Three out of 10 US public school students do not graduate from high school, and major city school districts only graduate one out of two students, according to a study released Tuesday.
In a report on graduation rates around the country, the EPE Research Center and the America Promise Alliance also showed that the high school graduation rate -- finishing 12 grades of school -- in big cities falls to as low as just 34.6 percent in Baltimore, Maryland, and barely over 40 percent for the troubled Ohio cities of Columbus and Cleveland.
"Our analysis finds that graduating from high school in America's largest cities amounts, essentially, to a coin toss," the study said.
In the country's city schools, the study found that in urban areas generally, just 60.4 percent graduate, and in the principal school districts of the top 50 cities, barely half graduate.
Detroit, Michigan's main school district scored a graduation rate of 24.9 percent.
On yesterday's Hugh Hewitt radio show, Hugh asked columnist Christopher Hitchens for a comment on these depressing statistics. Hitchens grew even more despondent than usual as he spoke about his current experiences teaching a university class on English Litterature; with a sigh he explained how he has had to turn it into a history class, due to how little general knowledge his students possess about anything he is trying to talk about.
One example he offered was the shock he received when he discovered that his students had no idea that Mark Twain lived well before Ernest Hemingway.
Hugh countered with similar examples from his own current teaching experiences at law school, having to add considerable material on the US constitution at the start of his class now, in order for his students to understand the context for the rest of the curriculum he delivers.
There was only positive note to emerge from their exchange, and it's one that I've seen in my own limited experiences training and working with teenagers at our company. Many of them simply have no idea to what degree they are being short-changed in their education. Some know their schooling was of no value whatsoever, and they are fine with that, content with their lack of curiosity and lack of ambition. But some get angry, they get very angry, when they start to see just what they've been cheated of.
In that anger there is hope. Hope that one generation will not let the next one become satisfied with the low expectations and lower standards that they seem to have been hobbled with. Somehow a link in the chain has been broken, where parents were short-changed and therefore can't tell to what extent their children are being cheated in their turn.
Christopher Hitchens mentioned that after his extreme negative reaction to his discovery that not a single one of his students had ever heard of Henry James, his puzzled students went home to ask their parents, and their previous instructors, why this would make Hitchens get so angry. They went looking for an explanation for the extent of his negative reaction.
Neither their parents, nor their previous instructors, had ever heard of Henry James either.
That made the students very, very angry. And very determined to fill the hole they could now plainly see, since true wisdom tends to come from knowing what we don't yet know.
We need more of that kind of anger in students, and a lot less of the paralyzing cynicism they tend to be afflicted with, if we are to see any change in this ongoing downward spiral.
What's next... nobody graduates from high school...?