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DROPPING OUT: No More Teachers' Dirty Looks

Dropping Out of School: Its Benefits and Responsibilities


Now that you have officially enrolled in college, it's time to be honest with yourself. If you feel you are not benefiting from your education in any way, shape or form, you are never too young to take responsibility for your actions. If you really believe you can learn better from living your life outside the constructs of the classroom, then you should simply drop out of school.

If you drop out of school, your responsibilities increase, because you're consciously opting out of the most widely accepted system of American socialization. That means you actually have to put forth some effort to make an interesting life, rather than living one that is socially prescribed. Dropping out of school requires the practical application of thought and creativity.

Of course, if you are studying a specific trade, such as doctor or lawyer, it might be a better choice for you to remain in school. But if you're any sort of artist (painter, musician, writer, actor, etc.), I'll bet you're in college because either your parents want you to be there, or you have no idea what else to do. So why are you wasting your time?

I personally went to college because neither of my parents went, and it was important to them, and I had no idea what else I should be doing. When, after an agonizing year and a half, I told them I was quitting school, their response was, "You'll never have a real job." "Oh, no," I thought. "I'll never waste my life in masochistic servitude to people and causes I hate just for the sake of having enough money to buy nice outfits."

I dropped out of college not only because I felt it had no pertinence to my actual life, but also because I'd just spent 20 years doing what other people wanted me to do and felt I would die if I continued a second more. I stayed in college that long because I didn't know where else to go. In retrospect, I would have dropped out of high school if I had the practical knowledge of how to get on in life. But college didn't teach me how to pay my rent, cook a nutritious vegetarian meal, or dance the mambo. My state school didn't tell me to read Howard Zinn, Emma Goldman, or even Zora Neale Hurston. I learned all that from living outside the social confines of the university, from reading books, talking to people and participating in communities.

Contrary to what statisticians tell you, not everyone who drops out of college meets a dismal fate. William Faulkner, Leo Tolstoy, Yoko Ono, Woody Allen, Steve Jobs (who left Reed College after one semester), Kevin Sorbo, experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage--none of them could wrestle with the rigid construct most colleges impress, and most of them turned their dissatisfaction into flashes of brilliance. There's also a wonderful book for high schoolers called The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education. Written in 1991 by Grace Llewellyn, it's an indispensable, logical guide to dropping out of high school (including notes on how to tell your parents).

Even if you don't drop out of school (although if you are already thinking about it, I recommend doing it as soon as possible), there is an important lesson to learn from dropouts. It's that you don't have to live within societal boundaries, that if you're willing to accept the accompanying responsibilities, you can create your own life--exactly how you want it. It's risky, but only the risk-takers reap the rewards.


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