April 26, 2006
Our society has an obligation to educate
Time magazine reported April 17 that 30 percent of American
high school students drop out before graduation. Is the
integrity of our society at risk with this failure of
Yes. Effective education enables individuals to solve
problems, understand an increasingly complex society
and compete in a global economy. With millions of young
people not completing this basic high school building
block, too many risk becoming adrift, ill equipped to
function. Others will fall prey to drugs, crime and a
cycle of spiraling poverty and bitterness. Feeling intellectually
frustrated and emotionally stifled, they become casualties
of ignorance - not only their own, but also the ignorance
of parents, role models and teachers.
Educators are convenient targets when young people are
turned off and drop out. Many of them should shoulder
a significant amount of the blame. Research suggests
that 20 percent of all youngsters have some form of a learning disability. Perhaps
they have dyslexia or simply a different learning style, making traditional learning
processes difficult. How many educators are qualified to assess differing learning
styles and present materials in ways that capitalize on learning styles of those
who simply learn differently? With a 30 percent dropout rate, the answer is:
not nearly enough! Based upon consulting with 8,000 managers and executives during
26 years in leadership development, we identified 20 percent with such classic
signs of dyslexic as difficulty reading, a tendency to "freeze" with
numbers and finance and both visual-spatial and verbal disconnects.
Dropout's parents also are accountable, many having earlier
walked a similar path themselves. Previous generations
were not well informed about multiple learning styles.
Today, when teachers and parents fail to incorporate
proven methods to address individual learning needs,
what can society expect? Wounded pride and continuous
frustration can drive even the most persistent students
away. Relatively fragile young people grow frustrated
and finally drop out.
Those who earn all "A's" might naturally select teaching, able to
sustain academia. The "B" students can manage business, social and
government activities so society can function. "C" students, along
with those who receive some "D's" and even a few "F's," might
become entrepreneurs - seeing opportunity where others see obstacles.
But until more responsive and practical education is offered
to those who are on the edge of dropping out, the young
American talent pool will continue to deteriorate along
with America's ability to compete and prosper.