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  • Too Cool for School: Georgia's High School Dropouts

    High school dropouts in the 1950s were able to support themselves and their families, but that is not true today. Technological changes have made jobs more complex and low skill jobs have almost disappeared. Dr. Robert Hughes, the deputy director of the Youth Challenge Program, says that low skill jobs are entry level jobs. As the job market has shrunk, more former students are returning to get their GEDs. Mary Smith, a 41-year-old GED seeker, acknowledges how tough it is to go back to school.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Why was dropping out of school in the 1950s less of a challenge than it is today?

    2. Students often complain that a high school education seems less and less relevant as our economy and society become more complex. If we could redeisgn the curriculum of a high school, what would you suggest to give students the greatest advantages when entering the workforce?  

    Expansion

    1. Your class should be divided into two groups. One group should set up an interview by telephone or e-mail with a student dropout and find out why the person dropped out and what he or she is doing now. More than one person could be interviewed. The other group should research the dropout problem in Georgia and report to the class. As a class, synthesize the information from both groups and make recommendations for lowering Georgia’s dropout rate.

    Vocabulary

    drop-out: someone who decides not to finish what they start, such as school, a job, a task, or an appointment
    GED: (abbreviated for General Education Diploma) a set of tests that when passed certify the test taker has met high-school level academic skills; designed for those who did not complete high school
    diploma: a document which shows that a person has finished a course of study or has graduated from a school
    low-skill jobs: jobs that do not require a high level of skill or education

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Why was dropping out of school in the 1950s less of a challenge than it is today?
    Jobs were less complex at this time, and often paid well. Today, jobs are incredibly complex, involving knowledge of advanced computer and technology skills. The economy of the 1950s was plentiful with good paying, and stable, manufacturing jobs in the years after World War II, which did not require a high school diploma. As more manufacturing has moved overseas and the United States economy has become more service oriented, jobs increasingly require more complex skills, otherwise the only jobs available are "entry level." These jobs offer little avenue for advancement adn pay the lowest possible wages. 

    2. Students often complain that a high school education seems less and less relevant as our economy and society become more complex. If we could redeisgn the curriculum of a high school, what would you suggest to give students the greatest advantages when entering the workforce? 
    Answers will vary, but students may suggest more hand-on training, or less of a focus on required courses that students are not interested in.  

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