Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I hate school. I’m no brain, and I’m just barely getting by. A friend of mine dropped out, and now he has a car of his own and a lot more freedom than I do. Why shouldn’t I just drop out too?

New Era

School can be an extremely frustrating experience for some students, and they deal with that frustration in a variety of ways. Some become disinterested or disruptive in class while others choose to skip classes. Others decide to quit school altogether—especially, such as in your case, when the immediate alternative appears to be more attractive.

You have a friend whose freedom looks very appealing. He has a car. He has money. And what do you have? Homework. No wonder his choice looks pretty good to you.

But there is a harsh reality that will catch up with your friend and with you if you choose to drop out and not finish high school. You’ve already been told this, but it is the truth. Finding a really good-paying job and getting promoted without a high school diploma are nearly impossible.

At first the money most kids make working full-time seems like a lot. They may even earn enough to buy a car on contract, but as their financial responsibilities increase when they move away from home or get married, they discover that they need more money just to make ends meet. Federal Job Service data show that, in general, the better educated a person is, the more money he or she makes. Based on U.S. census records, each day you stay in school after the tenth grade increases your lifetime earnings by $744. Pretty good wages for going to school.

You already know there’s not much we can say that will stop you if you choose to leave school. Just be aware that instead of taking three years to graduate from high school, trying to come back and do it later will likely take you six years or more. That’s right, because if you are like the vast majority of dropouts, you will decide after several years to go back to school. So think about your choice carefully. Do you want to graduate with your friends a few years from now? Or do you want to graduate later with your little brother’s friends? The choice is yours, and you must accept the responsibility for your decision.

There is also a spiritual dimension to this issue. The Lord is eager for us to learn all we can in this life. He told Joseph Smith:

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

“And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).

Obviously, the classroom is not the only place where we can gain knowledge, but it may be the best place to learn certain kinds of things. Can you imagine trying to learn math completely on your own?

Stay with it. Talk to your parents and ask for their help. Get help from the school counselors. They can offer you valuable advice about classes and teachers as well as help you improve your study habits. Your parents and leaders are eager to see you succeed.

Whatever you decide, our Heavenly Father loves you very much and will be with you.

Readers

You shouldn’t even think about dropping out just because you think you’re not a smart person. I was born mentally retarded. I thought I wasn’t going to make it through high school, but I did. I graduated, and I’m getting a job. I had trouble in some of my high school classes when I was a senior, but I wouldn’t give up. I always went to my teachers or my parents when I needed help, and they were always there.

You don’t get more freedom if you drop out. It’s just a lot harder work and more getting bossed around. Believe me, because my friend has that happening to her right now. If you continue to go to school, people will be nice if you give yourself and them a chance. If you graduate you’ll be more likely to get a job that will satisfy you.

Jeanne Dosdall, 20 Grosse Ile, Michigan

How much freedom does your friend really have? He has no education, no goals, no future! Now really, is that happiness? Happiness is striving to do better and knowing you succeeded. Set goals for study, and be all that you possibly can be, and the Lord will bless you.

J. D. Williams, 14 Ontario, Oregon

How does this sound? You’re 20 years old, flipping burgers somewhere, possibly married with a kid you can barely support, and trying to finish high school so you can get a job that pays over minimum wage.

Sound like a little extra freedom while you’re young is worth the price?

And who are you going to hang out with while your friends are at school working on their futures? I know people who’ve dropped out, and I know what kind of stuff they get into because of the people they end up hanging out with. Drugs and alcohol mess up your life even more.

Sarah Ewell, 14 Huntington Beach, California

When I was in high school, I had the same thoughts as you do. I did poorly and was close to failing. I dropped out in my junior year. I thought I was miserable in school, but it was worse in the working world. Employers are biased against those who don’t hold a high school diploma. Most better-paying jobs require a college degree. If you hate high school now, how will you adjust to college? It’s no fun to work low-paying jobs and not be eligible for better employment. The best thing you can do is to stick it out. It’s a small investment of your time. Pray to our Heavenly Father for the strength and patience to finish high school. If you pray with a sincere heart he will help you.

I am currently in prison. I wish I had the words to tell the hardships I have encountered by dropping out of high school. Not all dropouts end up here, of course, but I’d say at least 80 percent of the population here are dropouts.

Name withheld

I hated school. There was too much homework. It was too hard, and my grades were bad. I thought dropping out was the best thing to do, so I did.

With no high school diploma or GED, I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t get into the armed forces. I was really having a hard time.

I decided to get my GED, and it took me seven years. Now I know that dropping out was a stupid idea.

Finish school. You’ll be glad you did.

Blake Combe, 25 Orofino, Idaho

Please don’t let your friend’s decision influence yours. Your friend’s car, spare time, and freedom sound tempting, but think about the situation he is in. If he falls in love with someone, decides to marry her, and can’t find a job to support them, what is he going to do? Having a high school diploma will help you get a job and some security.

School improves with time. I never used to do well, and I didn’t like it very much, but now I’m a senior in high school and an average student. I’m looking forward to the future and the opportunities I’ll have to use the knowledge I’ve received. Please don’t give up. Rely on Heavenly Father to help! Remember that all we take with us to the next life is our knowledge.

Jessica Jacobs, 17 Pleasant Grove, Utah

Try taking more classes that interest you, getting extra help in difficult classes, and involving yourself in your school’s extracurricular activities.

School won’t always be fun every day, but all things of real value must come through hard work. You can do it.

Joel Wright, 17 Provo, Utah

Look ahead. Your friend may want to have fun now, but what about five or ten or twenty years from now? Will he still be driving his car around and partying?

What about your future? Is that what you want to do for the rest of your life? Or do you plan to someday serve a mission, marry, have a job, and support a family? Pray and fast about it. Throw yourself into your studies, and you may find you’re smarter than you think!

Brenda Richardson, 19 Mesa, Arizona

It wasn’t long ago that I found myself asking the same question. I wasn’t getting good grades, and I rarely made it to class. High school just wasn’t for me, so I thought.

I soon realized, however, that there weren’t many opportunities for a dropout. The doors were closed, and the key was a diploma. I also knew that one day I wanted a wife and children. Minimum wage was not enough to support a family. It would barely support myself. I knew I had to stick it out.

I know people who did drop out so they could have their freedom. Today, they are still at the same jobs, not making much more than minimum wage. They are just now realizing that even freedom has its price.

David John Romrell, 20 Rexburg, Idaho

School isn’t the easiest thing in the world for anyone. Maybe if you got involved in activities you enjoyed it would give you something to look forward to in school. My grades aren’t that hot either. But I set a personal goal to do my best, and this year my grades are so much better.

Kathy Shores, 15 Bartlesville, Oklahoma

[photo] Photography by Phil Shurtleff