“They said I can graduate early if I skip guard this year.”
Those words were the tap that sent dominoes falling without a way to stop and with no do-over option. Once you tell a teenager that they don’t have to be at school . . . they have no intention of being at school. Meetings with school counselors are no help because they clearly want students out of the school. “Why should she be here if she doesn’t need to be here?” Not just my child, but all the parents who tweeted that their children were also told they should graduate early. Parents who, not so coincidentally, have children at the exact same school as my child.
Here’s the thing that teenagers don’t recognize. No matter how draconian the administration, high school is safer and easier than life after high school. Yes, the safety part comes at the loss of potential fun and freedom. Doing dangerous and stupid things in a quest to declare your adulthood isn’t supposed to come until the end of twelfth grade, which happens about the same time as your eighteenth birthday. Four years of high school are for learning and maturing. Leaving school early eliminates the precious time that teenagers NEED to develop things like self-control, time management and the oh-so-important recognition that you are not invulnerable.
Schools should be motivating students to take more classes and explore new subjects. Schools should not be shoving teenagers out the door. Leaving school early means missed opportunities for education. Education that provides the foundation for a successful college experience.
Are these early graduates starting college or vocational education earlier than their peers? Last spring, I ran into a teenager from the exact same school as my child and the other children who are being encouraged to leave early. She was working in a restaurant where I was eating lunch. I asked her if she was taking college classes. “No. I’m waiting for everyone else to graduate so we can all start together in the fall.” Instead of being in high school or college, she was enjoying getting to “stay out late and sleep all day when they don’t need me at work.” Does that sound more than a little bit more dangerous than being in high school with your peers? Does this extra semester of party instead of learning make her more or less prepared for college?
My child isn’t being given the option to spend a semester playing. When she leaves high school, she will begin college. She’ll be starting in January instead of August, when freshmen are normally welcomed into the social community connected to college. She won’t have the luxury of going into the college of her dreams. Since she’ll be months away from her eighteenth birthday, she is going to have to be in a school close to home for her first semester. Everything about this is awkward and complicated instead of natural and appropriate. The counselor who knocked over that first domino did my child a disservice. They are hurting instead of helping their students. They have all lost sight of the purpose and gift that is high school.