I was putting out some tomato plants when I heard a familiar voice, “Ed, it’s me. Spotted something in the paper and was wondering if you wouldn’t mind chatting while you’re planting those tomaters.”
Elmer’s voice was distinctive.
“Sure, Elmer, come on in the yard. And hand me that hand spade, if you don’t mind.”
“You know, Ed, I’ve gotten by pretty good in this world without a high school education. I don’t know why some people think they have to go to college,” Elmer started.
“Well,” I replied, “what brought this to your mind?”
Elmer pulled out a clipping from the Christian Science Monitor and read, “‘For the first time since such data has been kept, 80 percent of America’s high schoolers are graduating in four years, according to new data from the Department of Education ... Some believe the US graduation rate is on track to hit 90 percent by 2020.
“‘“It’s really significant. After 30 years of flat-lining high school graduation rates and four successive US presidents setting a 90 percent graduation goal, finally over the last decade we’ve seen a 10 percentage point gain,” says John Bridgeland, coauthor of the 2014 Building a Grad Nation report, which was also released Monday.’”
“Well, that sounds like great news to me,” I responded. “You know, it’s hard to get a decent job without a high school diploma. As a matter of fact, even a college degree doesn’t do what it used to do — unless it’s in whatever fields are red hot right now.”
“I know why graduation rates have gone up,” Elmer replied. “They are dumming down school. It’s not whether you graduate school that matters. It’s what you know.”
Elmer frequently gave matters the worst possible interpretation. I agreed with him that it’s what you know — not how you attain it. But the improved graduation rates warmed my heart.