Dropping out

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Two-Fry
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Dropping out

Postby Two-Fry » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:14 am UTC

To begin with, let me apologize to the mods if I put this in the wrong forum. I'm pretty confident of my choice, but since I want to discuss alternatives to schooling, I could be wrong.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me introduce you to me. I'm 14, and a freshman in (pre) IB. I have relatively good grades (mostly B's with a few A's and the occasional C), and got 99th percentile in math and Critical Reading on the PSATs. To be honest, I could easily make a good living as an upper level 9-5 wage slave, however I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with this prospect in the past several years. I play tenor saxophone in the school band, and participate in martial arts (Haganah and Tae Kwon Do) and feel that even at a much lower salary I would be happier practicing these skills for a living (as a busker, in a jazz band, or teaching martial arts). My problem is not that academics do not interest me, it is the way that the schools are run in the US that turns me away, specifically the math education (google lockhart's lament for a much better expression of my views than I could ever write), and the mentality that all intelligent and curious children should go to college and become stressed out, overworked doctors and lawyers.
My purpose in writing this is not merely to use the internet as an outlet for my frustrations, as one might have assumed reading the previous paragraph, but to form a plan for what I will do, whether or not I choose to drop out. Since xkcd has influenced me to think outside the societal expectations I was raised in, and since the population of the fora have consistently expressed views which I (for the most part) view as intelligent and worth consideration, I would like to ask you for advice. I would not be able to legally drop out for another year and a half, even with parental permission, which is not guaranteed, so I have ample time for planning and developing skills I would need. If any of you have been in similar situations and found an alternative lifestyle which met your needs, or simply have interesting thoughts on my situation, please share them.
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poxic
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Re: Dropping out

Postby poxic » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:37 am UTC

First off: don't drop out. Suffer through the remainder of your four years any way you can. Better yet, figure out how to get some enjoyment out of it. Quitting high school before graduation is the single most limiting thing you can do to your future self. (Well, you could do worse, but it would involve jail time.)

Second: pursue your music and martial arts. Pursue the hell out of them. Ask around for leads on where you can practise them outside of class. Keep asking. Volunteer for demonstrations, to play at parties, whatever. Practise like hell at home. (Find a copy of Outliers to learn why practise is so important.)

A lot can change between now and graduation. I probably went through three distinct phases between grades 9 and 12, and during each one I would have been horrified had I known what I would be into next. :wink:

Don't quit school. Do everything you like to do, as long as it doesn't hurt you (or your future self), and do it a lot. If I find that essay I'm thinking of, about how to make a living playing music, I'll post a link here. If I don't find it, it won't hurt to research this yourself -- online, by talking to musicians, that sort of thing.

Edit: when I searched for "how to make a living playing music", I didn't find the article I wanted but there were a dozen others that seemed just as good. Google away, and read away!
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Re: Dropping out

Postby lu6cifer » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:37 am UTC

If you really feel strongly about pursuing a more independent academic environment, you should look into schools such as the Sudbury School.
Otherwise, don't drop out, because if you do, it will obviously become much more difficult for you to get into a good college, and college is a world of opportunities. That's not to say you have to become overly competitive, and thus, overly stressed out in high school. If you really love martial arts or music, and feel that they would make viable careers, then pursue them, but also make sure that you have academics to fall back on, just in case you, one day, lose interest in them. Believe me when I say that that can happen. I alone (within grades 8-11) went from wanting to be an author, a doctor, a mathematician/physicist, a pure mathematician, and now I don't really know what I want to do.

My point is, you're still a high school freshman, and you (probably) have no idea what you really want to do. Thus, it's better to take the safe route and lay a foundation, which means at least graduating high school.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby poxic » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:58 am UTC

lu6cifer wrote:My point is, you're still a high school freshman, and you (probably) have no idea what you really want to do.

