Sometimes, there is no accounting for what people do. The shooting in Charleston, SC, for example, is the work of someone whose actions defy logic. The perpetrator may or may not have a mental illness – that may be determined – but regardless, we are a nation of 350 million citizens and there are always going to be some who break laws, say inappropriate things and behave in ways that are not conducive to a civilized society. That, readers, is simple mathematics.

Not all of what these people say or do is illegal. But even if those actions or words were illegal, it would not stop the behavior.

Attempts at reducing violence can be attempted by creating laws, but history has shown us that laws are not a deterrent to violence. Laws serve only to provide punishment and justice which, in the case of South Carolina is an impossible goal.

Trying to “end” racism or “end” violence is a fool’s errand. The best that we can do, together, is to try to minimize it, denounce it when it occurs, punish it, and try somehow to use a particular event to achieve some positive end. In the case of South Carolina, the positive end may be the elimination of the Confederate flag, once and for all, from appearing at or on any public (taxpayer paid) platform.

But “ending” violence, “ending” racism, or “ending” homophobia are fool’s errands. America will never “end” these things. Just as we cannot legislate morality, we cannot legislate intelligence to help eliminate ignorance or stupidity.

“Jane” (not her real name) graduated a few years ago from a Newport-Mesa high school. She has been working at a retail store where her good performance has earned her more responsibility and more money. She is smart, hard-working, honest, and is liked and respected by her peers. Perhaps most important, she has excellent instincts and is often turned to in a pinch to find the solution to a problem. All her life, Jane will be an asset wherever she works.

But Jane did not graduate from college and she knows that to many people she is a disappointment. Jane doesn’t want to go to college but feels the pressure to do so by people in her life who believe they know what is best for her. They do not. The only person who knows what is best for Jane, is Jane. And Jane doesn’t want to go to college.

Last year, I had hope that I had seen the end of the school district’s well-meaning but misguided campaign to get every high school graduate to go to college. Recently, however, I discovered that the campaign is alive. Not well, perhaps, but alive nonetheless.

This argument has nothing to do with the value of a college degree. If you tell me that someone with a college degree will earn more over the course of their life than someone without it, I will believe you.

But tell that to the attorney I have known for 45 years who makes several hundred thousand dollars a year and isn’t nearly as happy as Jane. In fact, he is miserable.

Tell that to the high school graduate plumber who came to your house late at night or on a weekend – or even during the week during business hours – and rescued you from calamity.

Tell that to the high school graduate people who collect your trash, clean your streets, mow your lawn, or provide any of the thousand services on which you depend for a better life.

Tell that to high school graduate owner of the donut or bagel shop you frequent – the entrepreneur who used the typical college years to toil at a her shop because she wanted to be her own boss.

Tell that to the high school graduate 19 year-old entrepreneur who has created a website on which he sells custom-made T-shirts, bumper stickers, and more. Soon, he’ll be adding antenna balls to his product line.

Tell that to the high school graduate receptionist in any medical office anywhere who makes your otherwise mundane visit enjoyable simply because she remembered that your dog was sick and asked about its health.

Tell that to the 53 year-old high school graduate and mother of two teens who just launched a clothing accessory line with her first product.

And most important, tell that to the brave and selfless N-MUSD graduates who have chosen to serve our country after high school instead of going to college.

I will buy a ticket to that one.

Regardless of how hard we try, we will never get 100% of our high schoolers to attend college. And that’s OK because at the end of the day it’s their lives, not ours.

What I’d like to see is for the powers-that-be in the N-MUSD to tell them it’s OK. They can start by restoring the website page honoring our local graduates who chose military service. This page was not included in the re-design of the website.

They can start by ensuring that our guidance counselors use language that is not college-specific and which does not reflect their own bias toward a college education.

And we can all start by remembering that ultimately, we are powerless to the choice of the high school graduate and the best thing we can do once they have made their decision is to provide the support they need to be the best at whatever it is they choose to do.

Steve Smith