Stuck in school

New Hampshire’s new governor, Peter Lynch (correction: John Lynch), ran on a platform that included support for education. It’s pretty much a given for most Democrats; the only question is whether they’re doing it for the benefit of the kids, or the teacher’s unions. But Lynch’s main focus has me looking beyond that question, and presents some serious matters for thought.

Under current New Hampshire law, high school students can drop out of school at the age of 16, as long as they have permission from their parent or guardian. Lynch wants to change that to 18, keeping those kids in school as long as possible.

I can see both sides of the issue here. Lynch wants these kids to have a fighting chance in life, and it’s a proven fact that lacking a high school diploma is a serious handicap to success in life. Kids under 18 are protected from making a lot of decisions that can really screw up their future (drinking and smoking, just to name two), and maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to keep them from messing up the rest of their lives.

On the other hand, they already have to get their parents’ permission, and to keep them in school when they clearly don’t want to be there is a grave disservice to the rest of the students, who may genuinely want to learn, and don’t deserve to have their school time disrupted by these idiots who feel trapped and act out their frustrations. Perhaps letting them just leave might be the best solution for all parties.

It’s a tough call, and as someone without kids, I really don’t have any standing or perspective on the matter. My instincts say let the kids screw themselves; it’ll be a lesson in reality to them and those around them, as well as honoring my own libertarian, no-nanny-state leanings. But I keep coming back to the fact that these are 16- and 17-year-olds, and as such they shouldn’t be held to the full level of responsibilities that we adults face.

I dunno how I feel on the issue, but I do respect Governor Lynch for bringing it forward. It’s a debate we really need to have. And while the cynical part of me wonders if this is a subtle “full teacher employment measure,” designed to get more bodies in schools and consequently more teachers on the public payroll, I doubt it is the case. I think he’s sincerely thinking about the kids in this case, and doing what he thinks is best — and I just don’t know where to stand on it.

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22 Comments

  1. goddessoftheclassroom December 10, 2005
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