Why I went from being a top student to an expelled dropout

I was expelled from school in 9th grade, and I’m currently 19 years old with no plans on ‘finishing’ my education (as if education ever ends). I say this with pride, because too often, people dismiss academic-underachievers as “lazy,” and any attempt to explain our side is labelled an excuse. I feel a need to show why it’s rarely that simple for the kids who leave school. I used to be a top student, the kind that got praised by teachers, friends, and family alike. For me to leave that behind, it had to take something special. Through the following moments, I will share how I went from a parent’s dream child, to a delinquent with a reticent family.

My first moment was when I was dragged to kindergarten, or rather, how I was treated when I refused to go. The instant I entered, I knew in my heart that school wasn’t right for me. Unlike many adults who come to realize school’s faults through facts and logic, I felt it when I was five years old. Similar to a wild animal fighting its human captors, I fought my parents and school staff… and not surprisingly, I lost.

It’s not as if I hated school because my home was great and I never wanted to leave. My family is poor and abusive, but that very abuse was why I continued going to school. I was beaten and punished until I yielded. From being choked with a belt, smashed by a chair, kneeling in a corner for an hour, and not being allowed to eat, it was enough to keep me at the top of my class. By the time high school rolled around, I was one of two students from my elementary school to be chosen for the gifted student program. Everyone was proud, but was this worth it? Instead of finding an alternative education for their child, how many parents try to force their kids into school’s mold? Parents turn on their own flesh and blood, verbally/physically, because society says school is more important than individual needs. Maternal love is nothing compared to a good report card. Still, from kindergarten to 8th grade, I gave in to everyone’s needs but my own. After all, education was mandatory.

By 9th grade, I learned the difference between school and education. I saw facts being remembered exclusively for tests, then discarded a week later. I noticed many students making resolutions to do better in school, but by their faces and tone, I only heard false promises made out of shame. Students lied because schools told them their true feelings meant nothing compared to the sin of academic failure. What righteous ‘education’ system shames kids for the low grades they receive on subjects they never asked for? What kind of education is this? From my peers mocking struggling classmates because the latter were in remedial classes, to students labeling themselves as ‘stupid’ and ending up on anti-depressants, I’d had enough. Was I the only one who could differentiate between knowledge and intelligence? Could nobody else separate compliance from morality? The students gauged each other by grades, the teachers evaluated kids on obedience, and I started skipping classes because I felt alone in my beliefs.

Of course, we all know skipping class lands us in trouble, and I eventually ended up in my vice-principal’s office for truancy. The moment I walked in, he looked at me as if I was a criminal. When I told him where I went in my absence (sleeping in the library and sitting in the bathroom), he accused me of lying. I believe he thought that any student who didn’t do well in school was a sexual deviant who sells drugs. I knew this was how he perceived me, because the moment I told him I used to be a top student, his tone changed instantly. He spoke to me as if I was a confused puppy instead of an insolent degenerate. Somehow, this angered me more than if he had judged me ignorantly. I confronted him on his bias for ‘good’ students, I spoke ill of his beloved school system, I said everything. By the end, he claimed I was the “rudest boy” he had ever met, and I was expelled. Not once did I insult him personally, yet I was the rudest. I am both proud and saddened by this fact, because in all the years this vice-principal was employed, no other child has stood up to him. This man was never taught that demanding respect while making baseless assumptions about youth makes him a hypocrite.

After getting expelled, every insult against ‘bad’ students and dropouts rang in my ears louder than before. I was now one of the outcasts shunned by the world, not because I was a liar, a thief, or a killer… but because I didn’t graduate from school. This society hates anyone who doesn’t go along with the school system, to the point of being cult-like. It’s on TV, in our homes, on the streets, in the workforce. No formal schooling means you’re uneducated, and having low grades is the equivalent of being mentally retarded. Alternative methods of education — such as homeschooling, unschooling, and democratic schools — are still regarded as unconventional.

Humanity is the basis behind every action I made, and why I refuse to return to public school. My dissenters can spin emotions into ‘chemicals in the brain’ all they want, but I will never live that way. I’ll only believe a child’s depression is cured by pills when freedom and compassion fails her or him first. I will believe the majority of ADHD cases are real when all those misdiagnosed kids cannot pay attention to their personal passions. Until schools cease their invalidation of feelings, none of these meaningless lines will change me:

“Too cool for school?”

“Have fun flipping burgers.”

“Kids in Africa wish they were you.”

“You can’t learn anything without school.”

“This is what the real world is like.”

“Grow up and deal with it.”

“Go back to school.”

I will go back to school when the apathetic adults that run them go back to their childhoods and pick up the humanity they left behind.

Luke Dang, 19, was expelled from school when he was 14. He now spends his time writing about youth rights, teenage depression, and compulsory schooling. He works at EQI.org.

