A recent column in which I advised the parents of a teen to let him drop out of high school, get his GED and join the Army has been challenged by military recruiters, and I submit to their correction. My information was outdated. It seems the military policy concerning GEDs is in flux - and isn't all that clear to boot (no pun intended).
Whereas most branches of the armed services once allowed individuals who possessed GEDs to enlist, the Marines no longer do and the other branches have tightened their policies. It appears that GED students are more likely to not make it through basic training, perhaps because they tend to have more problems with authority and sticking with commitments. When enlistees don't make it, the military loses time, money and manpower hours, all precious commodities.
According to the U.S. Army information Web site at www.us-army-info.com/pages/enlist.html,, the Army is currently not accepting people with a GED in most areas of the country but does make exceptions, and those (about 15 percent of total enlistees) tend to have scored well on the Armed Services Vocational Assessment Battery. The Army also has a special track, the GED-Plus Enlistment Program, for disadvantaged young people who possess neither a high school diploma nor a GED. For more information, go to the source: a military recruiter.
Concerning the column in question, I made it clear that my advice was not typical, but was made with consideration of the facts involved in that particular case. There's no doubt about it: A GED does put a person at a disadvantage, but the disadvantage isn't necessarily life-long if the individual is willing to put shoulder to grindstone. I know more than a few folks who dropped out of high school, obtained GEDs and made great successes out of their lives, demonstrating that success is more about character, persistence and motivation than how and at what age one acquired a high school diploma, or its equivalent.
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Question/answer of the week: Quite a few readers have asked when I think a child should get a cell phone. My answer: "When the child is able to pay for the phone and the service." I have yet to hear a good reason for purchasing a cell phone for a child who does not have a driver's license, and if a child has a driver's license, then he can get a job and pay for a cell phone on his own.
Let's face it, these phones are being used primarily to exchange highly important text messages along the lines of "Whassup?" and "I see you!" They are just one more distraction for a generation that definitely doesn't need any more, one more disconnect between privilege and responsibility.
I know of one 12-year-old who has already lost three cell phones. What did his parents do each time? After lots of berating and lecturing, they bought him a new one. That'll teach him to be more careful!
Affirmation of the week: In a recent column, I bemoaned the fact that my soon-to-be 15-year-old grandson is about to graduate from driver's education and receive his learner's permit. The next time we were out together, he told me he'd read the column. He was grinning. That gave me permission to tell him that his driver's ed teacher had e-mailed me to say she agreed with me that driver's licenses should be withheld until age 18. (She also told me that he was a great kid - true of all my grandkids - and a great driver, which was minimally comforting.)
So far, no one has given me a rational reason for letting kids younger than 18 have driving privileges. The best attempt was the assertion that teens need to drive to help their parents run errands and transport younger siblings, to which I say that if their parents have done without that for 16 years, they can do without it for two more.