"Our current discussions about IPS/Indiana dropout/graduation rates need a shot of honesty (Cover, Sept. 20-27). Over the last 60 years, adults have tried to reason, warn, plead and even threaten youth to stay in school. Presenting health, lifestyle and employment/wage factors, along with incarceration numbers, year after year messages on TV/radio, buses, billboards, as well as lectures, sermons or crying parents attempt to persuade students to get their diploma.
Many adults are dismayed, believing that despite dropout warnings, youth aren't listening. This implies the message is out there and youth ignore it. However, youth are not ignoring it — they are listening, yet remain out of school. Why?
Part of the problem is educators and others who can't accept that youth remain so unmoved, so they say kids aren't listening. Evidently, the truth is, one in five IPS male students would rather take their chances without a diploma.
And, this will continue to happen despite warnings, discipline actions or alternative schools. Many youth will do anything not to give into "schooling" and the passivity and in-authenticity it requires of them.
What is interesting is that this is not just a local problem. According to International Journal on School Disaffection, this is a global phenomenon. Schools are simply not connecting with students. Japan's "school refusers" have quit public schools and formed their own. Aboriginals in Australia have a 25 percent graduation rate. The working class, minorities or the disaffected in most countries express their alienation from their public schools with their non-compliance or dropping out.
IPS and others have to figure out why, but they won't be helped in their figuring if they think youth aren't listening. The real point [is]: The adults are failing in their responsibility to prepare the next generation for the future.
Examples are the glaring cultural, socio-economic and generational disconnect between students and staff illustrated by the daily confrontations between the hip-hop culture and IPS culture. The "trials" of schooling, in our present dropout factories, an experience by law students must go through and endure, are not only irrelevant to their everyday lives, they are so unnatural, and psychologically/politically hazardous, it's just not worth it to many IPS students.
Our suggestions encompass support for the IPS small schools. However, they cannot do it alone. NUVO must begin to systematically inform the public about small schools development. When the public is informed, this will put pressure on IPS since everyone will know what is happening compared to what is expected.
This will inform teachers — although they have been informed and trained, 90 percent of teachers still don't get small schools. Thus, IPS has small schools, but large high school oriented teachers.
This will also help each small school to be unique and self-governing, and not micro-managed by IPS campus and/or downtown administrators.
Chairman, Black & Latino Policy Institute"