53 responses

  1. I just think you weren’t happy, I’m currently a freshman in high school, and I enjoy it. I have never had problems completing school work though, and I float through classes without ever having to study, but I have plenty of friends who I would have never met unless I went to high school. While your points are pretty accurate, I would say that there is really not much of a better alternative to high school. However, this is probably because of the bias against people who did not graduate, as they are less likely to get a job, rather than just learning what they have to do before they get a job. Overall though, I would say most children aren’t as intellectually curious as you, and if we left them free to take classes online or other self-teaching methods, they would fail. Homeschooling is also a bad alternative if a household, such as your own, can’t support a stable income while having a parent/guardian teach. Either way, vocational education is really the only method that would work, if everyone got taught how to do the job they want to do when they grow up, then we wouldn’t have to learn all this crappy stuff. However, that method is inefficient and hard to do, especially if it’s government paid. Personally, I would say that the American education system has many flaws, but it is currently the best we can do, but what do I know? I’m just a 14 year-old.


  2. So true! I’m convinced that my Vice Principal hates me to my core after I got ISS. Most school systems are biased against students that don’t necessarily succeed. I mean, I’m a top student and in ISS everyone treated me as if I was on Death Row. The only thing I learned in that hellhole was that schools thrive by reaping the souls of miscreants. They put them in jars and threaten to destroy them if you put a toe out of line again.


    • Plus, when it was over, the kid who tattled on me didn’t accept my apology over what I did. I told him I was just trying to be friendly. He told me I was being a “bully” for apologizing! Dick.


  3. Your story is all too familiar to me. You and I had near identical lives. Elementary, I was one of 5 top students, this made me proud, but I always hated school. Just stayed to keep away from family violence and abuse at home. As soon as I hit Junior High, everything skyrocketed downward. I could no longer go to school without breaking down in sobs, I got sick every time a test came up, I had no energy to get out of bed most days.
    It was the hardest thing in my life, I finished grade 9 and attempted grade 10, 3 times. Each time I lost my motivation after finishing one book and then could no longer concentrate. If I didn’t understand how something worked inside and out (in any subject) I couldn’t answer questions about it and I always had questions about why something worked the way it did or how you figured out the answer.
    The hardest decision in my life was to say I was DONE with school. To this day, I still have nightmares about going to school or not and it turning out very negatively.

    Sorry for the rant, I just felt I could really relate to you in some ways.


  4. Keep writing! More so now, about your future. Keep writing and researching alternative education. Tell the world about your experiences and how you continue to find your way up in this world. People are interested and will find inspiration in your path to success.


  5. This is a great article. My son is currently struggling with his school. He has depression and is bullied and badgered my many teachers and administrators. I would love more information on the group


  6. I can tell that your thoughts and opinions regarding school and education are heavily tainted by the abuse you experienced as a child. Such things will sour everything in your life. Being as young as you are, you hardly have the life experience and perspective to make a lot of the generalizations you make about education. Granted, many schools and educational institutions are bad and have bad people operating and teaching at them, but that hardly makes them all bad. That’s something you learn as you mature; just because something is done one way in one place by one particular group doesn’t mean that’s how it’s done everywhere by everyone. Such thinking is what is called cynicism and it’s sad to see it one so young.

    Anyway, I hope your life has improved and I would encourage you to continue your education by any means available to you. Learning should be a life-long endeavor and even though you may think some things taught in schools are pointless and irrelevant, you’d be surprised how useful many of them truly are later in life.


  7. Late comment, but I’m curious if/how your thoughts have changed on school and dropping out over time. Also… do you simply delete any comments that even remotely disagrees with you? I have never seen such an ego boosting comment section that hasn’t been doctored or rigged. Hope all is well.



    • I can’t answer the question to the author, but I can answer your question about comments. We allow any comment, critical or otherwise, as long as it’s not abusive. I think it’s difficult for some people to disagree with someone without putting them down at the same time. Since we strive to create a safe place and a trusted source, we take a solution-oriented approach in our comments. It’s perfectly fine to disagree, as long as you show respect and kindness to the person with whom you’re disagreeing.


  8. Feel the same way. They categorize the students based in their grades and treat them differently. Its true school is like a jail. I used to love school too, I tried to never miss a day, it was just fun and exciting. The work wasnt a bother. Now its depressing and since Ive entered my new class and form I have been getting strong anxiety problems. I kept telling my mom that I wanna drop out that I can’t handle it but she sees that I’ve been getting good grades but can I continue to?. School is so hard now hmmm. They want me to stop staying at home from school even my friends have been so helpful but I don’t think I want anything to do with that school or homework and my subjects either. Its true also that dropouts are labelled as delinquent and told stupid things like you shouldn’t have done that and now you won’t have an education. That school is blablabla this and that. I believe everyone one of us is intelligent. We all have a talent. I have always been a top student but now I think its affecting me how other students are treated due to them not being. I can see how hard they are trying. There is really an inequality in schools. The fact that kids label thems selves too.


