Chicago Mayor Threatens Teens' Diplomas Unless They Participate in Approved Post-School Education

Maybe focus on getting your own nearly bankrupt government in order, Emanuel.


Rahm Emanuel
Jose M. Osorio/TNS/Newscom

Hey, Chicago kids! If you're expecting your high-school diploma, you're going to have to tell your school what you plan to do with it. Oh, and if you're not going to do what the Chicago Public School system wants you to do with your diploma, they might not give you one!

The City of Chicago has so ineptly financed itself that it has to tax the crap out of its citizens—literally—just to try to keep its underfunded city employee pensions afloat. It's so dysfunctional that it's the only top-10 city in America that's losing population.

Yet, today Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided that the failure of teens to map out their post-secondary education future is a big enough problem that city bureaucrats need to get involved. And what they're going to do is such a brilliant example of how disastrous centrally planned governance is. The school system is going to withhold diplomas from graduating high school seniors unless and until they provide the school system information about their post-school plans.

And to be very, very clear: This is not a "choose your own post-education adventure." You will choose from one of four government-approved options. If you want a diploma you will be required to provide proof you've been accepted to:

  • A four-year college
  • A community college
  • A branch of the armed services
  • A trade school or program

That's it. That's what the City of Chicago has decided your choices for success are after you've graduated high school. Got an entrepreneurial spirit? Go get an official post-secondary stamp of approval with a business degree, kid. Or else it doesn't count. Part of a family-owned business? The city plans to regulate and tax them out of existence anyway.

There's an entire list of ways this demand offends the conscience. First and most obvious, it treats people who are becoming adults as though they are wards of the state and withholds a diploma that they've earned unless they provide information to the Chicago Public School system that they have no authority to even ask for.

Second, note that how all of these post-school options tie the teen further into environments subject to continued government control and operations even after reaching adulthood. Granted both the colleges and trade schools could be privately operated, but both are heavily dependent on government grants and subject to significant government control.

Third, since the demand requires merely acceptance and not actual commitment to attend (at least that's what the reporting is saying now) and community colleges accept pretty much everybody, it's just insulting bureaucratic busywork when all is said and done. They can't take your diploma back if you get accepted into college and then don't attend. And that just makes it all the more offensive. It's paternalistic government nudging designed to socialize and fundamentally trick teens into thinking that this is the sum of all their choices after graduation.

Fourth, imagine being a teen and not grasping the busywork "nudging" nature of this demand, concluding post-secondary education is out of reach for you for whatever reason, and believing that you have to join the military in order to get your diploma.

And finally, this is clearly a jobs program—but not for these students. It's a jobs program for post-secondary educators and administrators, an attempt to force an increase in demand through this not-so-subtle coercion. Emanuel pretty much said so himself:

"Starting with the freshman class, right now in high school in Chicago, by the time they come to graduation they'll have — basically think of it this way — you want to make 14th grade, not high school … universal in people's educational program," he said. "And what I mean by that is if you graduate you'll have to have a letter of acceptance from a college, a letter of acceptance from a community college or a letter of acceptance from the armed services or a letter of acceptance from a trade, carpenter or electrician."

Note that Emanuel is confusing "universal" with "mandatory" here. This is the first step in pretty much mandating post-secondary educations for people who might not and perhaps should not be otherwise pursuing them. And according to the Chicago Tribune, this rule is supposedly coming into play starting with students who graduate in 2020.

Need an antidote? Listen to Mike Rowe, famous from Dirty Jobs, talk about our screwed up overpriced college system and the value of trade jobs. Mind you, Emanuel's proposal is friendly to teens pursuing trades, but with the government's oversight (and veto power) over what pursuing a post-school trade actually looks like: