You can't learn if you're not in school, which is why legislation raising the age at which one can drop out of school makes sense.
"There is no greater achievement gap than the one between students who attend school and those who do not," Gov. Deval Patrick declared last week in hailing the vote by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education to raise the minimum dropout age from the current 16 years old to 18. He had identified the legislation as one of his priorities in his State of the State speech earlier in the year.
There's a case to be made that 16- and 17-year-olds who have no desire to be in school will simply make life difficult for teachers and peers if forced to stay there. And some superintendents and school board members point out that the cost of the extra help required to keep such students on task will simply impose another burden on what are already tight budgets.
But what does it say for a society that is willing to give up on an individual who is only 16 years of age? Not in every case, of course, but having to stay in school for an additional two years might make a big difference in the lives of some of those teens.
An inspirational teacher, an activity they'd never tried before, or even a book they would never have read except that it was required as part of a class might just provide the impetus that a reluctant student needed to take his or her life in a different direction.
The bill deserves careful consideration by the full House and Senate when it comes before them.