Why Do People Get GEDs Anyway?

I started thinking about why people want to get a GED rather than graduating with a diploma.

My initial thinking was something along the lines of what my friend Jimmy, who runs a produce department in a grocery store, told me.

He said that he will often hire young people to work in the produce department. They will show up for two weeks, till they get their first paycheck, and then quit. He has a terrible time keeping his department staffed, even though the working conditions are pleasant, and I know he’s an amazing manager, very fair and kind. He says it’s because many of today’s young people don’t know how to do hard things, like go to a job every day, things that previous generations pretty much took for granted.

I wondered if the trend to get a GED rather than graduate had echoes of that, and I began reading about it on the web. I found out that there are many reasons people give for getting a GED and that few of them stem from the problems Jimmy is having.

There are many people who dropped out when they were younger because they wanted to go to work and earn some money. Many are women who quit school because of pregnancy and now want to go back and get the GED. Reasons like these generally come from older people who realize that they need a GED for certain employment or school opportunities.

Of the students who drop out as youngsters, many have just not been able to make it work in the academic environment. It’s not that they are dumb; it’s that they may be alternative types of learners. We teachers all know how that it. Not everybody fits the six-hour, sit-still type of day, and not many of these have the chance to go to a more suitable school like an arts high school or a Waldorf School.

Some of these kids go to really difficult schools full of violence and budgetary limitations (one mentions that there are no books or supplies in his urban high school). They would rather drop out, work for a while, get the GED, and get on with life.

I know that there’s a knee-jerk reaction that the GED diploma is not as useful or worthy as the graduation diploma. I’ll be reading about that and get back to you.

In the meantime, I had to shift my point of view about reasons-why. Turns out that there are many serious and hardworking kids and adults that go for the GED.


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