No Excuses, No Endorsement, No Enabling

By: Ed Moore, Ph.D. | Posted: September 26, 2013 3:55 AM
Ed Moore, Ph.D.

Ed Moore, Ph.D.

Florida, by statute, both enables and endorses failure. Florida Statute 1003.21 provides that “any student who attains the age of 16 years during the school year is not subject to compulsory school attendance beyond the date upon which he or she attains that age…”

Enabling our students to fail is a shame. By an officially endorsed mechanism of the state, we give Florida high schoolers the ability to drop out of school, an archaic and outdated practice. Long gone are the days when working to manage the family farm or small business in the 18th or 19th century was a necessity.

During the late 1800’s, the growth of free and accessible public schools altered what would be needed to succeed in life. At the turn of the century, families were extended and the additional income of children going to work at the age of 14 was truly needed to get by. The major expansion of public education so radically altered what was usual and customary that by 1900, more girls than boys were graduating from high school.

There were 7 million students in elementary schools in the U.S. around 1870, but only 80,000 in secondary schools and a mere 9,000 Americans held college degrees. At the turn of the century, roughly half of students under 19 were in school, rising to 75 percent by 1940, and over 90 percent by 1970.

In the 1940’s, less than 10 percent of black students enrolled completed high school and less than 30 percent of white students did the same. High school graduation rates have increased in the past 70 years, but are still too low, resulting in burdensome social costs that can be traced directly to the absence of education.

A 2010 study of those entering U.S. prisons found that nearly 72 percent tested below the eighth grade level. Another study found that 67 percent cannot write a basic letter. High school drop outs are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than those who graduate. A Florida study released in 2005 found 70 percent of incarcerated inmates to be less than functionally literate. What can we learn from these disturbing statistics? Simply put: education matters.

Social safety mechanisms were few and far between in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The complexities of life were more routine and less technical, and the educational options available were far more limited. Without a high school diploma one cannot even get a ticket into the economic game, much less make it to the nosebleed seats. A high school diploma is a minimum ticket to opportunity and yet we continue to endorse the option to fail. In this modern era, there are an abundance of safety mechanisms. Students can finish school even under the worst circumstances. There are no excuses for dropping out.

Leaving school without a diploma sacrifices the basic safety net, which allows students the ability to provide for their own wellbeing. The drop-out option should be stricken from Florida Law. Our state should not enable guaranteed failure. Our prisons are filled with those who, endorsed by the state, made the choice to stay at the bottom of the economic ladder. Our national welfare rolls are filled with those who chose a lifetime of limitations at the age of 16.

One would think that the state would prefer students stay in school, even beyond high school, learning a marketable trade or pursuing additional academic paths. The failure option should not be in play. Education is the best option to escape the burdens of poverty. Degrees matter. Stay in school; give yourself the gift of potential, not the burden of ignorance.

Dr. Moore is president & CEO of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida.

Comments (2)

7:34AM SEP 26TH 2013
If education is free to students, the value is set at zero. How do you treat worthless gifts? If you must work for it then you give it value. I think that what is missing from the education is value, not cost. The cost seems to always go up but the value has not been properly sold. I believe that the old fashioned "being left back" must be brought back. A child will immediately suffer the shame of failure and by the separation from friends if left behind.

If you layout a banquet table for someone and that person starves it is not the fault of the banquet table. More responsibility must be put back on the child and not treat education as a compulsory detention. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

I doubt that any "study" is honest and objective. I cannot think of any study that is not paid for in some way by taxes, and that is not biased toward increasing the size and scope of government. My dad had an 8th grade education, raised three children, one engineer, one lawyer, and one CPA. When you finish the 8th grade, you should have the reading, writing and math skills to function enough to decide your own career path, if not it is the student's fault. A college education is only valuable these days because the K-8 education has failed and the reason it fails is it is run by the same government that could not organize a two-car parade and has failed at everything it attempted since about 1946.
9:39AM SEP 26TH 2013
Bring back vocational high schools. Can you imagine how miserable it is for a person with an IQ of 80 to endure physics? Or algebra? High school expectations are high- if you want to graduate these students, stop testing them on material with which they have no chance of success. Failing them only compounds the problem. Show them what they can do, stop torturing them with what they cannot do.

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