158. Who Needs School?

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Two years after it was appointed by the governor, a panel has delivered its report on education in California. One of its findings is that half of the students who reach the ninth grade will never graduate. There were about 6 million students in California's K-12 grades in the spring of 2006.

The report focused on problems with the education system; it did not offer any solutions. Solutions might be offered in the future, if the governor decides to appoint another panel. Meanwhile, thousands of kids 15 to 18 years old will be dropping out of school every year. Without a high school diploma, most of these kids are doomed to a lifetime of part-time work or full-time jobs that offer no security, no benefits, and no opportunity for advancement. And the cities that these kids live in will see an increase in loitering, homelessness, and crime.

As usual, the taxpayer is going to pay for the failures of the government. He is going to be asked to approve bonds that will build yet more schools, more prisons, and more housing for the homeless. These bonds, unfortunately, are like using band-aids when stitches or tourniquets are needed.

The dropouts do not see a bleak future for themselves. In the report, one student was asked why he had dropped out of the tenth grade. "School was boring," he said. "I got a life to live. There's women, parties, fast cars, and easy money on the street, if you know where to find it. And if things ever go south, all I gotta do is apply for welfare. They'll put me up in an apartment, and give me food stamps and free medical care. Why do I need an education or a stupid job?"


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