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High School Graduates Unprepared for Life

Why are high school graduates unprepared for life? How can that be the case in the greatest country on earth? This is a very broad statement that obviously doesn’t pertain to all high school students. There are many gifted and highly intelligent students that graduate from high schools all over the country every year. But they are the exceptions to the rule. They are highly motivated, gifted, disciplined, and some are the products of good support systems. But the remaining students are above average to remedial when you look at their life skills. Students that are between average and remedial in life skills are the ones that are most unprepared for life after graduation. That could include some of the most intelligent in the class. To some degree, that explains why businesses, schools, homes, government, and the military can be so dysfunctional.

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Prepared for Success

When I say prepared for life, I mean prepared to understand and be responsible for finances, vocational professionalism, community service, business ownership, government, insurance, family life, and home ownership. I believe that the foundation for this kind of understanding and preparation has to be done in the home. When children come to school unprepared to learn, they start school at a deficit regardless of the curriculum. But my point is not to blame homes or schools for graduates lacking life skills. My question is are our schools curricula serving our children well? For example, we talk about being a global village and the global economy, so why don’t we require students to learn a second language to prepare them for success in the global village?

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Unprepared for College

Many students in the US leave high school unprepared for college. They either aren’t prepared to live on their own and be responsible or they’re grades and study habits aren’t college ready. Too many students are behind in basics skills like reading, math, and science. Unfortunately, being unprepared for college keeps many students from earning college degrees.

High School Dropout Statistics (US)
Total number of high school dropouts annually 3,030,000
Number of high school students who drop out each day 8,300
Percent of Americans with a high school diploma 85.3 %
Percent of all drop outs that happen in the ninth-grade 36 %
Percent of students who repeat the ninth-grade that go on to graduate 15 %
Percent of students in the largest 50 U.S. cities that graduate High School 59 %
Percent of US crimes that committed by a high school dropout 75 %
Amount of money a high school graduate will earn more than a drop out $260,000
Percent of black drop outs that have spent time in prison 60 %
Percentage of Hispanic dropouts that were due to a pregnancy 41 %
Percent of US jobs a high school dropout is not eligible for

90 %

Table Source: Statistic Brain – Source: Education Week, Children Trends Database, Research Date: 1.1.2014

Paper or Plastic: Youngest and Dumbest

Of course, some schools do a better job than others but if test scores, in classes that don’t relate to life skills, are the measure of success, what are our schools trying to produce? We need college prep courses to prepare students for higher learning but don’t they also need to grade high in life skills? Looking back on life, I’m amazed at how we make the most important life decisions when we’re the youngest and dumbest. That’s when most of us decide whether to get married, whom to marry and if we’re going to have children. We decide whether to go into the military or to go to college or to get a job. Oftentimes life makes these decisions for us.

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A Solution

This is why I believe our students should have to take classes that teach them how to register to vote, how to open banking accounts and to balance these accounts, what a 401k is and how it works, how to interview for a job, how to apply for insurance and how it works. I think it would serve the country well if high school graduates were taught how to apply to buy and maintain a home. We could also benefit greatly if high school graduates were required to learn how to start and operate a business. These are just a few of the life skills that I see lacking, not just in high school graduates, but also in many adults that are struggling in life. Some of these adults are able to recover and have good lives while others spiral into hopelessness and day-to-day existence.

No Guarantees: Try to Make Good Better

There are no guarantees but I think some of these ideas would give high school graduates a better chance at success if these ideas were added to or worked into existing curricula. But there are no guarantees because some of the best and brightest that have the best circumstances in life still fall short at times. But I believe that we should try to improve on a great educational foundation that’s helped us become the greatest country in the world. Maybe, then we could significantly lower the number of high school graduates that are unprepared for life.

Eddie Mars
Greenville Senior High School 1975

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