Q: Our 15-year-old son has just announced that he is quitting school when he turns 16 in April. His plan is to wait six months (the required waiting period), enroll in a GED program, and then join some branch of the military as soon as they’ll take him. He thinks he can get the Army to send him to college where he wants to learn computer programming. He’s a very bright kid who made very good grades, without much effort, up through the sixth grade. Since then, he’s been a consistent underachiever, but not a troublemaker by any stretch. His defense is that school is boring, a waste of his time. We’re very concerned and have even told him we won’t allow it, but he says we can’t stop him. The parents of several of his friends have called expressing worry that he will influence their kids likewise. Your thoughts, please.
A: I think your son has a better grasp on his future than probably 90 percent of kids his age. Bully for him. First, he’s realized that he can obtain a marketable diploma — one that will admit him to the armed services and even to most colleges — before his peers graduate from high school. Second, he has a coherent, rational plan for the next decade of his life. Not many kids his age have that same degree of foresight.
Mind you, if he was a certified slacker who was dropping out of high school so as to spend more time playing online games with other slackers from around the world, I most definitely would affirm your disapproval. But your son has a realistic vision of his future and a strategy for getting there. I’d say that speaks to a good degree of maturity.
I’m not an expert in this area, and the laws differ from state to state, but I believe your son is correct when he says you can’t stop him from dropping out. You can levy consequences on him for dropping out (no driver’s privileges, for example), but I doubt that’s going to deter him, and I would not recommend going to war with him over this.
That his friends’ parents are concerned is understandable, but I doubt your son is going to lead some mass exodus from high school, although who’s to say it wouldn’t be a good thing? If I were in your shoes, I’d simply tell the worriers that your son has no intention of persuading other kids to follow his lead.
Dropping out of high school is not a good idea, generally speaking. It is associated with lower earning potential and criminal behavior. But research reports the norm, to which there are always individual exceptions, such as my very good friend, Don.
Don dropped out of high school and spent six years in the Army, earning his GED in the process. When he was honorably discharged, he went to college, then medical school. Today, he is one of the most sought-after pediatricians in his California town, not to mention one of the most intelligent and funny men I’ve ever met. Don has no regrets. He tells me that if he had the chance to live life over again, he’d drop out of high school, join the Army, and so on.
I urge you to support your son in his decision. There’s more than one way of getting to Rome.
Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site: www.rosemond.com.