I need a summary/response on the article "Life after High School" by Annie Murphy Paul.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can provide a summary of this article, but a response is meant to be your response, not mine.  Once you have the summary, your response should be based upon your agreement or disagreement with the author's points, explaining why you think and feel the way you do. 

The author begins with an idea expressed by a friend of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., which is that as people age, they begin to realize that they are "ruled by people you went to high school with.... You all of a sudden catch on that life is nothing but high school" (Para. 1).  Paul then suggests this is a "chilling vision" (para.2), one that most of us should find quite undesirable.  Paul goes on to reflect that our culture does suggest, perhaps, that we do find this a desirable idea, since popular culture is filled with depictions of these years, we all seem to want to be connected to friends from high school on Facebook, and many "adult" activities are reminiscent of our high school years.  When she is asked to be a commencement speaker, she decides to do some research and answer the question of whether or not life after high school is like high school, in preparation for the speech she will make. 

She interviews some experts and reads some studies.  She finds evidence for both sides of the issue. She learns that studies have shown that there is some truth to life after high school being much the same, for example, that jocks are likely to continue to be jocks, while nerds continue to be nerds in their adult lives, and those who were the "outcasts and dropouts" (para. 10) are likely to not be gainfully employed. On the other hand, she finds evidence that one's actions, attributes, and performance in high school is not necessarily predictive of one's future.  Many people who were popular in high school discover that popularity is not the key to happiness, and scoring low on one's SAT's does not necessarily mean one will do poorly in college.  Furthermore, she comes upon the argument of Alexandra Robbins, which is that many people who were not a particular success in high school, i.e. popular, the geeks or the nerds, discover that the qualities that made them unpopular in high school are the very qualities that make them successful in adult life. 

From her research, Paul finally settles on what she wishes to say in her speech to the graduating high schoolers. She has concluded that the way we were in high school tends to make us place limits upon ourselves, which is a dreadful idea.  High school graduates need to believe they can do or be anything, not "stuck" with what they had or were in their adolescence. An "loner" (para. 21) like Bruce Springsteen can become a powerful and popular musician. A poor boy from Hawaii can become president.  Life after high school can be so much more! 

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