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This public media "authentic fiction" sought to crowdsource perspectives about education today. The Zed Omega teens, played by actors, "dropped out loud" from high school -- catalyzing open discussion about the structures and purpose of traditional education and its alternatives. The arc of each Zed Omega character was unscripted: they responded to ideas that people presented. The collaborative thought experiment and "interactive documentary" was live on social media during fall semester 2012. (-Learn more-) (-Credits-) (-Facebook-) (-Twitter-)
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Complete this thought: “School is….” Zed Omega Nora photographed this whiteboard left at HIGH SCHOOL ME at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
The Zed Omegas created an activity for the Student Open House at the Walker in November: they created a long row of cookie-cutter silhouettes and invited passersby to personalize them with their high school selves. People also left their thoughts about school on whiteboards like this one.
Next passage totally rocks: “Someone who is making art doesn’t say can I make one less canvas this month? Can I write one less song this month? They don’t say, can I touch one fewer person this month? It’s art—they want to do more of it.”
This site needs more attitude, attitude is good. I initially thought the same thing as Nicole, “woah…”. I thought your letter was sexist, now I know it was a misunderstanding.
If I were to ever go out on my own, I would be depending on myself. I don’t want to have to rely on anyone but myself. I agree with you when you say, “Without a diploma or GED the statistics don’t look good for Lizabeth finding a job”. It’s true. But who says I want a job? What is a job good for? It would give me money for bills, but what do I really need? There are so many luxuries that waste money. I don’t need a big home, I don’t need a car, I don’t need a phone (I don’t even have a phone now and I’m fine!), I don’t need television or any of that.
You mention that I could flip burgers without a degree, and then you question happiness. Flipping burgers is a job. So is cutting people open. So is filing paper work. These are all jobs. Why is working at a restaurant a less desirable job than working in a hospital or office? Why would I be happy doing any of these?
I do not want to be a doctor or a nurse or do the school play.
I am 100% dropping out of high school. Done.
Money does not equal happiness. Money will never equal happiness. Money is just bills and coins. Bills and coins doesn’t mean happiness. I don’t want to be a burden to my parents. I don’t want to be a burden to society. I will not sit on the sidewalk and ask you for money. I will not take your money. I don’t want your money or any money.
Life can be easier with money. Life can be terrible with money. People obsess over money. “Until you have it all you won’t be free” -Eddie Vedder. You can make a dollar, but then you want another. You can make a million dollars, and still want more. How much money is enough. There will always be something else that you want. There will always be a shinier car. A bigger television. A smarter phone. A new season of clothes. You will always want more. That doesn’t make me happy. That makes me sick. If the reason I’m suppose to go to school is to get degree, to get a job, to make money, to buy things. I do not want to go to school.
I know people who obsess over money. I see 16 year olds work 4 jobs at once to pay for things. I see them lose sleep. I see them become unhappy. I see my parents yell at each other over bills, over coins and bills. I see them look for another job, and another job. I see them become unhappy. I see them borrow money. I see them buy things they don’t need, I don’t need, no one needs. I see them complain about money. Everyone complains about money. Unless I can have all of the money I want none of it.
Art is also conversing with Jeremy.
Re: Art (So are you really dropping out?)
Art, I somehow missed this post of yours but I would still like to respond to it.
You said that High School drop outs have the highest unemployment rate. Do you think that there could be the chance that you are confusing correlation with causation? Yes, I concede that the lack of a degree limits career options for some fields, but I think that unemployment for drop outs statistic is far too broad to be of any real value.
I say this for two reasons.
1. There are a variety of reasons why students drop out of high school. If, for example, some one dropped out to pursue their dream of selling illegal plant material and chemical compounds, there is a good chance that they could go to jail one or more times. Even if they become legit later on, they will have a hard time finding a job due to their criminal history. However, they are still included in this statistic. This and other factors contribute to drop out unemployment rates. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Drop outs are also 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for a crime compared to high school graduates. Does that mean when Idrop out that the absence of a degree will more than triple my chances of committing a crime? Of coarse not. It doesn’t work that way.
2. Unemployment knows no bounds. During this recession I have known people who have dropped out of high school, who have graduated high school, and who have graduated from college. One person, a friend of my brother, dropped out of high school and now, probably 5 years later, is the supervisor of the media department at a best buy. Another, whom my family knows through church, graduated high school, but does not use his degree because he started his own lawn care and snow plow business. He employs two other people. I also know my cousin who graduated college a little over two years ago who is working at a coffee shop, and an H&M, AND an Old Chicago so he can pay off his student loans and because his high school degree and even his BA in communication have not helped him in the slightest in his career.
No degree is a golden ticket which allow you to thrive in a struggling economy just be completing it. I believe that there is one major difference between drop outs and graduates. The more degrees they have, the more entitled I believe they feel. Whereas drop outs have no qualms with starting from the bottom and working their way up. They know that they are entitled to nothing. This can, I believe, give a person a more ambitious spirit. – Jeremy
(Here is the post that I am responding to)
Hello again. If you’re just joining us, this is an update on what’s happening with the Zed Omegas, a group of teens who have “dropped out loud” from high school. How has the advice they’ve been getting affecting their decision?
