In 2007, Americans stood second only to Canada in the percentage of thirty five- to sixty-four-year-olds holding at least two-year degrees. Among twenty five- to thirty-four-year-olds, the country stands tenth. The nation stands fifteen out of twenty-nine rated nations for college completion rates, slightly above Mexico and Turkey. The U.S. Department of Education’s 2003 statistics suggest that 14 percent of the population (or thirty-two million adults) have very low literacy skills. However, this is but one picture of education in America.
We cannot separate primary from secondary education. We cannot separate secondary from postsecondary. We cannot separate the education experiences in high school or college from the skills needed in workforce. While there may be many reasons to get an education, one of the realities of education is that it teaches skills and transfers knowledge from the current generation to the next in order to prepare them to enter into adult life as a productive member of American society. From this view, education is not a self-betterment proposition; it’s an economic proposition. When we lose those individuals before they’ve completed their high school graduation, it is a serious blow to the future of America.
“High dropout rates are a silent epidemic afflicting our nation’s high schools. The dropout epidemic in the United States disproportionately affects young people who are low-income, minority, urban, single-parent children attending large, public high schools in the inner city. But the problem is not unique to young people in such circumstances. Nationally, research puts the graduation rate between 68 and 71 percent which means that almost one-third of all public high school students in America fail to graduate.” In this same report, of those they interviewed, the top reason given for leaving schools was that classes were not interesting. Additionally, another reported statistic was that 81 percent of those dropouts interviewed said that what would’ve improved the chances of staying in school were opportunities for real-world learning to make classes more relevant. This report is telling because it illustrates that what is going on in the classroom is far removed from what is going on around students. That is, the classroom experience doesn’t reflect the real-world experience.
“Over a million of the students who enter ninth grade each fall fail to graduate with their peers four years later. In fact, about seven thousand students drop out every school day. Perhaps this statistic was acceptable fifty years ago, but the era in which a high school dropout could earn a living wage has ended in the United States. Dropouts significantly diminish their chances to secure a good job and a promising future. Moreover, not only do the individuals themselves suffer, but each class of dropouts is responsible for substantial financial and social costs to the communities, states, and country in which they live.” The cost of dropouts to our nation is extremely high—a cost that we cannot afford over the next decade. How high? “Dropouts from the Class of 2008 alone will cost the nation more than $319 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes.”
Read Inert America to find out how this contributes to the “Inert America” condition.