The fast track to failure

Oct. 3, 2003, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 17 years, 3 months ago

What if I told you that you could skip senior year, without getting any unexcused absences or having to make up any work. Then what if I told you that this wonderful opportunity is as close to your lazy little fingertips as Florida?

The prospect is pretty exciting. And new legislation in Florida allows it. So the question is: should MCPS push for such a policy? And the answer is clearly "no."

First and foremost, there's the issue of entering the mix too soon. Not only will students utilizing this early graduation option have six fewer credits than their regularly-scheduled peers, they will not be required to take various P.E., arts, or lifestyle management courses. After only two years of high school, they would have had less time to flesh out a résumé of extracurricular activities. They would have skipped a year each of math and science, and would have had less time to score well on SATs and related tests. All of these are important factors for getting into college. Remember, these early birds will be competing with graduating seniors nation-wide, who would have had time to flesh out their college applications. It is doubtful that colleges will make exceptions for early graduates.

And therein lies the dilemma. There isn't much 17 year-olds can do if they aren't in college. They are too young to enlist in the military, assuming they wanted to take that route. There's always community college, but the last year of high school would have been free. So it looks like the minimum wage circuits for these kids. Which can mean only one thing: a pandemic of kids who refuse to move out of their parents' homes.

The other big issue with the fast track system is athletes. We all know the jock stereotypes: that they're stupid, that they don't care about school, maybe that teachers help them with their work so they can continue to play. And now they can graduate one year earlier with relaxed requirements, get recruited to the college of their choice based solely on athletic ability, and take the shortcut to professional stardom, forgoing any semblance of a decent education at all. Or, if current trends of drafting high-schoolers in pro sports continue, they'll just step out of their junior year right into draft day with a diploma in their hand. As if they didn't get enough special treatment already.

But maybe things will change. Maybe colleges will make "special considerations" for these fast-laners, and everything will be just fine. Or will it? Is it really fair to be beaten out of the college of your choice by someone who has worked three-fourths as hard as you, has three-fourths of the achievements you have, and wasn't motivated enough to stay the extra year in school? The answer here is "absolutely not." Which is what MCPS should say to the fast track.

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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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