Traditional arguments have found themselves on an uphill road. Art’s advice to “always try to finish what you start” has led to a conversation chain that may exemplify the generational differences. Kathy’s assertion that the slog through school is just “part of the deal” is questioned by Jeremy and the deal itself is flatly rejected by Lizzie and called outdated by Clare. Kathryn’s analysis of the benefits of Boredom High – that schools are 28.6% effective! – didn’t impress Clare one bit. And Lizzie found it easy to breeze past some cautionary advice from T.
The traditional arguments run into trouble because they rely on goes-without-saying assumptions such as diploma = job and high school = best way to get a diploma. These assumptions seem to look to the past rather than the future. Nora, the homeschooled Zed Omega, even found this: top universities no longer value the time applicants spent in school.
The traditional argument advocates also assume that national statistics are more relevant to a Zed Omega than his or her own beliefs. One glance at Lizzie’s Tumblr, for example, should be a clue that the chestnut of money = happiness will fall on very rocky soil!
Notable by its absence: no one claims that high school = relevant learning. No one refutes the Zed Omegas when they say they were gaining very little useful knowledge in school. It seems to be understood that relevant learning isn’t the point, especially of 21st-century skills.
Which isn’t to say that those making traditional arguments aren’t having any effect on the Zed Omegas. Clare, Lizzie, Nicole and Jeremy seem unswayed but the effect on Edwina and Xavier has yet to play out. Edwina has tried to get a job sans diploma, unhappily so. Xavier feels his school prevented him from being able to graduate. How these two feel about Art’s and Kathy’s and Kathryn’s weighty admonitions we have yet to see.
If you want to know what has rocked the Zed Omega world, it’s these ideas: unschool unschooler unschooling. Those concepts, and the stories of people who are unschooling themselves, have rekindled a hope that the Zed Omegas can reconnect with learning. That’s the subject of our next Zed Omega Report.
Last thing: you should read this letter from Luci. One-third personal story, one-third parental guidance, and three-thirds wisdom about getting educated today, it’s a gem.
More conversations soon…
– Alan Greye and Zephyr Yilmaz, EZO fans
Hey, come on. No disrespect intended toward anyone, no attitude, and please give me the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, there is a misunderstanding.
My initial remark was to always finish what you start. I did not pick Lizabeth; your web site picked her when I tried to write a comment. My remark was for everyone.
Regarding the respect, “woaaa Art”, and attitudes… do we really need to do this?
To live alone you will need a job, but there is that pesky diploma again.
There are many men supported by women just as there are many women supported by men. In addition, not to leave anyone out, there are other non-traditional relationships where one chooses to support their partner in the relationship, or is supported. If the relationship ends, unfortunately over 50% of traditional marriages do, one person may not be prepared to support them self. Since I was addressing Lizabeth, I gave a generic male female example. Without a diploma or GED the statistics don’t look good for Lizabeth finding a job, so I thought that there would be someone else paying the rent, the car, the insurance, the phone, lights, and heat, groceries, etc. How is Lizabeth going to earn enough money with no diploma?
If I were writing a guy instead of Lizabeth, I would think someone else would be paying the major portion of the living expenses, like a GF. Parents would probably kick him out of the house at 18 - 21. What is he going to do after that? Flip burgers? That sounds like fun to me, happiness?
What is wrong with Nursing? I considered going back to school to be a Nurse and I have a Brother-In-Law who is a Nurse. There are many male nurses. Furthermore, the way the economy is going, tertiary level jobs - ‘service’ type jobs, is about all that America has for work nowadays, and among the highest paying jobs is Nursing. Also, the Baby Boomers generation is getting old and needs health care, so there will be many health care jobs. Some Nurses make more money than Doctors do.
How is she or he going to be a Doctor or a Nurse without first getting a High School diploma or GED?
America does not manufacture very many products as we used to and jobs dealing with raw materials are very rare. The service Industry employs America, and Health Care is the future.
I thought you were dropping out for real, not just bypassing High School through some alternative route, and going on to a higher-level two year Community College or college education. Dropping out at 16 to me means that is the end of school. So, are you dropping out for real? I want to talk to a drop out, and talk them out of dropping out, not discuss your biased attitude toward Nursing.
Yes, it is too about money! You cannot get a decent job without a HS diploma or GED. HS dropouts are the highest percent of the unemployed. How are you planning to be happy with no money? Your parents are going to get tired of you hanging around the house very fast. Are you ‘entitled’ and planning on living off of the taxpayers? It is not fun having the government in your business making you fill out endless papers!
Life can be easier with money. Look for yourself at the type of jobs you can get with no diploma. There are exceptions. Your family could have a business and you could be set for life, but the majority of people do not have that. They need to work for a living, to pay their bills, and a nice income helps make it easier to have happiness. :) – Art
(Nicole responds to this letter from Art.)
