With graduation over, the real learning can begin

Graduation Day - the Independence Day of formal education, especially for college graduates. But getting through high school is in a class of its own. To many, detention lasts a lifetime - especially if you live in Nevada, where dropouts as we know them could be as high as 45.3 percent, since the graduation rate for 2004 as reported by the Taxpayers Network is 54.7 percent.

The graduation rate is determined by a table of 20 theoretic and arithmetic factors. Trust me - a diploma should be given to anyone who can figure it out. If say, a student leaves school, but formally reports an intention to resume his or her education in the near future, that person is not considered a dropout. Whether they really do reenroll is another story. But the percentage of high school dropouts in Nevada, as defined by Nevada State Public Instruction, is actually a low 5.8 percent. A legitimate dropout is defined as a student who leaves school without a trace. Graduate or not, I get the impression that more and more students couldn't be in school long enough for them to learn how to spell graduation "gradiation."

To be fair, most high school students really don't know what they want to do when they graduate. That's understandable. If anything at all, they don't know what they want, but they want it all, and they want it now. High School can be considered the limbo between the birth of education found in grammar school, and a life of heaven or hell that you script for yourself while in college.

When you graduate college, it's hard not to walk out feeling like a top dog. The top-of-the-line paychecks, the penthouse suite offices, the company cars, the Gordon Gekko-like towers of power. But there seems to be more and more evidence of college graduates not knowing what they want to do once the halls of their college life have emptied, and the exit door from the school becomes an entrance to a world of work. It's more like a plywood cut-out to look like a homey little dog kennel with a food bowl outside of a doggie door that leads to the grinding blades of a meat machine, and then to a feed tray.

It's called the real world. And that "real world" could mean living with Mom and Dad for a while. A long while. As the price of living goes up and paycheck sizes remain the same, I wonder about the future of many of our youth today. It really isn't like it was even 20 years ago.

Upon graduation, your college grades are (for the most part) now just letters of the alphabet, your diploma just a piece of paper that means only what you know and not what you did. But you know what? It's then that education really begins. Throw out the grades. You can only hope you make lots of mistakes. Mistakes are a bi-product of activity. The more mistakes you make, the more activity you must have generated. And the more you'll learn, early, when it counts. I only wish school could really teach that.

You never stop learning. But it's so much better to learn early in your life about life.

Textbooks? The best textbook is life itself. I've forgotten most of what I had to memorize and study in school. But mistakes I've made? I remember those. Like the time just one month before I graduated from college. I received a phone call from the State Building at Albany, N.Y. A public relations and marketing position for $22,000 in 1981. They told me that my journalism professor rated me as the No. 1 prospect for the job. So, what did I do? Dumb ass that I am, I refused it. Why? Because I thought I was hot stuff. That's why.

For more than a year after my cock-of-the-walk prance into unemployment, I worked in a paint store, wrote freelance and substituted as a teacher. All at the same time. I needed the money. The schools I'd be sent to as a sub could have had "Welcome to the Jungle" as their pledge of allegiance. Eighth graders never looked so big. They had heads that reached different zip code areas. But I learned something about work. And I started to learn something about people. I learned something I couldn't be taught from a book. I learned how to appreciate. I learned how to learn. And as the years went by to this day, that learning has sharpened for me to know what I want, and most importantly, what I don't want in life.

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevadaappeal.com.


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