  9. I can relate but sadly i am still i school just being homeschooled and my story is also a bit saddening i feel like now i can breathe because i am not the only one who thinks this way and i am only 14 i had figured out everything once i got to 7th grade i am in 8th now soon going to 9th.before middle school i was fine homework was only 2 pages a night and school was actually fun and i would cry if i had to miss it but now i would rather shoot myself than go to school i used to be on honor roll i still should be but my homework is way to mixed and before 7th grade i was happy bubbly but i also saw everyone thought school was the most important thing in the world but i just saw it as fun but now i see everything homework ruined my life i now have anxiety and i only got it right before i turned 13 and my parents don’t do anything to stop school because anxiety is not curable i got even more traumatized when i tried out school in 7th grade and i wanted out on the first day but it took three months to go back to home school because my mom would not listen and now i am sad depressed and angry i can’t really think anymore i feel like i am going insane no one there to help me tell me everything is ok but after i read this it confirmed that school is the least important thing and i am scared to drop out i want to stop school and live my life i am trapped in the house all day doing homework and only going out when i can usually at night so my skin looks pale like a vampire which i think looks cool but in reality it just shows how much my health is decreased also look up the symptoms of anxiety there are thousands of symptoms sone even need medical attention it lowers your immune system school/homework broke me and my parents don’t have the brain to think what caused my disorder and to stop it from happening to others now school had given me a non curable disorder treatable but never curable i feel as if i have the weight of the world on my shoulders and if i probably explain this to my teacher she will probably push it off as whatever situation but school is supposed to be fun not like jail and it is supposed to help you to your future job and i want to be a veterinarian but i don’t know if i can drop out and when to drop out i feel as if bombing up a house or shooting myself i would do but not literally to not go anywhere near the name school anxiety also comes with depression and i want my life back but only the depression is curable anxiety never will be so i can get my life back but it wouldn’t be the same and because of school/homework it killed me i am not really exaggerating i really feel this way i possibly will need a physiatrist but i will never go on pills one it shortens your life span and two it only treats it but it doesn’t cure anxiety i want the world to just end already i wish we victims could go on TV and speak about this huge issue because i feel lost and just deciding how can i be a veterinarian if i can’t do school people will never get it until they start reading and opening their eyes and look how unhappy people are in school sorry for any bad grammar but now I don’t feel as insane so i know that there are others like me.it’s saddening really when you think about it people are so indulged in themselves that they never think of others or open their eyes to what is going on hopefully this can change or something can change thanks to whoever reads this…


    • I urge you to talk with someone — a trusted family friend, someone in the faith-based community, a teacher who you recall as helping you — to get some advice and assistance. You can learn to manage anxiety and depression, and become a veterinarian.


    • (Warning this might be kinda long)Ok sorry it sounds a bit like i am abused or something I don’t know how to delete comments but i am enjoying time in the house now and summer breaks help a lot i still dread going to school though i am enjoying homeschool but not really i still don’t do well with homework and anxiety but i push myself and the only way to become a veterinarian is to do the work so since my anxiety was caused by homework i use music to help and it really helps i still don’t know if i want to see someone i am a bit scared and thinking about college what to do with it many are saying not to go but a lot people around me want me to go but others online lots of articles saying most students end up with tons of debt and jobless so any ideas to help me think college through and my mom says my old friend is taking courses I’m not too sure what those are but i have an idea but i miss my old friends but then again I don’t because of the bad experience of returning to middle school but still i am a bit lost at sea about school so any help or idea would be great i am starting 9th grade today and i need a lot of information of what to do i still don’t really Like school and my anxiety is there so how do i get through besides music and somehow relaxing i can’t listen to music when i am there only when i am at home still if anyone could help me out with ideas it would be a great thanks also i am not telling my parents anything a bit i want to keep between us is because they tell people whether on purpose or on accident so i can’t trust them haha sorry it’s just idk and how will i ever return to regular school after that bad experience in 7th grade even though i still do dread going to school and doing work or home and getting out homework i need someone who has gotten through college and high school alrready and i know that high school is stupid and most of the time the kids can be stupid as in for example worrying about prom instead of a job and after high school you will literally probably never talk to anybody that was in high school with you again i just need some advice also again sorry for this rant i needed to get it off my chest and some advice really needed.


  10. I’ve been a high school drop out for two & a half, almost a whole three years once the new school year starts. I really want to go back to an actual High School again. But once this new school semester starts, next school year. I’ll be turning eighteen early, once the school year starts. And the way I see it is that, a public high school probably wouldn’t take me back in, especially for being a high school drop out for almost three years (Even if I try to convince them, that all I truly want is to get my education). I Honestly, wish that I had never dropped out in the first place. I started out in the ninth grade & dropped out from there. It took a good while, untill it finally hit me (pretty hard too). I then realized at the age of sixteen, just before my seventeenth birthday. I needed to get back into school!!! I really wanted to finish at an actual High School!!! Would a public school, take me back in…? Or am I just doomed to stay in a charter school…? Because I may have messed up along the road, but if I could get a second chance back into an actual High School again. I would definitely make that second chance count! I’m tired of being a Fuck-Up…! (Pardon my language, please). Not to mention that in this generation, Blue Collar job’s are slowly disappearing. Everything’s run on computers now’a’days. So you would be best off getting a, White Collar job, but it’s no use if you don’t have the proper education. I just want to go back to school & fix my mistakes!!! And get back on track again! So do you think at my age (Seventeen turning Eighteen in September, once the new school year starts) that I would have any possible luck, trying to get back into an official public High School…?


