Dropping out is all the rage … in Hollywood

I read last week that Grammy Award-winner Gretchen Wilson just passed her GED exam and will participate in a graduation ceremony this coming Thursday.

As someone who perhaps overvalues education, I certainly respect that she had the guts to go back and finish up high school at this stage in her life. And I think it’s particularly great that she did so to set an example for her 7-year-old daughter.

(Since I read this, however, I cannot shake the image of the Happy Days episode in which Fonzie graduates from night school and has to get his diploma delivered by the mailman at the graduation ceremony.)

Reading news like this reminds me not only how much I value education, but how much I take it for granted. The vast majority of people I know went to college, and I possibly know more people with advanced degrees than without. But I guess that’s not the case for everyone. Apparently, in Gretchen Wilson’s home state of Tennessee, a full 20 percent of the population doesn’t have high school diplomas.

And, after doing a little research, it seems that the high school graduation rate in Hollywood is pretty low too. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised by this. It certainly makes sense that a lot of young actors don’t complete formal education. (And then a lot of young actors burn out or self-destruct. Hmm.)

Now, I was not surprised to learn that Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson are among the young actors who never graduated from high school. But here are some who did surprise me.

Hillary Swank

Apparently, she dropped out because she "didn’t like the rules," but she did eventually get earn her GED.

Kelly McGillis

Perhaps it’s because I first became aware of her when she was playing a lawyer in The Accused, but I was very surprised to learn that she was a dropout.

Anne Murray

I guess I assumed she graduated because I knew that she was a gym teacher prior to becoming an international singing sensation — not to mention a quasi-lesbian icon. These days, I believe you generally need at least a college degree to be a teacher of any stripe.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

I don’t really think that marrying Michael Douglas is a sign of intelligence, but I was still surprised by her. Although I don’t really know why.

Whoopi Goldberg

I was surprised by this because some of Whoopi’s stand-up — which I’ve always assumed she wrote herself — is just so smart. Of course, I know that plenty of well-educated folks cannot write, so I shouldn’t be surprised that some less-educated folks can.

And these are just a smattering of the under-educated yet successful multitudes of Hollywood. (You can see a more comprehensive list here.) Who are some of your favorite dropouts?