Considering dropouts

Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis school officials are teaming up on a “We Want You Back” campaign to try to convince recent dropouts to come back to school. MPR’s Sasha Aslanian reported on the effort today. As is customary on these sorts of endeavors, it’s enlisting help of some popular artists to speak the musical language of the target audience:

Sasha’s story said 25 percent of all Minneapolis school students drop out. But why? Are they not connecting with what’s being taught? Is what’s being taught not relevant to them? Why not?

I thought about this while watching the viral video of the day. This “concert” from the control room of the Large Hadron Collider:

Sure, that’s probably not going to appeal to your typical high school kid. But what about this?

A little to “Schoolhouse Rock” for the ’10s? Probably.

But if the key to getting a dropout back in the classroom is Slug or at least a message the kids can relate to, what’s the key to keeping them there in the first place? Education isn’t a “give ‘em what they want” world. It’s a “give ‘em what they need” endeavor. What’s the secret to marrying the two?

Stephen Hawking weighed in on this today. He said the way to inspire more young people to study, is to “reverse the dumbing down of intellectual culture.” That seems somehow counterintuitive.

  • Stephanie

    Maybe it’s about the environment in the school. Are the kids that are dropping out missing that adult that helps them connect and makes them feel part of a community? Have we gone to filling kids with information on STEM rather than building life long skills?

    As children become teens, we see adults withdrawing from interactions with teens. They look different. They listen to different music and connect with their friends in different ways than we did. But what about below the surface? They are teens (just we were) on the path to become adults.

    How often is the question posed to a “successful” person-What made the difference for you? How often is the answer- some one believed in me. Whether that person is the teacher, para-professional, custodian, bus driver, or community volunteer, we all need to take responsibility for how our country and culture raise our young.

    Positive Relationships- Are the kids who dropped out missing these?

    What can you do?

  • Solveig

    I agree that there are probably some student who drop out because they don’t find enjoyment in school (though I don’t think the “Large Hadron Rap” is the way to get them to enjoy school), and that some student drop out because of a lack of positive relationships, but I think it’s more complicated than either of those. Some students succumb to a pressure (whether intentional or not) to help support their families; this was referenced by one student in the original MPR article in terms of Hmong culture. Some students wind up as teenage parents, or run away from abusive home lives, or succumb to peer pressure to join gangs. In order to solve the problem of drop-outs we need to be looking at all of the challenges of being a teenager and find meaningful ways to address those challenges.

    On the Stephen Hawking quote, I’m pretty sure both the videos are clear evidence of this: low quality music and videography paired with dumbed down physics doesn’t actually entertain or educate. The fact that “thingamujigs” rhymes with “Higgs” isn’t a good reason to include it in an educationally aimed video.

  • GregS

    “We want you back” is a great message. It might be the first time someone told these kids, “We want you..”

    But let’s beef up the message. How about “Come back anytime”?

    The thing is, kids who drop out are alienated from school. They are bored. They see no value in it. They don’t like it.

    Then they grow up a bit.

    Let’s beef up the GED program and change the outcome away from a diploma. Let’s make it more like a life-skill program that teaches usable skills and mini-trades.

  • matt

    It is important that we challenge the underlying assumption that dropping out is bad.

    Pick up a copy of Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto.

    Is there value being generated for each student in our school systems? Is it the optimal level of value for each student? Are the resources employed to generate that value wasteful (value consumed > value generated)?