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Teen Geniuses?

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celic.qxd

Talk about a schoolhouse crock--isn't Paul Pekin making unjustified claims just as he says the opposition does ["Schoolhouse Crock," September 12]? He says, "In 1995 70 percent of 17-year-olds had graduated from high school, and 42 percent had gone on to college." How can this be true? By my estimate, when graduation day comes around in early June at least half of the nationwide high school senior class is already 18 years old. Consequently, no more than 50 percent can graduate at age 17, even if no one drops out. Yet we are told that 70 percent of 17-year-olds have graduated. By the time college starts in September, another 25 percent have turned 18, so at most 25 percent of students could possibly have entered college while still 17 years old. Why are we told that 42 percent of 17-year-olds have gone on to college?

Where did these fantastic numbers come from? Is this the new math? Was this the work of some editor who figured that a rigorous statement of the findings was too complex, so he had better dumb it down for the readers? Or will we be told that I'm too picky about the details and it's the idea that counts? Please fix this.

Lillian Celic

N. Leavitt

Paul Pekin replies:

Those figures came from the U.S. Department of Education's biennial Survey of Education in the United States (prepared in 1996; Table 98). As for the college figures, I looked at my sentence again, and I can see where it might leave the impression these 17-year-olds might already be in college, instead of that they will go on to college, by which time, of course, they will be 18 or older. One can't be too careful.

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