Obama’s State of the Union Address education request faulty

February 8, 2012 — by Nicholas Chow

President Barack Obama made numerous suggestions in his State of the Union address in January regarding infrastructure spending, insider trading and tax reform, to name a few.
But his suggestion to mandate high school attendance until graduation, or age 18, struck close to home. While his proposal may have good intentions, its disadvantages heavily outweigh any significant advantages.

President Barack Obama made numerous suggestions in his State of the Union address in January regarding infrastructure spending, insider trading and tax reform, to name a few.
But his suggestion to mandate high school attendance until graduation, or age 18, struck close to home. While his proposal may have good intentions, its disadvantages heavily outweigh any significant advantages.

The first problem with this proposal is that it would be extremely difficult to implement. Numerous states have laws declaring that students must be 16 or 17 to drop out of school.

But even if students are underage when they drop out, little can be done to punish them. Jailing the student takes away from his or her education, and fining the student’s parents would not be an effective deterrent because the fine will not directly punish the dropout.

Another concern is that if dropouts are forced to go to school, they will disrupt the learning of other students. If these students feel they have no place in the education system, there is little to stop them from distracting focused students.

Regular school punishments are only effective for those students who wish to stay in school. Therefore, punishments such as suspensions and expulsions would actually serve to help these students’ goals of escaping school.

In addition, these unmotivated students take away valuable teaching time and resources from deserving students. Teachers are forced to spend even more effort and time to teach concepts to indifferent and apathetic students. This forces schools to spread their resources, further compounding the expense of education.

The solution to this problem is to target dropouts with education that might be more beneficial to them. For instance, the students who do leave school at 16 should be advised to partake in vocational education. It is important to train all young people in at least one applicable skill in order to prepare them for their future careers.

The benefit of this approach is that non-vocational schools do not have to spend money on unmotivated students for an extra two years, which allows passionate students to excel further. Furthermore, those students who choose to drop out will still have the ability to obtain skills to earn a living.

The problem of dropouts will not be resolved by forcing them to go to return to the classrooms and subjects they hate. Unmotivated students should be given equal opportunities to learn, but most likely through some kind of alternative education.