What's the point of school?

June 12, 2007|by FEDORA COPLEY

For most students, school is finally over. The taste of freedom and long days sans responsibility is in the air. A weight seems to be lifted off the chests of many kids.

But hang on. School isn't supposed to be a bad thing. A high school education gives kids the opportunity to go on to college and get a well-paying job. It's also fun. You get to be with friends every day and can be involved in clubs or sports or drama.

With all these positive aspects, why is school, in the view of many students, such a drag?

School can show you the money

In theory, school is entirely worthwhile. Learning various subjects stimulates your brain, and when learning stops, researchers say, your brain loses some of its vitality. Also, with technology becoming more and more integral to society, careers usually require at least a high school degree, according to information from the nonprofit educational organization Learning Point Associates at This Web site also says that research shows that high school dropouts become more dependent on welfare, have more health problems and have lower incomes than high school graduates.


According to's page on adult/continuing education, a person who has not completed high school earns 31 to 36 percent less than a high school graduate, on average. This means that for every $10,000 a high school graduate earns, a dropout makes $6,400 to $6,900.

Strike out on your own

Obviously, graduating from high school is valuable. However, it is not the only option for people 16 and older. And it's not the best course for everyone.

In general, society expects kids to finish high school. Many people do not consider other routes. But to rely on school as the sole doorway into successful adult life is narrow-minded. There are many high-profile examples of dropouts who went on to be productive or successful. Simon Cowell, a judge for American Idol, dropped out of school at age 16. According to, he now earns around $30 million.

Though cases such as Cowell's are rare, it is unfair to say students who drop out are bound to be losers.

There are other sources of well-paying jobs besides a high school or college education. For instance, young people can become entrepreneurs, selling art, making clothing, performing music or offering some kind of service. There is plenty out there a young person can make money from, if they have the motivation and creativity.

One option for kids who are bored with school is a technical high school - a school that focuses on job skills. This way, once you get your high school degree, you can go straight into a career as a carpenter, graphic designer, hair dresser or another skilled trade.

The purpose of education

Getting a high school and/or college degree is a generally reliable way to having a steady career. But if you're feeling stuck in high school, don't dismiss the possibility of starting a career now.

The legal dropout age varies across the United States. In Maryland, it is legal to leave school once you turn 16. After dropping out, some students chose to take college courses at a community college, gaining credit for four-year colleges. The GED is the equivalent of a high school diploma, so entering college is not impossible for dropouts. Anyone can take the test for a GED. Both of my older siblings, Julia and Rowan Copley, were home-schooled, but once they turned 16, they began taking classes at Hagerstown Community College and took the GED test. Now Julia is attending St. Mary's College of Maryland, and Rowan has been accepted there.

In this past Sunday's edition of The Herald-Mail, Ashley Hartman wrote an article about Chambersburg Area School District's struggle against rising dropout rates. It is a major issue, because, according to the article, it is difficult to have a career without a diploma. Ending your high school career early is probably not a good idea if you don't have a plan for the future.

As tempting as dropping out of high school might sound, it can be destructive for your future. Keep in mind, however, that you don't have to wait for your high school diploma to start living your life. School is not the best choice for everyone, and if it is holding you back from being more productive, consider your options.

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