Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure

By Sherman Dorn | Go to book overview

7
Dropout Tides

Since the end of the 1960s, interest in the dropout problem has waned and waxed several times. The number of newspaper and periodical articles on the subject fluctuates by year, without the sudden rise in interest that happened in the early 1960s. Nonetheless, several developments since 1970 are notable. First was the rapid growth in alternative credentials in the 1970s and early 1980s. Second was the aborted attempt to link attrition to issues of school equity in the early 1970s. Third was the more intense debate over dropping out in the 1980s that led, ultimately, to the inclusion of the second national goal as part of the America 2000 reform document. Throughout, though, we have continued to use the word "dropout" in describing those who fail to graduate from high school, with a tendency to use the 1960s stereotypes as the core of discussion.

The contemporary debate over dropping out (since the mid- 1980s) has included more explicit discussion of equity in schools than did the original literature. Current authors also use a different vocabulary than the 1960s discussion included (especially in the use of "at-risk" to describe a wide variety of populations). Yet "dropping out" and many connotations of that term have remained as a common way of describing the failure of schools and their students. High school dropouts do face economic hardships; a real stigma exists. Nonetheless, the use of the same word implies some structural continuity. The survival of the term, between the sudden drop in interest in the mid-1960s and its reappearance two decades later, suggests that something more is involved in our collective vocabulary than a catchy label. The word "dropout" remains in common parlance because it reflects an age norm with relatively deep (if newly developed) roots.

U. S. residents still use the word "dropout" in part because of a historic obsession we have had with the behavior of post pubescent Americans. However, we also still use "dropout" because the norm of high school

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Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Long-Term Demographic Patterns 11
  • 2 - The Changing Mission of High Schools 33
  • 3 - Early Attitudes toward Attrition 51
  • 4 - Social Dynamite 65
  • 5 - The Limits of Dropout Programs 81
  • 6 - Omissions 99
  • 7 - Dropout Tides 119
  • 8 - The Demeaning Dropout Debate 131
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 165
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