I read an online debate this morning on whether or not a kid should be required to remain in school until the age of 18; most states have a cut-off age around 16 for mandatory school attendance, yet we’re constantly told that our kids are falling behind those of other countries. Personally, I think that issue has more to do with the quality of our education system, of which I could write pages and pages, than the number of years or even length of the school day or school year.

Why do kids drop out of high school? There can be many reasons: bullying, thinking it’s silly, laziness, or sometimes, yes, they have to work to support themselves or their families. The latter, of course, has to do with simple economics and can certainly be more or less prevalent in particular areas.

Some kids are, indeed, miserable in school because of others’ words and actions. This can be due to many factors. Are our kids less tough these days? Probably. You hear all the time about a little girl claiming sexual harassment because a little boy said he wanted to kiss her; sheesh, back in the day we’d all giggle and run away. Bullies, however, can be more violent and seem to be harder on their victims than in years past; or maybe we’re just hearing more about the most heinous stories.

And of course, let’s not forget the all-too-common refrain of how it seems to be illegal today to discipline one’s children. And nearly de rigueur to spoil them and give them whatever their little hearts desire.

Some kids are just plain lazy. But who wants to admit that about his child? Some don’t see “the point” of education, especially when they can be earning a whopping $7.50 per hour – seems like a lot when you have no real expenses and bring home a paycheck worth several hundred dollars. These kids just don’t understand all that goes into running a household, even a household of one. This is why kids shouldn’t be considered “grown” and “raised” before the age of 18. Prior to age 18 they can’t sign a legitimate contract, which means they can’t buy a car, rent an apartment, or even get a cell phone on their own.

Okay, here it is, out in the open: high school is silly. Those of you who are still in high school might disagree, strongly, as will those of you who think you are still in high school and continue to be overly-involved in alumni associations and, yes, act like you’re still a teenager.

Seriously, though, squealing every time you see a friend, hugging and jumping up and down? Even if you’ve just seen them two classes prior? Crying and sobbing over graduation, because things will never be the same, you are (gasp) leaving this bastion of education? I mean, sure, it’s the end of an era, and things will certainly be different from here on out, but you do have the entire summer to adjust, after all. Likely you will see the same people later in the evening or over the upcoming weekend. C’mon, get over it already.

See, when you’re in high school, you think this is the be-all and end-all of your life. You know what, it was the same during your earlier childhood – as an infant moving into the toddler years, you change and grow, never to be hand-fed again, having to face bathrooms instead of happily sitting in wet diapers.

Well, if you want to get technical, perhaps this is the source of toddler temper tantrums, expressed differently.

But if you’re graduating from high school, you’re supposed to be an adult. Move on, suck it up, act like a responsible individual and not a six-year-old.

So, I’m a little off-track. And you might be able to guess that yes, I did think high school was silly. Yes, I graduated early. Although, to hear my mother tell it, I “met the state minimum requirements” and left. Actually, my high school had higher standards than those set by the state and I completed them all, a year early. And went to college.

No, I didn’t graduate then, and no, I wasn’t very successful. Of course, I blame my parents. Doesn’t everyone?

Just kidding, but I was seriously, woefully unprepared. And depressed, possibly clinically so. I had the maturity, at least as much as my peers, and I knew the basics of cooking, cleaning, and laundry; I was able to physically care for myself. But I wasn’t done being raised, so to speak.

See, my parents were the type who figured that, once I was about 15 or 16, their jobs were done. I could take care of myself, I could handle a job, I could drive. I never had a curfew, didn’t have many chores to speak of, although I helped out when asked. Mostly they were concerned about my grades, which were very good in high school, and so they pretty much left me alone. I applied to one college, and was accepted.

I had no clue what college was all about – and I’m talking about the basics, class schedules, terminology, living in a dorm, and so forth. And my parents didn’t think to go over anything with me at all. Like I said, they figured their jobs were done because I was out of the house.

My son, on the other hand, also left high school early. We’d actually discussed it several years ago, because he seemed bored in school. And lazy about academics. If he’d finished all the requirements, I would have had no problem with him leaving early and getting a head-start on his college career.

He was expelled, and elected to take his GED.

It’s not the stigma it once was, especially if the individual starts college right away. And he did. Started, that is. He barely attends class, doesn’t do the work, and makes excuses. A lot like high school.

The difference is that we KNOW we aren’t done raising him, in spite of his wish to move out soon. He’ll be 17 in a week or so. But that’s still not 18, he still legally can’t do much of anything except drive. But here’s the kicker: he doesn’t WANT to know what he needs to know.

We’ve told him, we’ve shown him, we’ve let him do things on his own. He can’t handle it. Did he miss those early lessons? Did he ignore everything? Or does it come down to laziness? Or, heaven forbid, is he one of those kids who will never “get” it, never fully comprehend adulthood?

I think it’s too early to tell. He is, after all, still a kid. But he might need some very hard lessons before it all sinks into his brain. And I don’t know why. We had such hopes, he’s so smart. Maybe he’s too smart, for his own good at least. But he has to get over his own issues. We’re not done raising him, but there’s only so much anyone can do to prepare a kid for real life; at some point, he has to be responsible for his own actions or lack thereof.


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