Every year, over 1.2 million high school students drop out of high school in the United States. This is a significant number especially considering the advanced educational system in the US. Without a high school diploma, it is practically impossible to be economically self-sufficient. It is in this situation, these desperate young adults engage in social ill activities such as substance abuse, illicit sex (leading to abortion), crime etc. It does not stop there; these activities have a chain effect impacting other people, families and the bigger community. They become unproductive citizens spiraling down more and more into poor decision making to the point where they destroy their lives. Because we live in such a competitive society, students who stay behind due to various reasons end behind and just cannot catch up with rest of society.
Poverty, broken homes, and abuse are seen as strong predictors of high school dropouts. However, the number one reason kids’ dropout is because they become disconnected with their peers, teachers and counselors. Disconnected youth is the singular immediate cause for students to not return to school. With poor attendance against them, they eventually stop going to school. This disconnection exists because they feel that nobody cares about them. They feel parents don’t care or their friends don’t care or their teachers don’t care etc. This makes sense because as young adults, we all need social and emotional support. We need mentors and care-takers that we know we can turn to at the time of need. Rarely will we find a young student motivated from within. Although it sounds simplistic, this is a complex social problem.
More and more the culture becomes materialistic, more and more people go inward to just operate on the platform of use, abuse and neglect. Gone are the days where the individual is appreciated for his natural qualities (the Varnashrama system was designed to appreciate every individual for their natural self and not based on some artificial economic monetary system). The psyche is wired spontaneously (in subtle ways) to use and abuse things, money and people for promoting selfish interests. Such tendencies manifest in an individual right from puberty or perhaps even earlier. As the material culture advances, we will find our civilization becoming more and more impersonalistic. Video games, computer technology, political correctness, box stores like Walmart, cookie cutter city planning strategies, Government secularism etc are subtle manifestations of impersonal material culture. In these environments, you will find minimal human interaction and even if there is it is not intended for personal engagement of the individual. It is intended for fulfilling some other cause or purpose more important than the individual. Disconnected youth dropping out of school is but a natural product of this sort of impersonal culture.
If we want to reverse this trend, we need to reverse our impersonal tendencies and connect more with the people at a personal level. We need to build families, communities and societies based on human interaction and scale. Bigger the city, scarier and lonelier it feels. So we need to reverse this trend of bigger is better and bring it back to a human scale where every individual matters no matter how big or small the individual may seem. This sort of reversal is possible only if we understand that each individual is as valuable as the other and not meant to be used for our personal motives.
This can happen only if we see the deeper picture that every individual, animal and plant is part and parcel of God. When we appreciate everyone is part of God, then neglect and abuse can never be common place in our society. Therefore what is missing for these dropout kids is that they need to be appreciated because they are children of God and that they are as important as anybody else. When we have such sanctity of vision, our disposition toward other people, animals and plants will be of personal care, respect and love.
This is the ultimate message of Bhagavad Gita – to see all beings as part of Krishna and Krishna as part of all beings - thus - we will always be connected to everyone and Krishna at a personal level. We will no more have spiraling social problems instead everyone will be happy – sarve sukhinah bhavantu!