Woaaa now Art. Let’s be a little bit more respectful to women. Just because we want to drop out doesn’t mean that we think there is somebody to support us. I don’t even have a boyfriend. I want to drop out for actual reasons. And the nurse comment? Why can’t she be a doctor? I think Lizzie would be a great doctor. But did you ever stop while posting this and say I wonder what Lizzie wants? It’s not all about finances its also about happiness. I mean how would you feel if you got stuck doing a job you didn’t love or feel like you wasted all that time in high school. Think about the BIG picture not just the one that I’ve been hearing a lot… Finances isn’t the only thing in life. – Nicole
(Art has this reply. – Alan)
Hello! And welcome if you are just joining us. What’s happening here: we are following six teens who have “dropped out loud” from high school. On August 15 they did not go back to that brick building and sit at those desks; for individual and often muddy reasons they have opted to do a Plan B.
(Just to confuse things, when I say “six teens” I actually mean seven, because they’ve been joined by Nora, who’s been self-homeschooled all her life. So she’s a Zed Omega too, in the sense that she’s left the system, but in her case she was never in it. So there are seven: Clare Edwina Jeremy Lizabeth Nicole Nora Xavier. But Edwina isn’t technically a teenager, she’s 21, she dropped out before at 17 and was back for her GED and is now dropped out again in protest. So we’re back to “six teens”)
A lot has happened since my last report, but I’ve got to start with one small commonplace thing: Clare’s grandfather died. So she is gone from in our midst, off with her family.
In regular school the death of a grandparent is the basis for a joke: the one where a student invokes said death as an excuse. If Clare were still in school, her absence would be excused but she would have to make up what she missed when she got back. But with the Zeds, there’s no distinction, no separation between school and real life. Clare is off on a field trip learning a special lesson.
Grandparent’s death = joke? Grandparent’s death = life lesson? This contrast sums up for me what is wrong with traditional education. Unpack it for yourself and see what you get.
I sense people have trouble visualizing what’s actually going on here. Like: do the Zed Omegas meet every day and what’s their lesson plan and am I or Mary Johnson or some adult monitoring this situation? It isn’t actually what it looks like, six teens on their own, learning whatever?
It is the latter. It is what it looks like. It is six teens who have rejected the diploma and all it stands for, choosing a new path of their own.
I can tell you this, however: they are listening. Go to “Conversations So Far” and you can see this happening. They get advice like this and this and this, and they hear stories like this and this and this, and get asked dream questions like this… and it affects them and their view of the world and the future.
– Alan Greye and Zephyr Yilmaz, EZO fans
Hey again Lizabeth,
You are going to have bills and will need a job. You can’t rely on a boyfriend or any relationship to pay them or you will become stifled - trapped. You need to be able to take care of yourself.
Why not think of that as a goal? You will make more money with a diploma. If you continue school to become say, a nurse, or whatever, the diploma is a prerequisite.
Life is a little easier with money. You can be comfortable, have a car, your own place, money to do fun things that you like to do.
Would you consider getting a GED at least?
Hang in there, finish High School, maybe do the class play - that could be fun.
Think of your future. One road isn’t easy but at least you can pay your bills. The other road leads to places you don’t want to go.
Someone will want to hire you if you are qualified, don’t worry. For now just focus on finishing school, for you.
This is a response to Art’s advice
I think you’re right. People want to know that you can follow through on things. It seems so easy… Just go to school, do the work, graduate. I wish that I could just go and never question it. But I do question it. Maybe I’m just not the right person to hire. Maybe I’m not suited to work for a place that wants me to not question it. Does that even make sense? Maybe I think too much…
Re: Always try to finish what you start
This is my (Clare’s) response to this post
I think you’re absolutely right! 100%. I think graduating high school is a very “easy” way to make the statement that you can finish what you start, even if it’s not always pleasant or fun. (Especially if it’s not pleasant or fun.) And you’re also right that your high school diploma will open up many doors for your future like getting a good job or getting further education etc… to graduate high school is an opportunity that’s just laid out in front of you and as long as you just try a little bit you can make it through and finish.
I know, however, that there are other ways to make that “finish what you start” statement. I know, for me, the fact that I can make audition appointments even though I HATE LOATHE AND DESPISE auditions and I can follow through on preparing and actually going to them is something to be proud of. Also after that when and if I make it into a show, I accept the part I’m given and I follow through with researching the character/memorizing lines/giving a (hopefully) great performance.
What are some other examples? I know there must be many out there! Ways that you can prove to others and to yourself that you can finish what you start?
Again, I feel like— yes, you are totally right that getting your high school diploma is a good way of proving that you can get through something or finish something. But it’s not the ONLY way of proving that. And (at least in my opinion) high school is not something that you should have to “get through” just to prove that you can.
And bring on the other examples! Seriously! I’m sure there are plenty of other things that you can think of that prove that you can finish something! what are they? – Clare