Or, I would say, you do know what you want to do... but that has lots of time to change. And it will, trust us old folks. :wink:

And hey, if it doesn't change for all of high school, that's fine too. There's always your 20s, your 30s, your 40s... unless you're a cardboard box, what you want in life will keep changing, evolving, and growing. Keep as many options open as you can. Think of it as a favour to yourself.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:15 am UTC

Are you American? (I think you are, but am not certain whether or not other countries utilize the PSATs) There are heaps of programs designed for people who need something different from their education, see if you can find some. Consider that you haven't really outlined a plan beyond doing martial arts and music and 9-5 grunt work; if that's what you want to do, then consider finishing high school at the very least. Dropping out now will do nothing but limit your choices, and at least with a high school diploma you can postpone college while you pursue other endeavors.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby bakadeshi » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:16 am UTC

Another option for your immediate circumstance would be to try to talk your teachers into letting you do full independent study for your classes instead of the traditional route; as long as you pass the end of year exams, most teachers don't care about what you do on a daily basis. Granted, I remember having to come up with compelling reasons for why I was 'special' (getting arrested/going to juvy and the reasons for that provided a good excuse, but I don't recommend that particular path). It was also a pain in the neck to meet with all my teachers once a month after school to take tests to prove I was actually learning stuff, but it's what kept me in school so I can't complain too much.

If IB is what I think it is (international baccalaureate?) then at least finish that and take your IB diploma to university abroad. Different countries' education systems work differently than that of the US, and living elsewhere can provide some perspective and opportunity.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby achan1058 » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:51 pm UTC

I always see the way that Canada (which is probably the same as US) teach math as an easy way to get A, especially when teachers don't care whether you do HW or not, and/or being able to finish the HW in class so that you don't have anything to do back home. (If anything, I hated the large group projects much more.) Granted, it's not the most enlightening thing there is, but there are library books and national contests for that.

Anyways, there is no reason to drop out of school just because you want to do something else. Having an decent education makes it much easier to switch around career, so that even if what you want to do fails, or that if you decide to change career, you don't end up living on the streets or something.

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Re: Dropping out

Postby Bakemaster » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:21 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Dropping out now will do nothing but limit your choices, and at least with a high school diploma you can postpone college while you pursue other endeavors.

Absolutely this. A high school diploma may seem trivial while you're young, especially if you're an honors student, but it's really anything but. There is a lot of freedom for you to explore college study at your own pace, or not at all, without sacrificing too much opportunity; but the same can't be said for high school. Do not drop out of high school. It is a stigma that will be attached to you at least until such point as you obtain a college degree, if not the rest of your life; it will cause employers to toss your application after only a glance if they've got a stack with plenty of high school graduates competing for one of those "upper level 9-5 wage slave" jobs.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby LikwidCirkel » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:13 pm UTC

In line with the others - yes, it is a very bad idea to drop out. Get your high school. I would never, ever encourage people to pursue post-secondary (do they even call it that in the USA?) if they're not "feeling" it, but high-school is a different thing, and you'll find yourself severely limited if you quit now.

People change a lot over time, and so do their interests. In my case, I went to music college right out of high-school and learned that I absolutely do not want the life of a professional musician. I quit, but it was the right choice. One technical diploma, and a Bachelors Degree later, and I'm almost 30. I took a lot of time to figure out what I'm doing with myself, but in the end, they were well-informed and genuine choices, and that is what counts.

Also... for me, high-school was dreadfully easy (academically, not so much motivationally), and dreadfully boring. As I progressed through College and University, the material because more complex, more challenging, and hence, vastly more interesting, and I'm not alone with this view.

Pursue what you like, but don't sacrifice opportunities and limit your options too much, because you just might change your mind or become very interested in something else years down the road.

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Re: Dropping out

Postby Cleverbeans » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:39 pm UTC

Read "The four hour work week" by Timothy Ferris, then drop out.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby rigwarl » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:47 pm UTC

When I was 14, I *knew* what I wanted to do 100%. I became bored of it and don't want to do it anymore :P Moral- Don't drop out.

Oh- also school isn't that bad! It's a great place to make friends and such.

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Re: Dropping out

Postby Jumble » Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:43 pm UTC

I know it's not original, but along with everyone else - stick with it. Don't drop out. Education and knowledge is one of the few things that you can do entirely for yourself with a clear conscience. You can learn, follow your interests, grow yourself and no one can take it away from you.

Although I have no experience of the US education system school is there to give you the basic framework, and that can be very dull. I found it dull and now my elder daughter is finding it dull. I didn't even find it easy (as you claim) as I didn't feel engaged - just tedious. However, as you progress it becomes harder, more challenging and more engaging. Also, through a form of natural selection you will find that the group that you are studying with will increasingly become a group that you can relate to as you share a common drive.

