High school freshmen orientation…freshpeople orientation. New student orientation..yes. First thing, once the kids are seated after their tour, the announcement is made that they are going to sign a document committing to graduate. “You are going to sign…!” Touching story of how sad it is each year at graduation ceremonies to receive the signal to remove the chairs of those who, “for whatever reason, couldn’t make it to graduation.” The principal reiterates the importance of graduating, on time.
How about not using the school to steamroll individuality? How about not making simplistic categories of those that graduate on time and the rest, who are part of the backslidden, down-fallen, dreaded DROPOUT population? Wouldn’t it at least be proper, in a democratic setting, to add, “Those who cannot in good conscience sign are not required to do so”?
Okay, so I’m part of a minority population that has chosen to either ignore or strategically use rather than automatically become part of the educational system. I’ve been a homeschooler for many years. But I didn’t always think this way–I didn’t know any different until I met Chris, one of my homeschool heroines. She is the mother of seven extremely well-adjusted, intelligent and creative homeschooled children, the youngest of whom is now a new high school student. When this young student came smiling from the line with, “Mom, I committed to graduate! Aren’t you proud of me?” Her mother answered (uncharacteristically non-affirmingly), “No, it was because of peer pressure!” I found out that if this daughter does decide to graduate before going on to college or other pursuits, she will be the first one to do so of her siblings! Yet they are all well educated, and all those beyond “high school age” have chosen positive and progressive paths based on their gifts and interests. All have continued formal studies and are welcomed in a variety of job, volunteer and community situations. These young people are admired for their ability to relate, to value their family and community relationships, and for their various other talents and abilities. Yet they didn’t “graduate on time,” or graduate at all.
Later I spoke with the teacher who led the cheering-on of the students signing their commitment to graduate. I asked him if he knew that colleges did not necessarily require high school diplomas. He didn’t, and was surprised and open to learning more. We talked about how not graduating did not equal failure, and how there were many students who would be encouraged and excited to know that they could be free to design personal educational programs that prepared them for their career and life interests without locking them into the list of high school diploma requirements. Could young students be trusted with that information? Time to at least talk it over with the principal and others, he decided.