Shasta High School

The four years that comprised my high school experience were not good.  I couldn’t find enough legitimate reasons to stay engaged in my classes and frequently felt that dropping out would allow me to use my time and energy in better ways. Usually when teenagers want to drop out of school, it’s because they are being impetuous, but this was not the case for me:  I was actively assessing how school related to my life and what it was providing me, and the pieces weren’t adding up.  I understood it to be a source of structure—something that was scarce in my life at the time—but also felt like I was receiving an initial dose of a lifetime’s worth of reinforcements to become another displaced warm body in society. As such, I kept returning to the idea of dropping out as a real and sensible solution. I wanted to do something with my life and my day-by-day school experiences weren’t helping me to find a clear path forward. As I reckoned, my classes were burning up more than 30 hours of my week and accomplishing little else.

I would always stifle the urge to drop out because the world stresses how important it is to finish high school, but oftentimes I feel as if I did a disservice to myself by following conventional wisdom instead of listening to myself and making a hard decision that could have created a workable solution to a difficult problem.  I feel it’s necessary to mention that dropping out of high school in the last couple decades is not the same as it was in the decades before:  a high school diploma has become completely worthless.  Dropping out does, however, mess up any plans a person might have to go directly to a four year university, but most potential dropouts are not going to be too concerned about this because they clearly have other issues that they are trying to work through. (It’s not like these people are thinking to themselves, “Well gee whiz… do I really want to go to a public school over a private school?”)

My time in high school wasn’t all bad, it was just utterly nonproductive academically and did very little to increase the number of substantial resources that were available to me.  Like many teenagers with a passion for music, I had been learning how to play the guitar and the instrument was becoming a big part of my life.  Unlike most teenagers, I was genuinely improving on the instrument and recognized that something important was happening: through music and the guitar I discovered a conduit through which I could make substantial time investments and reap equally substantial rewards.  I had found something that I was good at, brought me enjoyment, and could use to provide some degree of structure in my increasingly destructuring home life.  Music was good for me and became a natural way to invest my time. As a result, I was efforting to carefully and maturely pursue this interest in the place of other things, such as school.

There were times where I tried to make both school and music equal priorities in my life.  My freshman year went very poorly and this left me feeling both upset and concerned about what could happen over the next three years.  According to others, I was turning into one of those troubled-youth types, and this was incredibly fucking irritating to me; yet for all the cliques and niches that high school has, somehow this one was a better fit than the others.  For the first semester of my sophomore year, I attempted to steer in a more positive direction by earning grades that were more in line with my true academic abilities.

It is now necessary to point out that there is a natural reward that comes along with performing hard work, and I did my best to develop this type of relationship with school as I had with music.  I did feel rewarded, but only in the sense that I got to be the long-haired music-loving hippy classmate who could also somehow get really good grades—it felt more like a parlor trick than anything else. The work was just too easy and yet I could oftentimes discern how haphazardly it was apportioned. By the end of the year, things would return mostly to how they were before: with me losing interest in school and more or less back where I was before.

Still trying to figure out how to maneuver school into a place where it could be a legitimate priority in my life, I determined that I wasn’t being challenged enough with my studies to stay engaged.  I spoke with my counselor and requested to be placed in the Humanities program, which was an academic pathway where students could earn honors credit.  It also happened to be the same program in which a certain girl was enrolled who had somehow managed to ensnare my heart way back in the fifth grade—for some foolish reason I was still hopelessly attempting to start some sort of relationship with her. So I got a little creative and leveraged interest in this girl to generate additional motivation to focus on my school work.

My request to enter the program was granted, certainly due to the one semester where my grades were excellent. By the bad flip of a coin, I was placed in one set of classes with the girl being in the other, which immediately extinguished a rather significant amount of my motivation for being there.  I also soon discovered that I was not responding to the material as I had hoped—more was expected of me and my classmates, but much of the material was still delivered ineffectively.  Throughout the year I made strong attempts in short spurts here and there, but at the end of it all my experiences with school remained largely unchanged.  To make matters worse, in these Humanities courses a student actually had to do his or her homework in order to get a passing grade, which was an altogether new concept to me.  It should come as no surprise that I ended up with the worst report cards of my life that year.

For my senior year, I took a different tack and enrolled in the College Connection program.  This allowed me to take the core high school courses—English, Government, and Economics—along with the classes that were offered by the local community college.  Things actually improved, but I was still struggling to make school work for me on a personal level.  I was also relying heavily on friends for transportation to and from the college, which created some problems later on when I started taking night classes.  I had by this point already decided that school was not for me and so I was simply wrapping it all up so that I could finally move on with my life.

And on an unceremonious note, below are five reasons why I should never have been allowed to graduate high school:

  • Received an incomplete in the second semester of History during my junior year; History graduation requirements were not satisfied.
  • Took an F in C++ Programming in the second semester of my senior year, resulting in only 3 of 6 required college units to stay in the College Connection program.
  • By circumstance, somebody called in a bomb threat to Shasta College that was also around the same time as a big Mathematics midterm I was about to take; this had the result of postponing my exam a week which made a big difference because I might have failed it.  I needed to pass this class because I failed the second semester of math my junior year and needed 5 more credits in order to satisfy Shasta High’s Mathematics graduation requirements.
  • In my sophomore and junior years I had more than 14 absences in one school year; school policy is (supposedly) that anyone missing more than two weeks of school without sufficient reason must repeat a grade.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: For the better part of four years I was not doing any work yet somehow passed nearly all of my classes.

In hindsight I would say that I made an incorrect decision by choosing to stay in school and “earn” my diploma.

shasta-high-transcript-formatted

Shasta High School Transcript