The Scale of America’s Educational Problem

It is easy to get lost in selling the virtues of high school career academies and forget to point out the immense scale of our society’s educational problem. The problem is so immense that when you really understand it, it is unquestionably the largest and most significant social problem in America. The worst example of the problem is the annual crop of about one million high school dropouts. They are the vanguard of the well-known high school to prison pipeline. We know 70 percent of those in prison are high school dropouts. Also, 70 percent of the additional 4.5 million on probation and parole in America are high school dropouts. And we know the recidivism rate is also 70 percent. When you look at this high school to crime connection, one would think the enormous dimension of this problem would be enough to instigate national interest in creating a solution.

In reality, the million dropouts per year are just the beginning view of the the scale of the problem. We know that the highest rate of dropping out occurs in the ninth grade. Therefore, when you look at the four years of high school, this means at any one point in time there are four million dropouts at some point of leaving high school. How about the previous four-year dropouts? These additional four million young people, aged 18 to 22, are also loitering on our streets. Thus, the problem really isn’t the annual one million dropouts. The national scale of the problem at any point in time is really eight million dropouts on the street, or about to land there. Yes, there are GED and other adult education programs for these kids. However, realistically after being ill-treated by high schools for some subset of four years, very few of these young people attend, much less receive any meaningful postsecondary education.

Way in the past, the military took these castaways, but they no longer will. We wonder where gangs, crime, shootings, prostitution, and domestic violence come from. These young people are ill-treated throughout their educational experience and then are tossed onto the street. Because they are not high academic achievers, the students are treated like sub-humans by our high schools. It is truly amazing that all of these young people don’t have anger management issues.

The scale of this societal problem is really much worse. I know it doesn’t seem like it could be. There is an additional group per high school cohort of one million students who aren’t going to on to college to graduate. We know only 30 percent of high school students go on to graduate college. This means there is an additional million students plus per cohort who receive limited career technical education. We know from research that relatively few high school students take a sequence of career technical education program courses. Thus, they are largely unemployable when they leave school. This means the largely unemployable group of young people is really sixteen million plus at any point in time.

My purpose in this blog is to point out the scale of the educational problem in America is enormous. We, as a country, are presently pushing out sixteen million low achieving kids onto the street over the four years of high school and the four years just after high school. Then, we have the audacity to bitch about crime. We as a society have dumped these kids on the street with no employable skills and into a job market with increasing demands for job skills to obtain a job. When you multiply the problem by ten years, if you get something like 25 million young people who have no employable skills to take care of themselves.

This problem of unskilled youth is exacerbated by off shored jobs and automation. The reality of today’s job market is an increased demand for technical skills and soft employment skills. The combination of a lack of skills and demanding job market forces young people into lives of crime, drugs, and guns and end up in prison or dead. The problem that has created this reality is educational policies that do not support high school career technical education and career academies. Thus, the problem is really educational policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels. Community groups and law-enforcement must join together to change this invalid educational policy that does not support high school career technical education and career academies.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on

Business Plan

Writing A-Z

(Valued at $250)

Learn all you need in order to create a

stellar business plan for your endeavor!

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on
Search By Tags
No tags yet.