I almost dropped out of school between my sophpmore/junior year. I dropped out of the advanced tracking I'd been in my entire life, started spending very little time at school, and ran with a very wild crowd.
I don't know what it was that convinced me I wanted back in, (actually it might have been a very messy break up, which resulted not only in the loss of my punk rock boyfriend, but my entire social scene) but it was very difficult to convince the administration and teachers to let me back into the AP courses. More than anything I fought their prejudice all the way through to graduation.
It also ruined my GPA. I was incredibly proud of the 3.5 I managed by graduation, due primarily to the extra weight from the AP courses.
As for why I wanted to leave: my parents got divorced when I was 15, and I was definitely acting out for attention. (I never got it, which is something I want to tell other kids who are acting out. "Save yourself! They are too wrapped up in their own problems to notice yours.") But I'd also always felt socially stigmatized for my intelligence and I wanted a break from that, too. I was into troubled boys who weren't in the classes I normally took. I also was extremely sensitive to being the token "disadvantaged" student in my usual advanced courses. I think more than anything, my impulse to drop out was a both a result of teen nihilism and a failed attempt normalize.
A lot of kids might be better off testing out of high school and getting on with their lives. I considered it myself, but ultimately decided it would be more normalizing to participate and stay. Plus, I got involved in forensics, which saved my life. It gave me an environment in which to compete, excel, and have my excellence be regarded as an asset rather than something weird. It made me something of an academic hero, and it connected me to other smart kids from other schools. (This is one of the ways in which vyrin
and I became friends.)
However, I think the reason other kids drop out aren't necessarily the same. Mental health plays a role, as does not fitting into the social scene. Learning disabilities, confidence, family problems, all play in. I know a lot of kids who leave school to work to help support families. And if you get pregnant, forget it, the odds of graduating are statiscally slim.
I was once told that public schools were designed for the industrial age, to turn out good factory workers. I don't know if this is true, but I certainly think that the means and methods are no longer turning out the best persons adapted to our current society.
This leads to the question, "What ARE schools for, and what would be a good adaptation to our current/future society?"
I would start with civics. A basic understanding of representative democracy, and how to participate, is something I see as desirable.
A basic background of technical knowledge is good, too.
I also believe that a high school education SHOULD be good enough to get you into college. I heard of a school in TX whose graduation requirement is acceptance into at least a local community college. Not only has it reduced their drop out rate, it has also made the percentage of kids who go to college skyrocket.
Have a great weekend!