    • I am currently in high school, and though I am neither a delinquent or a dropout, this speaks straight to my core. Most of my life I have been an A student but until recently, my value of an actual grade is decreasing. It all revolves around grades, grades, grades. Tests, quizzes, busywork, grades. Until now I have never opened my eyes to the flaws of public education. I’ve found there is so much more I wish to learn, though I end up with government-filtered curriculum shoved down my throat. I hate being told what I can and can’t learn and when and where and with whom.in almost all of my classes I spend at least twenty minutes just sitting, listening to everyone talk, without any work to do. I am uninterested about most of the topics. The teachers are uninterested too, we all can tell. Most of them don’t know what they’re talking about and wish they were home as well. I just hate how school takes on the role of “babysitting” and posing an authority greater than parents that they shouldn’t have. We are required to go there for seven hours a day like its a prison. Learning is everywhere. Not just in a classroom. Not with all the same people and the same schedules. It’s come to the point where it is more of a day care instead of a learning-prioritized building- if it was, we would not get so off track after “finishing” our lessons and school hours would be less. I hate the system. It really makes me want to drop out so I can make better use of my time and educate myself, though I guess I fall for everyone saying I would never get a job. So, with utter disgust, I am forcing myself to finish high school and college,though I will certainly homeschool my kids. I don’t want to be a factory made worker for this country but I guess grades=college=jobs=money=happiness- at least that’s what adults preach. My disdain of schools isn’t just a feeling or even an emotion. It is a physical pain. Through my personality I am spontaneous and not schedule oriented. I am not orderly and I need variety in my life. I dread being locked up in the same building for hours everyday. I am denied the right to visit places around the world and learn about other cultures. We can only miss so many days without a legit medical excuse. Seriously? And just because we’re not in school doesn’t mean we’re not learning or causing trouble. If schools weren’t so structured and limiting, we would be more creative, curious, and open minded adolescents, therefore spending more of our free time craving knowledge. The human is naturally curious- but is stripped of that curiousity in public schools. I have much more to say but I need to take a shower and finish my piles of homework and study for an irrelevant test. Lol. Thanks for posting this article!


  11. I was expelled from school in grade ten for drug charges even though I never ended up doing any and the only reason I almost did was because my sister had just been hit by a car and my mother had just had a miscarriage. That meant that no one was watching out for me or checking to see how I was doing. Just like this person who wrote this I am very smart my average in grade ten for both math science history you name it was past 95% they were so high that I was forced to take my tests while being personally supervised by either a principal or teacher. At this time was when a certain teacher began making up rumours that I was selling drugs and having sex with multiple girls while I was supposed to be in class which I tried to protest but naturally they said yes we believe you but you could tell they wouldn’t since my parents were too preoccupied with their own problems they never knew so I fell into a deep depression and contemplated suicide many times and finally I met an old friend who told me if I took this drug it would make me feel better about everything and I know it was stupid but I believed him and took some . What you have to realize is I was so distraught and depressed that I was willing to do anything just to escape my awful reality so I took some of the drugs. I went to a park away from school sat down and thought about it and decided that I had to face this man head on and that drugs are not the solution so I went back to school only to find that I was officially expelled for drug use. They later accused me of supplying both drugs and alcohol to minors. Either way I am at home right now my glowing reputation is gone I am looked down upon by all even my own parents. I don’t even think that they love me anymore and all I wish I could do was just turn back the clock and not agree to taking those drugs and going to that park then maybe I would still have a future and not end up as “that kid who got kicked out of school for drugs”


    • No… No stop what your saying, I respect you 100 hundred percent so please pardon me when I say everything you are thinking (or since this is like a year later) or thought about this specific topic is complete BS. My opinion: F the system, F the people who look down on you, and I know this is gonna be hard to do but F your own parents if they don’t love you anymore (think about this is a bias-cleared mind please). You and ONLY you control your life. When life is truly stripped away from all these societal expectations and standards what do you get? A man or female, living. Life. Happily. What you need to start doing is take life for what it is and always look to the future. Always. What’s done is done is ALWAYS done and is absolutely never gonna change, you need to think that over deeeeeeply to fully withdraw all stupid and occurring thoughts about the past because doing so is completely useless. Do something big with the world and with youself, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you can do anything you put your mind too. Anything. You know in your heart that you didn’t do the things these people think you did, and quite honestly, that’s all that MATTERS.


