- Desmond Ryan
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- United Kingdom
'Drop-outs' vote against school - do they have a good reason?
First, let us state the principle relevant to Sir Ken's issue, a refinement of the neo-Darwinian view: "...most higher organisms select their environment before they allow the environment to select them. Release a hare and a rabbit in the middle of a field, the rabbit will run off to the hedge and live its life there, while the hare will be content to live its life in the open field....If a seed falls on stony ground in the desert, it simply refuses to germinate until the next shower of rain comes along and gives it an environment at least somewhat appropriate to its needs." (C.H.Waddington (1972) 'Ninth Lecture. The importance of goals' in Kenny, A.J.P. et al. The Nature of Mind Edinburgh University Press p.128)
Second, let us respect these young Americans for having rumbled that their schools are not a well-irrigated flower bed for their Robinsonian flourishing, but something else, perhaps a selection mechanism for the US economy, against which, they know from their parents, there is no resistance, from which there is no mercy, apart from which there is no life.
Third, let us propose that, notwithstanding the danger of economic marginalization, large numbers of the young people who fail to engage with American schools have decided, in the metaphor of the seeds in the desert, to avoid 'germinating' (i.e. exposing their vulnerable developmental potential) in 'mechanistic' schools which provide no environment for their individual needs.
Fourth, let us accept the tragic conclusion that to be a school-failure by their own hand (drop-out, apathy, disengagement, exclusion) is nevertheless an act of agency, a decision to say 'No' to a system which, while not recognizing their human existence, wants to brand them for life as sub-standard goods, hardly worth taking to market - and wants them to accept that branding as publicly binding for the rest of their life.
Nothing unusual here - drop-out kids are selecting their environment before they allow the environment to select them.