Attending to Stories of High School Displacement: The Lived High School Experience of GED® College Graduates

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This hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry is called by the question, "What is the lived high school experience of GED college graduates?" GED college graduates are people who have dropped out of high school, used the GED Tests to earn their jurisdiction's high school diploma, then graduated from a four-year institution. If these individuals have the intellectual acumen and personal commitment to earn a bachelor's degree, then why did they drop out of high school? Conversations with seven GED college graduates uncover the displacement that drove them out of a traditional high school program.

The hermeneutic phenomenological methodology is grounded in the philosophical work of Heidegger, especially as developed by Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, which elicits an awareness of our embodied being's struggle to embrace Being and the moral necessity of responding to that presence.  Van Manen's work guides the "doing" of this philosophy as human science research in education.

The stories of the lived high school experiences of the seven GED college graduates reveal the disquiet of their displacement. They each felt that they did not fit the mold that high school wanted: they felt they were different, outcasts, not part of the "in crowd." They felt the inequitable treatment and bodily discomfort caused by this difference. They report only a nominal, caring presence at school, and this disregard further alienated them. School was disappointed in their lack of commitment and enthusiasm for traditional coursework, and the students, in turn, were disappointed that school cared so little for their needs. Dropping out protected them from the pain of further displacement.

Attending to these stories of displacement may help educators imagine a different way of creating high school. Smaller high schools might make each student a more significant part of the student body, better known to teachers, and more likely to feel implaced. Additionally, alternate programs might allow students to deviate from the traditional K-12 timeline into work experiences, to follow compelling interests, or to gather into community around similar questions about their world. Teacher preparation programs that offer multiple visions for high school could be instrumental in making such change a reality.