  12. I know this is really late. I am 17 and am a senior. it was really hard getting here. iv always had trouble in the grades and friends area. but never in the teacher area. It has been a struggle and fight to make it this far. but I have had no choice. I had my first breakdown at 10 years old. and now they happen often. they happen because of stress and pressure. for the past 2 or 3 years iv had a problem with attendance. and have been accused of truancy. the school gave me or my parents no warning just a court order and as soon as I walked into the court room I knew the judge didn’t care about the why and already had her mind made up. I was threatened with juvie and my parents jail. and a fine that we could never afford. all at once. In the end I had to do community service. this year iv been threatened with the same and have been told stories about how some kids get murdered or raped or even do suicide in the juvie they want to send me. my parents always yell and scream at me to go to school every day and say horrible and nasty things about me to me. for the past year it has started to get physical. with slaps hits kicks and pinching and hair yanking. all the while them screaming at me to go to school and that they are not going to jail and so on. we have talked to the school people. they wont do anything. it would be nice if my parents had and would find alternative schooling. iv been struggling with school for as long as I can remember. and the past 2 years iv been struggling with attendance. we have talked to the school but they wont help. the most they say is you have to fail your classes before you can take the same classes online at your own pace and your own way. and yet 3 other students were aloud to take the online classes and graduate early. so why cant I when I am struggling so bad. its the same online course they use in summer school so I know I can pass and actually learn if they would let me. and since I am a senior I cant afford to fail first then take it. my school calls it ace. they use Plato learning. I have a lot of medical problems I can barely see I supposedly have ADD and ADHD. and if it wasn’t for this computer I couldn’t spell or do grammar to save my life. I love to read and learn knew things but not this. and yes I have tried to drop out even my mom has reached a point were she went to the school and tried to drop me out. we were threatened with jail and fines and cps. I am tired. I am depressed. I have wished I was never born and that I was dead. I have repeated and called myself horrible things to myself. I have thought up multiple ways to kill myself but never even try to. as I said I am tired. I just want to have some peace. I think that schools should just teach the basics like reading and writing and how to add and subtract. and maybe a little about history and science and then health class. and then if the student wants to do more let them. or if they want to be something tell them what classes they need and let them decide if they want to. there are only so many jobs that you will even need any of these classes that we are forced to take. and if school is supposedly free why are we forced to go. and if its free why do we pay taxes. school gets money from the government from the taxes we pay. how much they get depends on the number of student and some other stuff or something like that. I don’t want to go to juvie. I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want cps. and I don’t want my parents to go to jail. I am tired of the screaming the yelling the crying the slapping the hitting the kicking the pinching the hair yanking. I am just tired of it all. I know this is years late but I just had to let it out. I need help will I get it no and why because all adults and people in power are blind. they may not relies it but they have lost something during the years and its ……………………..I don’t even know what to say or how to describe how I am feeling I just wish I wasn’t so frustrated. I am actually crying as I type. this is the end of what I am typing if I get the chance and if I remember I will say weather I graduate or get sent to juvie.


  13. Everything about your story sounds like mine except I left before 10th grade. Msg me on fb I want to know more – Melissa O’Toole or – Melissa Briana O’Toole


  14. Im 17 bout to be 18 in September
    Drop out of high school in 9th
    Do you think i can still finish high school
    They even gave me a call for summer school in July
    Please gmail me an tell me what i shoud do


    • You need that piece of paper, High school is a minimum for every job. Think of it as a certificate that tells every employer that you’re ever going to meet, yes, you can do the absolute minimum.

      The point of this article (as I interpret it) is best described by the author here; “By 9th grade, I learned the difference between school and education”.

      I share that same experience. Now this doesn’t mean you quit and give up on learning does it? Never! This simply means don’t get too caught up in the details of the process/game. Forget about you friends, throw away your phone, delete FaceBox and focus on your future right now. You will not have as easy a time getting these papers as you get older and responsibility creeps up on you. Just keep in mind as you get these papers and eventually your first job, that time is very short so focus. Learn whatever you can from older people, many of them will tell you the truth. By truth I mean they will tell you how reality works because they lived it, not the bull on tv or what your teacher is paid to push on you. You want a great example of what I’m talking about, look up a video entitled “rodney first economics class”. Great movie. The point of that video is give the answer the teacher wants to hear to pass, and in private, learn for yourself.

      Remember, this is all set up to teach you the basics to become a useful worker, not an enlightened philosopher with critical thinking skills. To become a consumer, not a thinker. Remember that. You and many others are experiencing difficulty/depression/isolation because something feels wrong. Its because you are in a small percentage that the program doesn’t make sense to. Think of it like this, you went to a hypnotist show and suddenly everyone in the crowd is clucking like a chicken but you’re not. Now you’re trying to convince everyone how smart you are by telling everyone you’re not affected. Cool, you win, now sit down, start clucking and get that paper. Once you have it, find some work, learn everything you can, save your money, gain more experience, always take opportunity, and then go into business for yourself.

      Some people may go on to university and that’s great for them. Don’t let them make you feel bad that you’re not wired that way. Different people; some attend school, some work at school, some drive by the school on their way to work. Get the piece of paper…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those people aren’t yelling about how much attention they want, they’re trying to stop the system from being wrong. They aren’t saying they’re better than anyone else, they’re tired of people telling them that there is a correct way to live, and that they aren’t living it.

        If you want to live your live lying to yourself about whether or not the lies you’re told are true, that fine. You live your life how you want, but some people don’t want to live life that way, and would rather have the world against them then tell another lie and tell themselves that it’s for the best to act like it’s true.


  15. I was always a great student but realized in grade 8 that some of the things I was being taught were actually wrong. I will never forget the argument, I was told that ALL fish lay eggs. I protested and was told by the teacher I was wrong. I could name several species, and I did, that birth live young as my father was a tropical fish salesman. From that day on everything I was told/taught became suspect. Eventually I dropped out of college because it was a waste of my time. Now in my late 30’s, I have done some impressive things in the corporate world but that too is a HUGE scam. Find a way to make money, then open your own business, watch dragons den and shark tank. you’ll get more education from that show than anything in school.