I hear what you say regarding a predictable, stressful career. However, there are many life affirming and unexpected careers that you can follow. You have no idea what opportunities life will put in your way. In addition, if you maintain your academic interest you will always have that part of yourself to fall back on. You sound intelligent and articulate in your post. Make the most of your gifts.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby dg61 » Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

Also, are you in any clubs of any sort? The don't even need to be honor societies/state orchestra/debate, just find something you can do after school and meet people while doing it. The best way to survive high school if you are not getting much academically is find something you like there and some people you like. The other thing to consider, and several other people have mentioned this, is that your academic plan is much less constraining in the later grades of HS and possibly in college depending on where you go(some colleges, most famously Brown, have almost no core curriculum, others, like Chicago, have a very strict core curriculum). As for Lockheart's lament, there's a way around this-put up with math classes and read up on higher-level maths on your own time. Also, not everyone who goes to college does so to become a doctor or a lawyer-or indeed do what they intended to when they entered college. My favorite example of this is Louis De Broglie, who started as a history major, wound up switching to physics, and became one of the principle architects of modern physics.

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Re: Dropping out

Postby Vaniver » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:56 pm UTC

Stick through high school; you don't want to try and strike it out on your own until you're 18, because there are lots of legal hurdles there. Focus on martial arts and music- but get the diploma while you're at it.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby TMBFY » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:10 pm UTC

High School may not be everything you ever wanted and more (isn't THAT just the understatement of the century), but you really need to stick with it.
Sometime, see if you can find some stats for employment of people with a college degree, a high school degree, a GED, and nothing. You would really be surprised at the huge differences between all of them. Even though you have a very specific idea of where you want to be, you may not get there immediately. And if you can't find any kind of a worthwhile job in the meantime, I think you will be even more dissatisfied with the life you lead then you are now.

Assuming you did come here for honest advice and not just to elicit sympathies or anything (not that I saw too much of that), I'm going to take the liberty of telling it to you pretty straight:
Your dream and what you want to do is not that reliable of a job. Even if you were able to pursue this "alternative lifestyle" for a small amount of time (a decade, maybe two) it probably would not be everything you've built it up to be in your mind, and you would be left in a place where you had little financial or job security.

I advise you to take those interests and build on them. You like playing in your high school band? Take that love for music and build it into a field you can enter - audio engineering, for example. You like martial arts? Go towards physiology or athletic training.
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Re: Dropping out

Postby Bakemaster » Sun Jan 24, 2010 4:58 am UTC

There are those who say that you should only ever work in a career that you love, because nothing else will be fulfilling.

Then there are the ones who say that you should never make a career out of something you love, because it will destroy that thing for you.

Well, people are different; I think for some the one is more true than the other, or vice versa. But personally, I think that it's better to make a career out of doing something that you feel you need to do in order to be satisfied with yourself. I went to music school because music was something that I loved; it took me almost three years, and half a degree's worth of credits, to realize that I just couldn't be a professional musician or composer. Having to subject the thing I loved doing to the necessity of making a living was destroying my love for making music. In the intervening years, I've learned more about myself, and come to the conclusion that what I feel a need to do is to improve the situation of some part of the world. If I'm working in a job making widgets, I might be entertained by the puzzles of the work now and then, but I won't be satisfied with the fact that all I'm doing is making widgets. When I look at the type of things for which I have a natural aptitude along with those that I genuinely enjoy doing, and think about where I want to see myself in 30 years, and what I might think of having done this or that... Eventually I found a truer direction for my efforts than music. It's been almost four years since I dropped out of music school, and it's only in the past year or less that I've started to regain my former love for making music. If I hadn't had such a good scholarship in school, I might not have spent so much time forcing my relationship with music into the wrong mold, but the point is that even after taking that wrong turn, I'm getting back to where I need to be.

Now, it would be preferable for someone not to have to go through that sort of mistake. But my message is twofold; I think it really is important not to have a fatalist attitude that says, "If I screw this thing up right here, everything will be ruined forever!" That kind of pressure and fear is a perfect recipe for bad decisions. The other side of the coin is that yes, things do have consequences, and some of them are severe: dropping out of high school with no plan other than "get me out of here" is one of those things.

Now, if you were to take an equivalence exam in order to go on to community college in lieu of your junior and/or senior years in high school, and from there make the decision about whether to continue to university, that might be a very good plan. That's different from the idea of dropping out of your education altogether. Some people have had amazing success going this route, because it shows planning and determination; it's incredibly common for people to be frustrated with high school and just want to get out. The people who not only work to get what they want, but do it in a way that advances their education rather than interrupting it are seen in a completely different light than those who just get the heck out of dodge and go work a 9 to 5.
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