Great. Now name me some successful recent high-school dropouts.
School for me was a complete waste of time. There might have been some value to witnessing the barbarity and brokenness of it all but a dozen hours, not a dozen years, would have sufficed. It was a popularity contest that I failed every day and it got in the way of studying more interesting things.
If there was really nothing in the curriculum for you to learn (was mathematics really that easy for you?) maybe you should have focused on the popularity-contest side of things, since developing social skills is hugely useful for real life.
One of the girls is on the verge of being put on medication because she’s so unhappy. The drugs will make her ok with her malnourished, growth-stunting, environment. They’ll make her ok with jumping through inane hoop after hoop.
If you're being put on medication because you can't cope with high school, it's not a problem with high school. It's a problem with you, or maybe a problem with your doctor, but high school generally isn't that difficult an environment. You show up every day, you hang out with your friends, you go to classes, learn some stuff, you do some stupid crap that you're told to do, and you figure out a way to avoid doing some other stupid crap that you're told to do.
Start instead with an open slate, and for any given "advantage" schooling may have, there's a set of alternatives that can do it better. For any given whole package, there's a strung-together set of those alternatives that can do it better. The only way for school to win out here is if you define it as the only possible winner from the get-go, to insist that the only acceptable goal is one that can be met only by this particular combination of compulsion and resources.
If you have to defend schooling without this "home field advantage", you will at the very least have to work a lot harder at it than a few quick paragraphs fired away for the purpose of tickling the school memetic program in the minds of the readers. Why not at the very least switch to home schooling for the last couple of years and slam the pedal to the metal instead of being forced into idle? College is a fine place to learn even those precious-but-unquantifiable "social skills". I'd even argue a better place, learning your social skills in the grotesquely artificial environment of a high school is of dubious value anyhow. (College is artificial too, but less so.)
And honestly, falling back to the refuge of the "social skills" argument makes me very suspicious anyhow. I had the same basic experience in high school as the original poster, I even thought perhaps I was weak in the social skills, but guess what? Yes, indeed, the fault did lie with my environment and I was just fine on the social front. School just wasn't the right place to find that out.
Even if that's so, you have to consider the probability that your typical, dumb and arrogant (or even your atypical, slightly-less-dumb and even more arrogant) high schooler is going to figure out what that set of alternatives is.
You also have to consider the cost of failure. The best-case scenario if you teach yourself isn't much better than high school, while the worst-case scenario is much worse.
The idea that you should drop out of high school appeals to three particular ways in which teenagers are dumb:
1. Short-term thinking (sticking something out for another year seems like an eternity)
2. The conviction that "I am special" (even if you are, you're less special than you think), and
3. The conviction that "if I'm not good at something it must be beneath me"
I don't think they need any more encouragement.
No I don't. Your schooled teenager has almost zero input into their curriculum. It is a false dichotomy that the only alternative is to entirely put it in their hands.
"You also have to consider the cost of failure. The best-case scenario if you teach yourself isn't much better than high school, while the worst-case scenario is much worse."
I dispute that very strongly. I look at the schools-that-are, not the schools-that-ideally-exist. Part of the school memetic program is that they are already almost as wonderful as can be but it doesn't take very much examination of that idea to knock it down. We graduate an awful lot of illiterates, and if that's too extreme for you, the vast bulk of our college freshman require remedial math instruction. I have seen this remedial math instruction. It is very remedial. And very necessary.
I would also claim that the reason that teenagers think those three things is schooling. Of course they have short-term thinking. They've been carefully sealed away from all external reality. Their only future is next week's test, after which they can safely forget everything again. School creates that short-term mentality. I shouldn't even have to defend the claim that school breeds the idea that every student is really sooper special since that has been a core part of the curriculum for the past 30 years. And schools are wonderful at completely negating the value of effort by their ever-increasing focus on the lower end at the sacrifice of anybody who isn't on the lower end.
School created those faults in the first place. You want them cured, get them out of that environment.
Where would you classify magnet programs? Mine let me max out on Advanced Placement classes (around 7 over 2 years, I think) and introduced me to FIRST Robotics, which led to a programming job while I was still in high school. (It was not the greatest or the highest-paying, and my output was probably what one might expect from the situation, but having it at all was great.) The effect was to get me into college with 44 credits under my belt, which is equivalent to over a year's worth of classes. I then ignored the freshman advisors' advice to take it easy the first semester in order to "adjust" so that I could follow through and actually graduate in 3 years. Obviously, my experience was not typical, but atypical students are the subject under discussion.