  16. Hey luke. I know it’s been a while, but can share your experience after being expelled. I want to drop out as well and pursue education my own way but the legal age in my state is 16 and I’m 14. I’ve been truant and landed in the principals office and am on a 5 month contract to attend school or face suspension for a year. I’m fine with breaking that, however the only problem I have is legal problems. I’ve been threatened with the fact that my parents will be arrested and thrown in jail if I don’t comply to go to school.(which is some total BS). And even if I am suspended it still counts as unexcused absences and my parents can still face jail time. I understand your situation with your parents is a bit different than mine but I don’t want to ruin their lives and make them lose their jobs. Any help is appreciated. Thank you


  17. I have the same ideas as you and I’m also failing my last year in high school, I was also a straight-A student . Today I just did a math test( the whole year curriculum) that I actually didn’t know about until two days before because I was skipping. I was also beaten and punished by my parents( I used to have blue marks on my body and once my eye). But I do not have the courage to drop out because how am I going to make a living ? How am I going to survive living among people who despise me ? and I’m sure my parents won’t be very happy…


  18. Pingback: Why I Went From Being A Top Student To An Expelled Dropout • Social Justice Solutions

  19. Luke-
    Thanks so much for writing this. I was always a Straight A, GATE, and Honors student, until dropping out of a Continuation School during my third year of high school and taking the CA High School Proficiency Exam instead of wasting another second of my life trying to do what was expected by finishing high school. Now that I am an adult, I realize I’ve always been a completionist. I do it now in video games and I did it when I was in school. Learn the objective, obtain 100% of the objective, get the reward. I always felt internal pressure to get 100% on everything in school because that was the point of school! This led to me being labelled as the teachers pet, the perfectionist, and the “good student.” In 9th grade, I was sexually assaulted by a school employee and things rapidly went down hill from there. All the usual suspects… Missing school, missing assignments, grades dropping, changing schools, getting in with the “wrong crowd” (or, in this case, the “non-conformists”)… When I ended up in continuation school in an attempt to finish High School a year early by working at my own pace, I was constantly called into the principal’s office and lectured on my choices and how I was ruining my future and was only in that school because I had fallen behind. When I pointed out to him that I was actually ahead of my class and just wanted to be out of there, I got lots of great lectures on “not taking the easy way out” and life not having shortcuts. Not once did anyone ask me what had happened. No one wondered why I had this sudden change. No one cared that I was smart or funny or hurting so terribly inside. And never mind that I was finishing a quarter of school a week working at my own pace. All they cared about was getting their money from the state by having me enrolled and not truant. To this day, I am outraged that “the system” failed me so badly, but even more outraged that I was put into the system to begin with. When I got to the part of your post that described what people would say to you after you dropped out, I could hear them in my own mind. The voices of the former teachers, the 4-H leaders, the people at my mom’s church, and the parents of my friends and friends of my parents… All of the disappointment at what I had done to my future. All of the blame. None of the questions about whether what happened was right. None of the responsibility for what the system does to those of us who can’t or won’t conform. I wholeheartedly know where you are coming from and wanted to thank you for putting into words what I’ve been thinking for the past 10 years.


  20. This was indeed a very heart felt piece; one that many need to hear – so thank you for that. My immediate reaction is that I am so very sorry, Luke, that there was never a connection with a caring adult in your years in the public education system. Becase I can’t believe there was not a single adult in any of those schools who was compassionate and caring. My story is also, in many ways similar, and although I did connect with a very caring and supportive administrator, I dropped out in the first few weeks of the 10th grade. It only took 4 months working in a coat factory (an environment, I might add, that was much harsher than any school classroom I was ever in!) at age 15 to realize this was not the life I had imagined for myself. My path then led me to a Community Action Center and a social worker who had a dream of an alternative high school.

    We all must choose our own path when we come to a crossroad, whatever our age, and then be willing to deal with whatever consequences come as a result. It is unfortunate that others can be so harshly critical when ours is ‘the road less taken’.

    I am in complete agreement that our education system is in so many ways, broken. At the same time, I think it is even more damaging to make broad generalizations and fling our own harsh criticisms without suggesting solutions based on our experiences. Not only because it is harmful and disparaging of those who are working to make it better – I know some of them, and I suspect you all do, too. There are many teachers, counselors and yes, even some administrators, who care very deeply about kids, and who can’t thrive or bring about change in an environment where they are being beaten down, either.

    When it came time for my partner and I to make decisions about our children’s formal education, we looked at schools, researched and talked a great deal, and in the end decided that we fundementally believed in the concept of public education. We paid close attention and stayed involved thru the years of our childrens in school, despite the many extra meetings and time committments, believing that we could better make change from inside the system. Were our kids happy and fulfilled all of the time at school? Absolutely not – if we are happy and fulfilled all of the time, we would never have the opportunity to learn from our own or others mistakes. But they did get that formal education and as a bonus made some lifelong friends, learned about respecting both peers and adults where it was earned, and most importantly grew into critical thinkers who can problem solve and often come up with solutions. I certainly do not give any one school or teacher all of the credit for this – they were merely one component of the complex environment helping my kids figure out who they were going to become as adults.

