Chicago’s New Graduation Rule Could Be Detrimental

Picture this. You’re a high school student in the 9th or 10th grade. All your educational life you have struggled with grades, barely hitting the passing requirement. You try your hardest, but you still can’t quite get to those A’s and B’s. Aside from that, your home life is busy. Your big goal is to graduate high school. You decide to focus on passing and just graduating, so you work hard to pass those tests, complete those assignments and show up to school on time. You don’t want to be distracted, so you’ll think about the next step after you graduate from high school. And then, bam. You are told you won’t get a diploma in 12th grade unless you have a plan for what you’re going to do after high school by then.

The city of Chicago is going to have a new requirement in 2020 for its high school students. Students who want to graduate, have to show proof that they have a plan after high school whether it’s a college acceptance letter, military enrollment or an offer for a job. The purpose of this new requirement is to show students that it’s necessary to have a plan for life after high school.

However, this new rule could be more harmful than beneficial for a number of reasons.

First, it’s already hard enough for many students to graduate high school, with the long hours of homework, mandatory attendance, pressure to join extracurriculars and do volunteer work, and the endless exams.Gathering evidence to show that one has a plan after high school, adds to all the work that already has to be done.

For instance, if a student, say, had to show a college acceptance letter, they would also have the whole college admission experience to deal with in addition to schoolwork. That includes paying the application fees, taking the SAT or ACT (and paying money for that as well) writing the college essay, finding colleges, and considering the ups and downs of those particular colleges. And even with all that, there is still no guarantee that a person is going to be accepted into any of the colleges they sent applications to.

If a student had to show proof of a job offer, the process for that is pretty difficult too. Filling out the application, and then waiting just for an interview. Still no guarantee you’ll get the job. In fact,  a friend of mine, who attends UC Berkeley sent out 15+ applications for jobs at stores. From these stores she got a “no” from one of them, and one call back offering to schedule an interview a month after she sent in the application. My well-educated, more than capable adult friend experienced this much trouble trying to get a job, so one can only imagine how tough it must be for (usually) a minor who has not completed high school.

Second, it should be considered that Chicago’s new rule is also taking away their autonomy and choices as a person. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is written in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. According to American values that have been written down on paper, a person should be free to choose whatever they think will bring them happiness. That includes not having anything planned out when one is nearing the end of high school. That includes not wanting to go to college or not wanting to have a job. Whether this is good or bad, at the end of the day, it is an American value and an American right to allow people the liberty to do what they want to do, as long as it does not harm others.

Third, it also adds to the stigma that people who have not graduated high school or are high school dropouts are to be looked down upon. When we use that stigma, we forget that these people are human beings. We forget that they are just like us, and that despite all we have accomplished, we are not above them and their lives are no less valuable than our own. Thus the stigma is enforced, and in the long term, creates more division than unity.

Fourth, it could be detrimental to self-esteem. Self-esteem is crucial, and a sense of accomplishment (in this case, the high school diploma) could add to self-worth for some people. loss of self-esteem can lead to loss of enthusiasm for wanting to do anything else-if a student can’t graduate high school, they could find it useless to try to accomplish anything else. It’s hard to try out for new things when you don’t have any confidence in yourself. The diploma is an encouragement for people to do better, a way for them to have first achieved something, and then move on to something else. It’s a stepping stone, and a vital stepping stone at that.

America’s education system is problematic enough but Chicago’s new rule makes it even more so. High school is already hard enough as it is, and this will just put more pressure on students and will increase a divide that exists between those who have more privilege and those who have less.

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