Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Truancy in the United States

In his third State of the Union address the President Obama has proposed that all states require that all students must go to high school until they are 18. I loved the speech today.  but I take issue with this point. I am a high school drop out and am very grateful for the experiences I had in the school of hard knocks.

In 1967 Timothy Leary said "My advice to people today is as follows: if you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out." and 30 years later one of my friends in the park in Camden Maine told me the same thing. It changed my life and I started making decisions for myself. They lead me down some crazy hard roads with a lot of hard knocks. Dropping out of High School was a scary and wonderful experience which set me up for a good life. Sailing and doing heavy labor for a few years really taught me a lot about life and helped me to find out who I am and what matters to me. Things I could never have learned in a educational system.

In fact, about seven thousand students in the United States drop out every school day. Many of them are doing it to go to work, to take care of children, or are forced by other hard and unfortunate circumstances. However, there are some of us who do it because we need to go and learn for ourselves. I think what was missing for me in school was the character building of free expression and an openness to my own personal shortcomings and 'failures'. I needed a lot of real failure and self destructive and hard traveling to get to know something about who I am.

Without question, dropping out of high school was good for me. My life is better in every way because of it. If the states are going to start to require Truancy for people up to 18 years they should ensure character building aspects of education. Schools should allow students to do free projects in hard work and hard traveling. Some of us can't just take the teacher's word for things, we need experiential education in getting caught up deep in the consequences of our actions to understand ourselves and our role in the world.

As Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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