You are here

How To Keep the Proles Stupid, And Feel Good Doing It

Problem: You're a school administrator who's being judged on your graduation rate; at the same time, you're having your resources depleted, and you're losing the capability to improve that graduation rate. What do you do?

Solution: Persuade the bad students to drop out. That seems to be the method of choice in Orange County, Florida, at least according to a special report [streaming video avalable at transcript page] on Tuesday's News Hour. Here's how it works:

  1. You identify the students most likely to fail.
  2. You then go to those students, and tell them all about the GED program. (And don't miss the opportunity to mentiont that attendance is optional -- not that something like that would matter to 16-17 year old kids...)
  3. The students think it's a really sweet deal (hell, it gets them away from school, and legally, too), so they withdraw from school (in Florida parlance thats a "code W26").
  4. Once they go W26, they're officially no longer part of your statistics -- and you've immediately improved your graduation rate, really dramatically. (And, as a bonus, since W26 students aren't classified as "dropouts", you get to cut your dropout rate, as well.)

What really matters, of course, is whether this works for the kids. That's not as easy to tell as one might hope: Apparently there aren't any ready statistics on how many kids who are "referred to" GED programs actually enroll in them, and since attendance isn't mandatory, there's no way to tell how many of the kids who do enroll, actually go. The best evidence available, though, indicates that most referred, don't enroll; and of those who enroll, most don't attend classes.

In the neo-Calvinist ethos that drives programs like No Child Left Behind, there's no problem here: The kids "referred" to the GED program are exercising free choice, and paying the consequences for their actions. In my experience, though, it's a very rare 16 or 17 year old who's fully qualified to assess the pros and cons of stepping off the main rails of The System and onto the free and open road. If someone is there telling them a happy tale designed to serve their own ends -- whether it's a guidance counselor, recruiting officer, MLM huckster, what have you -- we can't be surprised if they fall for it.

Add new comment