student is broken down into a dullard by the “lock step” approach of traditional primary and secondary education as implemented within the U.S.

  9. Fnord, I presume you are the responsible party for the mortar board? If so, thank you. If not, a big thank you from me to whomever it was.

  10. fnord

    Adds a nice touch! I like pictures and color. Perhaps I should check with Iggy to find out if the pictures are why he has to continually upgrade the space. Hadn’t thought of that ’till just now. 😦

    • iggydonnelly

      I don’t think photos take up too much space. If we were doing recordings (audio or video) every day/every post that might be a problem, but the photos don’t add that much, I don’t think anyway.

      I was adding space to anticipate the future. I put money in pay pal ( the only way wordpress will take money) by having them deduct it from my checking account – that takes a few days, so I try to be ahead of anticipated needs.

  11. wicked

    Besides the fact that students aren’t getting the education they deserve, there’s also the “teaching to the test” of NCLB that bothers me. If that’s all the teacher has time for, what happens to discussion and broadening of a subject? What happens to the real learning?

    And now for my rant…
    While I believe that both science and math are terribly important subjects in the rapidly advancing world we life in, I still have a problem with the lack of concentration on reading and English basics (grammar, punctuation).

    When I was a senior back in ’69 (that’s 1969), we had a sociology teacher who was straight out of college and as dumb as a box of rocks. The man couldn’t spell the easiest of words to save his life. We snickered at him behind his back, corrected him to his face. And it’s gotten worse. My daughter’s Honors English teacher couldn’t punctuate her way out of a paper bag. I’ve never seen such horrendous punctuation in my life. I admit to not having perfect punctuation. (Commas throw me often.) But poor punctuation leads to misreading the intent.

    BTW, my youngest, who was basically forced out of school, is now back in school, although not a traditional one. I shouldn’t brag, because it brings on bad luck, but she had straight A’s first semester. She worked hard to get those. This semester hasn’t gone as well. She was sick for nearly two weeks early on and has been pedaling like crazy to catch up. The grades on the projects/lessons she’s turned in have been A’s, but being behind is hurting those grades, as they use give a grade using percentages of finished work and unfinished work to show the “grade”.

    She’s really trying and especially learning! She had me look up an Oscar Wilde poem last night that impressed her. We’ve discussed history (she thinks it’s boring, but is often excited to share something she learned) and other subjects, and she’s determined to graduate, although it’ll take her about 3 1/2 years. She wants to go on to college and become a counselor, so she can help others that have problems as she has.

    And a HUGE hooray for your grandson, fnord!!

  12. Ah, wicked, your rant begs a rant on the same subject from me. I’ll relieve all from the same, only to observe that without observance of the basic rules of grammar and punctuation, there cannot be effective communication of the brilliant ideas of those proficient in the sciences, including mathematics.

    The appellate case reports contain many opinions in cases where misplaced commas, poor usage, fractured syntax, etc., have led to litigation over contracts, which just serves to emphasize the need for learning these basics. Of course, grammar is not taught, as I understand it, within the public schools any more. There are, as I recall from conversations with my late wife, no specific grammar books even produced for the middle school level (and, if my recollection is correct, the same do not exist at the primary or high school levels as well).

    Finally, the ability to read is underrated. I daresay that if one cannot read, one cannot be effective in mathematics or the sciences, much less in any other endeavor.

  13. fnord

    I agree with every word both of you said. Since you both said it better than I ever could, I’ll just rant and rave a bit.

    NO BOOKS! Well they shouldn’t need to be “produced,” just bought and included in the curriculum. Have the rules changed? I know words are added, but how we properly write and punctuate those words shouldn’t have changed.

    A scientist I know is in great demand as a speaker and a reviewer (as in peer review) because he can speak and he can write. Now, all scientists who expect their work to be published must also expect it to be scrutinized by peers and those same peers actually make it more or less valid and important. Each of those scientists must expect to spend some time reviewing their peer’s work too. Although many of them are very talented in their work they can’t explain that same work in words very well, or at least not words that are easily understood.

    What I just did was use an entire paragraph of too many words to say what was already said about the importance of language art skills to every other skill set!

    And now I have a punctuation question I know one of you smart people can answer.