"The conviction that 'I am special' (even if you are, you're less special than you think)"
This applies to you as well, doesn't it? But then, the reasoning leads to infinite regression - you are not special, your advice is not special, no one's advice is special, therefore everyone can be ignored. In short, this bit of reasoning does not move the conversation forward.
If the phrase "You are not special" is suppose to imply "You not valuable" or "Your ideas are not valuable" then the same can be applied to everyone who posts here, in which case we must conclude that the conversation is trivial. That's fine, as far as it goes, but it is a fairly pointless road to travel. If no one here is special, then why do any of us bother to read Hacker News?
We could instead go the other direction - we could admit that the conversations on Hacker News are interesting precisely because the people who tend to show up here are interesting. Hacker News is a good place for the intellectually curious, and those who are thoughtful and who enjoy playing with new ideas. But then, to really engage the site, one would have to admit that some of the people on the site are really special, that, in fact, what makes Hacker News great is that it draws in so many people who are special.
Suggesting that the people here are not special leads to immediate irony.
If you're being put on medication because you can't cope with your job, it's not a problem with your job. It's a problem with you, or maybe a problem with your doctor, but your job generally isn't that difficult an environment. You show up every day, you hang out with your friends, you go to meetings, learn some stuff, you do some stupid crap that you're told to do, and you figure out a way to avoid doing some other stupid crap that you're told to do.
If you're being put on medication because you can't cope with prison, it's not a problem with prison. It's a problem with you, or maybe a problem with your doctor, but prison generally isn't that difficult an environment. You wake up every day, you hang out with your friends, you go to community service, learn some stuff, you do some stupid crap that you're told to do, and you figure out a way to avoid doing some other stupid crap that you're told to do.
Or maybe I should consider whether their job environment really is toxic? Maybe prison really is nasty? I don't know if I shoot the messenger.
Wrong question, I think. The correct question is "name some unsuccessful people who did not finish high school who might have been more successful if they had".
These people are not so easy to name-drop. Not because they don't exist -- there are certainly hundreds of thousands of such people for every famous name like Mark Twain or Ben Franklin. It's because of sampling bias.
If you drop out and don't become Mark Twain, nobody's going to write your biography. Indeed, you will find that a lot of people will stigmatize you.
I suppose I'll throw my hat into the ring. Dropped out during my sophomore year (with bad grades to boot). Now I'm going to a good college, I have a good job, and I have some hobbies I love that I'm pretty good at.
That said I wouldn't recommend dropping out to most people, it's way to easy to just drop out "because I want to play video games" or because "school is boring", you need to want to drop out because "school isn't intellectually challenging and I have things I want to push myself in".
I won't say dropping out of high school was the best thing I've ever done, but it saved me a year of boredom and staying would have done me no good. Dropping out was a much better idea than staying in.
I couldn't graduate from my old high school in any case, even with the extra CMU classes, because I lack a one-semester class in US Government.
I also had really good SAT scores.
Of people whose writing gets posted to this site on a regular basis, Philip Greenspun comes to mind.
While I believe that may have been your experience it clearly is not universal.
Concluding that anyone who needs something different from you is mentally ill or is receiving bad psychological advice is contemptible.
"If you're being put on medication because you can't cope with high school, it's not a problem with high school."
How do you justify that statement? If someone has a problem with their high school, then they have a problem with their high school. I would like to see the burden of justification put on the schools. They have the advantage of representing the status quo, but I would like to see them justify themselves without invoking that advantage. All things in this world are better when they can be justified from first principles, rather than from the dead weight of established practice.
These are all popular examples only, so it doesn't match well for an overall statistic.
Mathematics in school is easy and boring. (Mathematics at university is a different kind of animal, and it's only connection to mathematics in school is the name.)
I was lucky to have parental support, and top-class school administration, but working out this sort of arrangement seems less extreme and more practical than dropping out.
But also, if you consider taking classes in test only form ok, why not simply drop out and take the GED?
My hometown had a program where you could get a district diploma with a GED and a few key credits (which you could take at community or state college easily enough if you preferred).
I enjoyed playing sports. I had really outstanding English, Civics, and History teachers. I had a lot of (not always positive, but useful still) social contact with my peers. High school is full of good things, just not all the time. Take the good, find a way around the bad. I don't think I'd be a better person today if I didn't experience high school.
