US Rep Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois) writing on the OP ed page of yesterday's Wall St Journal said, "In an era in which you earn what you learn, Americans should no longer be allowed to drop out of school at age 16."
Oh really? Do you remember doing high school? I do. It was cool. Hanging out with buddies, flirting with, going steady with, girls. Cruising American Grafitti style for real. Making out. Football. wood shop and photography and auto shop. Drag racing. Wouldn't miss it for the world. Best time of my life.
So, given the enormous attractiveness of US high school, a kid who wants to dropout is not getting much out of the experience. Is forcing that kid to sit thru another two years of something he doesn't like going to help him? or help the school? or the broader society? I think not. Sixteen is old enough for a kid to make up his own mind about his future. Especially if his parents consent.
At sixteen a kid is old enough to work construction, work the family farm, drive a delivery truck, work a production line, fix cars, build computers, do a lot of things. If later in life that kid figures out he needs the high school diploma, he can get a GED for putting in a moderate effort.
So, we should counsel the kid, explain the benefits of a diploma, urge him to reconsider, follow up on the kid after he does drop out. But for a kid that wants out, especially if he is going to work, or even if he is just heading out to deal drugs, forcing him/her to stay in school is bad. Bad for the kid, bad for the school. Liberty means letting people do what they want. Sixteen is old enough for liberty.