Could you stand for your teenagers to spend two additional years in high school, or would you want them out of the house as soon as possible?
Dr. Andre Perry, dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich., is posing the thought-provoking idea of creating grades 13 and 14 for America’s youth.
Perry asserts that the national crisis of college graduates with thousands of dollars in student loan debt and no jobs to help them pay off that debt could be abated.
In fact, he claims in an editorial in the Washington Post, that America is already picking up the tab for the currently nonexistent grades 13 and 14 by lugging around all that debt baggage.
“Creating grades 13 and 14 would reduce student debt significantly, while also providing kids without college degrees a viable path to work,” claims Perry.
“And,” he continues, “it would offer students who need remedial courses a chance to catch up.
Right now, those kids often pay out-of-pocket for classes that don’t count toward their degree.”
The emphasis has been on preschool education in recent years. The belief in play here is that stimulating youngsters’ brains in their most formative years gives them the best chance to become interested in learning and stay interested in learning.
Perry claims the same principle applies to the late teenage years and the labor market. As the guy in the Fram oil filter commercial said, “You can pay me now or pay me later.”
“The social capital gained as well as the long-term financial benefits of graduating from college eventually outweigh the immediate financial losses of taking out loans,” wrote Perry. “However, costs are being passed onto consumers in ways that don’t maximize society’s return on investment.”
He quotes from a 1998 Bill Clinton speech in which the former president said the 13th and 14th years of education should be “just as universal in America by the 21st century as a high school education is today.”
However, in context, Clinton’s entire quote referred to the 13th and 14th years of education as the first two years of college.
That makes Clinton’s vision closer to that of Governor Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” of two free years of community college for all high school graduates.
Perry wants to add those two years to the high school diploma track, not the college diploma track.
I could be wrong, but I doubt that financially struggling public school systems will jump on Perry’s bandwagon, although he claims the college student debt problem far outweighs the cost of two additional years in high school for millions of teens.
It’s also worth wondering what the psychological and sociological costs of two more years of high school would be.
Would we be intensifying the sense of entitlement already associated with millennials? Would we be delaying their development into responsible adults?
And what would the curricula look like? College prep, workforce prep, or just more high school?
The unemployed, basement-dwelling, bathrobe-wearing, Cheetos-eating slacker kid is already a firm cliché. Let’s not give it a separate Census Bureau demographic column.