It's easy to think that school is like a railroad, that the course is set and cannot be changed, but really it is just that there's only a few paved roads, and people will complain that they are stuck in traffic. If you have the inclination, you can go off-roading and have a blast. It just takes a little effort to get started.
Within a few weeks, he had a ton of extra work with a top researcher, and ended up with coauthor status on a lot of papers. And this was an undergraduate. All it took was him showing interest and offering time. He even got paid.
As a lecturer, you are always looking out for students who show the slightest interest, and will open many doors if the student is capable. And if someone from highschool came and offered to help out, I'd certainly do my best to let them!
1) Startup work - This means a genuine interest in learning and doing outside of the classroom because it's dependent on what you've done and what you can do. You have to adapt to changing technologies, but the work (imo) is more interesting and the degree requirements can be substituted for the right combination of enthusiasm, personalily and experience.
2) The corporate route - will require a degree to get past the HR department unless you have a foot in the door. You'll work 9 - 5, be done at the end of the day and will likely have a secure job in either a legacy language or a current language that may become legacy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this route and I encourage most people to take it. You do your best in school and use all available opportunities (summer work, coops, internships, etc.) and network your way into a likely fantastic company.
To differentiate I test most people to pick a project or field they have an interest in and we brainstorm an idea. If they can do it, finish it, and write about or open source it and they're still interested, I highly recommend the startup/aternative routes. If not, no harm no foul, but you're likely better suited for a corporate job.
I think both are equally valid and good, but different people need to do different things, which is why high school is so boring for a lot of people in the first place.
High school caters to a very broad audience with it's general curriculum and IMO is one of the worst ways to teach kids. I can say without a doubt that I find applications for about 15 - 20% of everything I learned in highschool past grade 10 in my life, but I'd already been programming outside of school since I was 12 or 13. Most things will simply not apply to most students, but the system needs to cater to all of the possibilities. The only reason I graduated high school was with the hope that university would allow me to actually study things I was interested in, but that's simply not the case to meet the degree requirements. In the end, I dropped out of university and got a great paying job in a startup and have done a good deal of contracting work as well; I don't feel my future career prospects are at all hampered by my lack of education.
I agree that most high school students would not live their lives to their fullest potential if they dropped out, but for those that will, this is applicable. I am definitely an edge case, but I feel that is who he is address here, and I wish someone would have told me to drop out of high school and get an earlier start.
They told me how boring high-school was, how narrow-minded their families were.
That sounds like what 2 out of 3 teens would say. How much more typical can you get? Maybe these two teens are brilliant, I don't know. If so, they should simply accelerate and go to college earlier. But, drop out? I'm simply stunned that someone could seriously tell teens this.
For what reasons is finishing high school better than dropping out? Not that they don't exist, but you've dismissed his argument without listing any.
At the same time I found being able to read and knowing basic math useful, but that's just me.
I don't necessarily have a problem dropping out of high school for good reason. But the article didn't show these reasons. First he met these girls one time for lunch? Unless he was really grilling them I'm not sure how smart you can really tell someone is. As a professor I've met students that are conversationally brilliant (witty, charming, etc...), and not surprisingly, it resembled little how strong they seemed in the material.
I'd even consider home schooling first. Teenagers who simply drop out are a lot more likely to get into destructive behavior. If they need challenge, I'm sure there are plenty of people who can give them this challenge in a loosely-structured manner.
According to the National Center for Education Stastistics, only 4% of high school graduates are able to read proficiently. (And by proficiently, they mean having the minimum amount of skill necessary to 'compare viewpoints in two editorials' or 'interpret a table about blood pressure, age, and physical activity', i.e. an extremely low bar.)
Unfortunately science tells us the opposite.
Take, for instance, today's editorial in the Telegraph (of Calcutta):
I'm pretty lost trying to read that. If I didn't keep up with US politics I'd be equally lost trying to read the New York Times.
I can't speak for everyone, or even a specific type of person, but for me highschool was a huge distraction. I would learn more on my own, doing my own research. I've always found that your interests for specific subjects develop at different times for different people.
Our public education system (in Canada, at least) is among the best, but it faces many challenges. One being funding. Funding effects how quickly education is dispersed among students. The world isn't perfect, but we're sending students out into jobs with archaic information from 5-10 year-old textbooks.
If you have common sense about you, a Google search combined with thoughtful fact validation rivals your public highschool's education platform. I know I'm going to see some unhappy comments about that statement, again, my experience only.
