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If I had a nickel for every time my grandfather prompted me with the rhetorical question, “when the going gets tough?” . . . well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be driving a 10 year old Volkswagen. If you were reared as I was, the CORRECT answer was, “the tough get going.” It seems that these days, the answer is often to simply throw in the towel.
The late 2000s have brought many changes to the way that America keeps her wheels turning. We have become increasingly dependent on foreign countries for money, oil, innovation, and most disturbing, educated and qualified people to fill American jobs. What is the greatest population in the greatest country in the world lacking that in turn forces American industry to look elsewhere?
If you keep up with the news at all, you know that the ever-repeated answer is EDUCATION. But is this really the problem, or a symptom of a much greater, much more pervasive problem – a missing drive to get the “tough” going? Education is not the end result of following a set of procedures (like attending school for 12+ years). Instead, education is the reward for persevering when things are difficult in school, in life, and in mind.
In an age where being properly educated is less of a benefit and more of a necessity, how can we reach our children on a new front – one where failure is part of the process, and instead of looking at a grade, or a score, or a paycheck for success, students look to their ability to persevere, and overcome.
With new standards for employment in America come new standards for educators in America’s schools charged with preparing students for such employment. High School is harder than ever before. No longer will saying “here” each morning during attendance suffice for earning a diploma. Now, students must be able to show that they are ready – not for a diploma, but for the next 2+ years of school ahead and 50+ years of work!
On Monday, 11/21, I searched the world’s largest Jobs database, monster.com, to see what options our students may have after graduation. There were 826 jobs available within a 20 mile radius of Trimble County, which includes the eastern side of Louisville. Of those 826 jobs, 815 required a bachelor’s or associate’s degree from a college or university, or a minimum of 1 year’s work experience in the field. That means that there are only 11 jobs listed that a student could obtain immediately after graduating, and there were 0 jobs that required less than a diploma. ZERO.
Like all of you, I have good days and bad days. My worst, however, are the days when I watch children quit school under the false assumption that they will “get a job” or “figure it out” upon leaving. When a student drops out, the most common reason cited is “failing grades.” Trimble County High School currently has a 5 year average dropout rate of 2.43% compared to the state average of 2.15%. While this number is not excessively high, it still illustrates that each school year, around 3 students are quitting, primarily as a result of failing one or more classes. I vividly remember getting an F on my report card in English III my junior year of high school. I was frustrated, but never considered throwing in the towel. I knew that I had to work that much harder, because English was (as is evident by this article, I’m sure) my weakest subject. In my grandfather’s words, “the tough got going,” and I stayed after school and worked with my teacher. I managed to make it out of English, and high school, but not until after being labeled “Apprentice,” something I will never live down in this profession.
The truth is, in 1999 when I graduated, I could have gone straight to Toyota and made a good wage and never thought twice. In fact, I know several friends who did just that, and now make more money that I. This isn’t 1999, however, and in this NEW economy, finishing high school and continuing education is imperative. When a student drops out of high school he/she is virtually guaranteeing a struggle to find and keep a job that pays enough money to allow for independence.
Our students need to be assured that graduating from high school is the first crucial step towards becoming self-sufficient, something that is becoming more and more of a scarcity.
As a community, what can we do to help students to recognize the importance finishing high school, and working forward into a university, community, or technical college? Quitting school should NEVER be seen as a solution to struggling. We are always seeking input from and partnerships with the community. Please contact me at email@example.com with any ideas or suggestions that can help convey to these students that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” so that they may be prepared to enter a college or take a job that allows them to see the fruits of their labors. Paul hit the nail on the head when he wrote to the Church of Rome in around 60 AD; Romans 5: 3-4, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (NIV). Help us instill hope in our students by pushing them to persevere.