    Does the period and the comma always belong inside the closing quote marks?

  14. As to the grammar books not being produced; there were grammar books produced once upon a time, which are now out of print. As the books are used, they wear out and as the same are out of print, cannot be replaced. Without going into great detail, there are limits to the number of times a book may be rebound, e.g., to extend its useful life. During her employment, my late wife became the “queen of finding used copies of the grammar books”, but in her last two years, could not find any.

    There are textbooks with some rules of grammar included which are printed; these texts, however, are focused on writing, and the grammar portions are not the primary emphasis of the texts. It seems to be counterproductive to buy a $40 text to gain access to only five to ten percent of the material therein contained.

    In a very limited response to your question, fnord, no, the period and comma do not always belong within the quotation marks. For further information, I refer you to Strunk and White, Elements of Style (or is that White and Strunk? I can never recall.).

  15. fnord

    I went to Elements of Style, and found many elements I need to learn, or relearn. However, I didn’t find anything pertaining to my question about whether the comma and period belonged inside the closing quote mark. So, I went out to the ‘internets.’

    I found the question addressed several places and always in the same manner, with the same answer. Seems, according to what I found, there is only one exception to putting the comma or the period outside the closing quote —

    “The only exception is when that last little item enclosed in quotation marks is just a letter or a number, in which case the period or comma will go outside the closing quotation marks:

    The only exception is when that last little item enclosed in quotation marks is just a letter or a number, in which case the period or comma will go outside the closing quotation marks:

    ~The buried treasure was marked on the map with a large “X”.

    ~The only grade that will satisfy her is an “A”.

    ~On this scale, the highest ranking is a “1”, not a “10”.

    So now what, professor?

  16. Hmm, that’s not the way I recall it to be done. Just don’t know, fnord; I yield to those with more formal knowledge than I on this topic. I was under the impression (bad memory?) that when an entire sentence was included within the quotation marks, the period went within the same; but when the sentence included a quotation at the end, the final punctuation mark (period in your example) was placed outside the closing quotation mark.

  17. wicked

    Well, you just taught me something, fnord. I was under the same impression as 6, and that’s the way I’ve been doing it. Just goes to show.

    Strunk and White Yes. And I have 2 copies, one from my very short college days, the other was part of a correspondence course on writing I took long ago. By the way, White is E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web.

    Another one I have is Essentials of English and much easier to understand. 😉 I also have a copy of one of the major newspaper’s style books I picked up for a buck at the annual Art & Book Fair. AP, I think, but it’s packed right now. Chicago Manual of Style is the one most often used and costs a chunk. Most publishers use it, but there are in-house styles. For instance, my publisher has its own comma rule.

    She opened the door, slid inside, and started the car. is the correct way, normally.

    She opened the door, slid inside and started the car. is how my publisher wants it.

    By the way, copy editors are getting worse, probably because of the lack of grammar instruction in school. Too bad, because I depend on them for some things. 😦

    There are many grammar and punctuation sites on the internet, and I’ve visited a lot of them.

  18. wicked

    Shame on me for not closing my italics. LOL

    Hey, 6, I’m gearing up to get involved in a class action suit. Whether I actually get any $$ from it is iffy, but it will safeguard my copyrighted material. (Think Google and the mess they’re in for digitizing books.)

  19. fnord

    Don’t say you learned something from me when I began the conversation by asking a question I needed / wanted an answer for!

    Do we have a definitive answer?

    I never trust me, and always trust you smarter-than-me folks. It seems, you two are in agreement and I’m the odd man out. One of you is an attorney, the other a published author; I’m a grandmother (my only achievement and claim to fame)! Wanna see pictures of my grandkids? 😉

  20. wicked

    fnord, I’m always eager to see pix of your grandkids!!

  21. porchpoliticians

    Nice article. We’re preparing one on education now, you might be surprised to see some very similar opinions.

  22. Won’t surprise me — we’re all pretty well agreed as to the current state of education. I will look forward to reading your post!

  23. wicked

    I’m looking forward to it, too, porchpoliticians. I like to get an overall take on a situation such as education.

    I found your blog interesting and agreed with some points. But being human, I disagreed with a few, too. Different ways of seeing things is what makes the world go ’round and keeps life interesting.