    I don’t suggest that any one path is better or worse – just the one we chose. And, I do fundamentally believe that (forgive the cliche) if we are not part of the solution, we are likely part of the problem. It really will take all of us to talk, research and figure out what we need to do next, together. (Disclaimer -I am not nor have I ever been part of the public education system. 🙂


    • I know your comment is made generally and you aren’t targeting me, but I would like to leave this message in case anyone doubted my stance. I have another article on this site praising a principal by the name of Jim Sporleder, and I’m inspired by two teachers, John Taylor Gatto and Brett Veinotte. I recommend their work to anyone who’s interested in this topic. I just didn’t mention how some teachers weren’t bad in my article because I figured I would be Captain Obvious.

      Anyway, I won’t pretend I’m not biased against sending kids to compulsory schools, so that’s all I’ll say before I end up offending anyone. I tend to start flame wars and I don’t think the kind Jane Stevens who approves my articles would not appreciate my naughty side here.


    • Hi Pam w-E. It sounds like you found a better educational environment for your children than many others have experienced.
      I will make criticisms of the entire public school system in America based on a variety of experiences ranging from being a very active parent in a system which, based on test scores, figuratively flushed 75,000 children’s education down the toilet over a ten year period. Oh yeah, there were plenty of us trying to create postive change from within. I guess you get a certain perspective while dealing with the IN charge people deliberately destroying the best academic school by attacking its teachers. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find someone qualiifed to teach Calculus to high school students–and willing to do so in a blighted inner city environment? A Russian immigrant with poor English language skills does not last long in such a place where the children have had better and are demanding it be returned.
      I have also taught the “end-products” of the public education system in several parts of the country. Every year I encountered a greater number of recent high school graduates with an appalling lack of critical thinking skills–and a FEAR of speaking their minds in a classroom because that was NOT allowed in their prior educational experiences. I also discovered a serious lack of compassion among administrators and teachers alike for students with any form of learning disability. Gifted students were often designated as trouble makers no matter what their personality type–they’re not all high achieving go getters.
      My ‘experiences’ extend to the private sector where I’ve taught children in levels ranging from gifted pre-schoolers to middle-schoolers.
      As for what would improve the public education system I’ve not only done my research but I’ve learned what works effectively again and again in a classroom –IF your goal is to engage the minds and imaginations of young people to encourage them to become lifelong learners with independent thinking skills.
      None of this is unknown. It is not waiting to be discovered.
      Some fundamentals:
      —Reduce all classroom size to no more than 14 students.
      —No teacher should have to teach more than 4 classes a day.
      —Increase one to one student-teacher engagements via meetings and conferences. Children respond to people who CARE about them. Caring does not mean forcing them to be like yourself or your notions of who you think they should be. It means gviing them the freedom to discover their own potential and the tools to manifest it. And then respect it even if it’s not quite your cup of tea.
      —Eliminate all standardized testing. It’s a worthless waste of time and energy that serves only the industry that produces its products.
      — Encourage active two way communication within a classroom setting based on mutual respect, tolerance and appreciation of diverse personalities. An important component this is making the distinction between saying things like “You’re stupid for saying that” and “That was a stupid thing to say. Why did you say it?” The point being to get peolple to address their thoughts without making persoanl attackts that create hostiility. Everyone does not have to ‘like’ each other but they do need to ‘respect’ each other.
      –People need to think for themselves, know why they think what they do and be able to communicate such in a reasonable manner to others who may disagree and think diferently. .
      –Eliminate all mandatory curriculums which do not take into account the reality of the students.
      –Discard the textbook industry which exists only for profit and indoctrination of certain social-political agendas.
      –Engage the imagination in a manner that encourages thinking skills that keep lookiing for the best solution to any problem. In other words, when one solution doesn’t work then move on to the next and the next until you create one that does solve the problem.
      –Eliminate all grades. Yes, all of them. Either some one learns the material in order to apply, understand and share it or they do not. Learning is its own reward. It cannot be measured by A, C or F. If a child is not learning, then the why must be deteremined and addressed. A society should not throw away the children who are not learning.
      –Provide quality phsyical education every day of the school year. A healthy body helps make a healthy brain/mind.
      -INCREASE rather than eliminate and destroy ARTS courses. Children who learn to play musical instruments also learn MATH skills much more effectively and successfully. Music, visual arts, performing ARTS are NOT fluff. They are disciplines themselves and are examples of opportunites for application of a wide range of intellectual skiils.
      -Promote and provide literacy programs for every member of a community.

      The world is becoming more complex and people need thinking skills in order to adapt and thrive–not just survive and endure.

      Yes, I know these things work based on direct experience with a diverse range of ages, cultural groups and economic classes. You know you’re doing things right when a former student comes up to you in a crowded public place and says, “You probably don’t remember me because I was so quiet, but because of that one course with you I now teach History and English to high school students. I learned how to work hard and have fun doing it. I’m lucky enough to have found a private school where I can do that with my students. It’s not easy. They’ve been shortchangd for a long time. But I’m getting results.”

      There’s my “grade.”