I don't remember what I actually learned in High school but it helped me get into University and get a job. Google is great and looking up facts and even teaching but you can't put "Advanced Google Searcher" on your resume. High school and even University are both aids to transition to the real world and are only what you make of them. You can be successful without any formal education but the average person will be more successful sticking to school.
You can be successful without any formal education but the average person will be more successful sticking to school.
I totally agree.
I managed to get a lot of experience behind me before I officially started my career. I know that a few parameters made the situation available to me.
But one can't help think that perhaps ability/passion > education. Especially when the education isn't being utilized. So why are employers looking for educated persons first? I think it shows commitment. Commitment, ability and passion don't always run the same linage, though.
A agree that schooling is only what you make of it, but some effort to explain to disenchanted teens WHY it is useful would go a long way.
If anything has changed since my High School days it's that schools have gotten worse. They're more authoritarian and paranoid (cameras and patrols abound in the hallways), are even worse at teaching teenagers anything (look at their abysmal performance. This is a well known problem), and want even more money.
You can try blaming the kids for the problems like hugh3 does, but the fact of the matter is that there are so many people doing poorly in and feeling poorly about school that it can hardly be rationalized away as the individual's fault. The problem is the system, i.e. the schools themselves.
"Allen has concluded that our urge to protect teenagers from real life – because we don’t think they’re ready yet – has tragically backfired. By insulating them from adult-like work, adult social relationships, and adult consequences, we have only delayed their development. We have made it harder for them to grow up. Maybe even made it impossible to grow up on time.
Basically, we long ago decided that teens ought to be in school, not in the labor force. Education was their future. But the structure of schools is endlessly repetitive. “From a Martian’s perspective, high schools look virtually the same as sixth grade,” said Allen. “There’s no recognition, in the structure of school, that these are very different people with different capabilities.” Strapped to desks for 13+ years, school becomes both incredibly montonous, artificial, and cookie-cutter.
As Allen writes, “We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”
He appears to have grown out of his depression, though he's not clear on exactly how he turned things around. It's possible that a change of scenery would do the girls good, but we shouldn't assume that their psychological issues are entirely the result of their environment. When someone is suffering from depression, they are sick. If they move to some sort of alternate schooling arrangement, it should be under the supervision of a trained professional.
That's what drug companies say. Another theory is that depression is a healthy response to something in the outer or inner life that must change. So a bout of depression, uncomfortable as it may be, can be integral to growth.
- Elon Musk
I hear nordic and asian countries have very strong education systems. Fwiw, even my little high school had a neat robotics extra-curricular class w/ Lego Mindstorms.
John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991
"The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld, by authority, without appeal. As a schoolteacher I intervene in many personal decisions, issuing a Pass for those I deem legitimate, or initiating a disciplinary confrontation for behavior that threatens my control. My judgments come thick and fast, because individuality is trying constantly to assert itself in my classroom. Individuality is a curse to all systems of classification, a contradiction of class theory.
Here are some common ways it shows up: children sneak away for a private moment in the toilet on the pretext of moving their bowels; they trick me out of a private instant in the hallway on the grounds that they need water. Sometimes free will appears right in front of me in children angry, depressed or exhilarated by things outside my ken. Rights in such things cannot exist for schoolteachers; only privileges, which can be withdrawn, exist.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study. (Rather, I enforce decisions transmitted by the people who pay me). This power lets me separate good kids from bad kids instantly. Good kids do the tasks I appoint with a minimum of conflict and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to learn, I decide what few we have time for. The choices are mine. Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.
Bad kids fight against this, of course, trying openly or covertly to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn. How can we allow that and survive as schoolteachers? Fortunately there are procedures to break the will of those who resist.
This is another way I teach the lesson of dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of all, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that our entire economy depends upon this lesson being learned. Think of what would fall apart if kids weren’t trained in the dependency lesson: The social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-growing counseling industry; commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun; the food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if people returned to making their own meals rather than depending on strangers to cook for them. Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering would go too — the clothing business as well — unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people poured out of our schools each year. We’ve built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don’t know any other way. For God’s sake, let’s not rock that boat!"
Dropping out of high school voluntarily is a short-term rush with potential long-term adverse side effects.
I took the GED exam as a Sophomore in high school and was shocked by how easy it was. If the goal is to actually get a fulfilling education that enables you to chase your dreams and high school is the problem, go learn elsewhere. Find an interesting college that will take you, pass the GED (or entrance exam, if they'll take that instead) and stop wasting time in high school.