U.S. Students Dropping Out


While many nations produce increasingly competent college graduates, the United States is struggling to produce high school graduates. The problem of students dropping out of high school has reached “epidemic levels,” reported abc News, with some school systems having a 50 percent dropout rate (Nov. 20, 2006).

Schools coast to coast—from metropolitan areas to small towns—report that escalating numbers of students are ditching high school or failing to graduate. A recent Department of Education survey found that in the 100 largest public school districts in America, an astounding 31 percent of students that begin high school do not finish. The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center has also put the number at nearly one in three. An estimated 2,500 students drop out of school every day.

Soaring dropout statistics should red-flag the state of our young people and the education system. A survey released in March 2006 by Civic Enterprises and Peter D. Hart Research Associates, The Silent Epidemic, stated that a large percentage of high school dropouts simply quit because they are bored and unchallenged. The survey found that 69 percent of dropouts said they would have worked harder if it had been required of them. In the same study, 38 percent of students cited lack of discipline and too few rules as the reason they dropped out. That goes for both the schools and the families of such young people: A permissive environment tends to produce detached, underachieving youth.

If the evidence is right, we must consider our burgeoning numbers of dropouts to be, at least in part, casualties of our anti-authority, self-esteem-worshiping, just-be-you culture.

Whatever the case, the price for such high dropout rates is steep. Since dropouts account for the majority of incarcerations, according to the American Youth Policy Forum, more dropouts likely portends more crime. The problem is destined to increase as these high school dropouts go on to have their own children, who are growing up in homes that, on the whole, place less value on education, increasing the odds that they too will become dropouts. As the level of the American population’s education decreases, so too does the quality of our workforce, our creative and critical thinking as a society, our leadership and, ultimately, our ability to keep pace internationally.