  21. Hey Luke, WELL DONE! You saw right through the toxic BS from the beginning :))). I also hated it from the very first time I was forced to go. I remember clearly the first time my mum took me into my first class and other kids looking round. I hated and loathed school all the way through. It was the bane of my childhood and adolescent years.
    These places destroy kids (some say they are best days of their lives. Well good for them. It’s not same sorry for others), yet you do not get any compensation for the damage done. In fact when you leave you find out WHY those places are like that. It is because the goddamn system is like that. There are people living homeless on the streets and treated like dirt. People in horrible concrete hells with SWAT teams busting into their homes, and youths being imprisoned for having quantities of drugs (search The New Jim Crow at Youtube). Of course once convicted they lose all their citizen rights for life, AND the system profits from the prison industry. So to see through their so-called ‘education’ system which is intended to pump out zombies who do not question this evil crap, including warmongering, killing innocents, etc etc etc, is VERY INTELLIGENT!


    • Thanks for your comment, Juliano. Because you and so many others before you recognized the shortcomings of traditional schools, many schools exist that take a very different approach, that ask each child how she or he learns best and what gets in the way of that learning so that the child can succeed. And so it goes for organizations that deal with people across their lifespans, no matter what their circumstances. There are trauma-informed homeless shelters, trauma-informed emergency rooms, trauma-informed hospitals, trauma-informed courts, etc. Just not enough of them, yet, to make it the norm. But with your experience, insight and help, it will be.


  22. You are one awesome person! You had the courage to buck the system. Your story belongs in a new edition of The Teenage Liberation Handbook, which is about teenagers taking control of their own education (and ditching the schools). Kudos to you.


  23. You are definitely a better writer than most “educated” people I know. Please keep writing, you are an instrument for change.


  24. Hat off to you Luke – you are correct school does not validate who we are. I was a high school drop and I have always believed that kids that get a diploma are not necessary smarter, however they do what the system expects them to do – follow your heart. You have much more knowledge than so many and it’s not because of our failed school system. After attending college for two years my youngest threw the towel in because what she wanted to do had nothing to do with having a degree.


  25. This is a sad but brilliant piece. Many thanks to the writer, I am parent to a gifted 10 year old, and will remember this for a long time.


  26. Have reblogged this. I know exactly what this is all about. Change is long overdue for a system that does not work for most of the children in any way, shape or form. Thanks for posting this.
    Hey Luke, you sound All Together and brilliant to me.


  27. Great post Luke. You touch on issues that take me back 50 years to my early school experiences in working class Detroit. It’s sad to head so little has changed. Keep trusting your heart and your values Luke. They are your truest guide to a meaningful life.


  28. This is very moving…the American educational system is terribly broken in the way it approaches teaching and learning…your experience is a true testament to that…..young people in this nation are now viewed as one of the disposable populations relegated to that stupid “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude that leaves humanity and compassion totally out of the equation…I felt it everyday I spent in school and also in college even though my experience was not as extreme as yours…..I hope that you are one day able to return to a school system that is less apathetic and more caring and humane. … may I suggest critical pedagogy as a topic of interest…it’s a philosophy of education dedicated to helping student’s develop consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, and connect knowledge to power..all clearly well under way in your mind..paulo freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed is considered its pioneering work…


  29. I have to say that I too felt school was dehumanizing and cold. The teachers, with rare exception, were not interested in me as an individual apart from my grades. Where was the love? How can children be taught without it when love is the natural emotional currency through which they learn good positive things?

    Coming from an abusive background must also have sensitized you even further to student and teachers’ inhumanity to each other. School feels toxic. In the book, The Sociopath Next Door, it states that since sociopaths are devoid of love and feelings of bonding, they seek gratification through power, and controlling people and events like pieces on a chess board. If that doesn’t describe the school environment, I don’t know what does.

    We had to pull one of my sons, who is super intelligent, out of 7th grade because he had a teacher who was a “screamer.” Imagine being a straight A student and having to listen to her berate your friends who are struggling with school. It was so painful for him, like a dog in an experiment who cannot escape the electric shocks (screaming) he eventually became depressed before he told us what was going on. We sent a formal notice to school saying he was going to be homeschooled for the rest of the year, and the school “sicced” (like telling a dog “sic ’em) CPS on us. When the social workers arrived, they had no knowledge of the notification or the situation. It was pure retaliation from the school.

    Bless you for your efforts. I hope you continue to learn, heal and contribute as you seem to be doing. PS. The youngest of my 7 children have loved learning from the online lectures at Khan Academy. I will even sit and watch because they are so well done, and they even have coaching. This is the future of humane education.



    • You’re making history, kiddo. I’m as proud of you as I am my own 19 year old son.

      Please do yourself the favor of checking out Seth Godin and his work entitled, “What is School For? ”

      You’ll be glad that you did. I’ve been working on reforming this broken thing for 25 years. Be very proud.

      Big T.


  30. Reblogged this on Beyond Meds and commented:
    This is a kid following his heart and head believe it or not. I suspect he will be successful in life. Learning to trust ourselves is more than half the battle and our school system sure as heck does not teach us that.


    • i want to quit college but i’m not brave enough to admit it to my parents. i have been skipping school and wandering around for three weeks now. then i go home everyday pretending i attended classes. i don’t know what to do. plus, today my professor texted me that he needs to talk to me. i might get kicked out. i don’t want to put my family to another hard time. i had been different since i had a psychotic attack from bipolar disorder. i have always been a top student so it’s personally painful to admit to myself that i can’t do it anymore and i dont have a goddamn clue what to do with my life. i’d love to runaway somewhere far but i don’t have finances to start with.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: