Growth Through Deprivation: How Chicago Plans To Hinder Students


I ask you, dear reader, to consider the following hypothetical situation:

You are to envision yourself as a high school senior, ready to graduate. You’ve studied and worked for 4 years, stayed focused, and achieved a great GPA. Your attendance record is pristine, and you’ve never missed a single homework assignment. You expect to graduate with full honors.

Now, before you receive the diploma you’ve earned, I want you to imagine the government intervening. They demand an explanation; what do you intend to DO with this diploma? Where do you plan to work? What university will you attend? How exactly will you spend the rest of your life? Being young, naive, and unsure of the world, you fail to produce a decisive answer.

The government, unsatisfied with your response, decides you don’t deserve to graduate.

I’m sorry to say, the situation I describe above is not merely hypothetical; it is an actual policy recently proposed in Chicago. In response to a startling 30% high school dropout rate, local legislators have concocted a daring new strategy: they will target successful students and arbitrarily deny them certifications

As of 2020, students looking to graduate from high school will need to demonstrate their ambitions to the government. Agents of the state have further embedded themselves into the third largest educational system in our country and will determine which graduating students have intentions of societal value. If a student cannot provide evidence that they have been accepted into a university, the military, or the workforce, the state will step in to prevent their graduation.

High School students march and rally against threatened school closures in Chicago, March 2013.

What does this mean for Libertarians?

Any sane libertarian, minarchist or otherwise, must recognize this program as the intrusive abuse of authority that it is. It is not the duty of the state to decide which students deserve to graduate. Furthermore, it seems entirely unreasonable to expect a prepubescent child to know what they plan to do with the entirety their lives. If you asked me what my “plan” was at 17, I’d have told you I wanted to be a giraffe. At 27, my ambitions have shifted somewhat.

Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the nation. They pull more revenue into their massive local bureaucracy than neighboring states of comparable size… yet, not only are dropout rates atrocious, their public school system is teetering on the brink of financial insolvency.

Protesters calling for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign, December 2015

I sincerely question how Mayor Rahm Emanuel believes such a strategy is in the best interests of the community he serves. With less than one-fifth of local high school graduates going on to receive Bachelor’s degrees, it seems counterproductive to target graduating students for additional state scrutiny. Apart from anecdotes about their own lives, local lawmakers fail to provide evidence that an immediate post-graduation plan is necessary to achieve prosperity later in life. If they are looking for the cause of their low graduation rights, I’d ask them to consider the 1500 employees they laid off in the year 2015, and the resulting school closures which left entire communities underserved.

It is the belief of your humble writer that the local government should concern itself with its own deep history of theft and corruption, and leave education to the educators.

Neither the Mayor nor his Press Secretary could be reached for comment.

You can read more by Kevin Shaw on Think Liberty here.


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