A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Open thread: Should school attendance be mandatory?

From my previous post, a nagging question was raised that I have been struggling with for quite some time:

Should attendance in school be mandatory?

I am torn. On the one hand, we assume that the end of mandatory attendance laws would make schools places more focused on learning. We assume that administrators would then be willing to dismiss students who disrupt the environment, who attend for purely social reasons-- including picking fights with other students. I wonder if that would be the case. Couldn't it be possible that, given the vagaries of attendance numbers that would then ensue, administrators would be MORE deperate to hold on to kids who were willing to show up? That's been one of my concerns, I'll be honest.

On the other hand, we all get absolutely tired of being held accountable for the performance of those who just don't want an education.

So, what do you think? I need some help here.

Labels:

20 Comments:

At 4/15/07, 10:55 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Of course it should be mandatory. Have you seen Salaam Bombay? You want kids wandering the streets selling Chiclets?

We need to educate our kids, all of them. particularly those of parents who wouldn't bother sending the kids on their own.

 
At 4/15/07, 1:19 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

There's more to becoming educated than simply planting your butt in a chair. If their parents won't send them, then, yeah, let them sell Chiclets in the streets. And when they get older and graduate to shoplifting or drug-dealing, put them in prison.

*Then* make education mandatory. Nothing like a few years in prison to make people re-think their attitude toward learning.

Public education should be open to everyone at any age, but if you won't do the work or behave yourself, you should lose the privilege for one year. You can return on probationary status but if you screw up, you're out again. If that means that you end up at age 25 in a class with nine-year-olds, so be it.

 
At 4/15/07, 1:26 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

IMO, no. At least not past the age of 16. If a young person wants to gain the benefits of an education, they should have the opportunity to recieve it, through grade 12. However, if they are 16 and don't wish to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity, they should not be forced to do so. Let them and their families deal with what life will throw at them.

That being said, perhaps we need a National Youth Work Program, a force of well supervised and contracted young people who learn trade skills and do things like fix up elderly peoples homes, clean up after natural diasters, etc. They'd earn minimum wage, room and board and valuable training. Of course, they would have to follow certain rules to remain "employed" in this program.

The military could also accept 17 year olds.

These "not-in-school-any-longer" youth could also work at the jobs "illegal immigrants" do; motel/hotel room cleaning, yard care, harvesting crops, restaurant help, etc.

And, continue with adult education classes so between hours on their jobs, they can attend classes to earn their h.s. diploma that they failed to get in their younger years.

Also, make getting a drivers license, college student aide, any sort of welfare, etc., contingent on having a h.s. diploma.

 
At 4/15/07, 3:07 PM, Blogger Superdestroyer said...

High school should be voluntary. Why does anyone act as if a 14 y/o can be educated in any topic if they do not want to be.

The add on should be that the only way to be promoted to the 10th grade is to demonstrated that you can read at the 9th grade level.

Overall learning would increase because teen rebellion would stop being a part of high school and that non-learners would be somewhere else.

I guess that voluntary schooling would barely affect some of the best suburban schools but would greatly improve inner city schools.

 
At 4/15/07, 4:20 PM, Anonymous eleanor said...

Kids who drop-out of school in their mid-teens need opportunities to keep their lives on track. There are far too many traps out there luring them down the wrong road. These are critical years. A reasonable option might be to change the setting, so regular school teachers are not spending all their time with behaviour management.
At one time, there were quite a number of "storefront" schools located in places drop-out kids frequented, like malls. Kids could also get work placements through these alternative set-ups. There seemed to be a steady supply of teachers who also preferred a different setting.
These closed up when we went to our present top-heavy reform plan.
(Ontario, Canada)

 
At 4/15/07, 4:43 PM, Blogger Ms. Q said...

I understand the need to educate the masses, but I also deal with the students who couldn't care less about being in school. We need more options. We need to give up on the "way it always has been." At the very least I would suggest a whole different approach for those who "don't want to be here" or who have discipline or attendance issues. They obviously are not doing well in the standard program-fix it. Offering credit for coursework outside of school (not the complete the packet get the grade approach, but more of the online learning approach). Get them in a trade--whatever happened to the idea of journeymen and apprentices???

 
At 4/15/07, 5:29 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Hmmm...Polski is right. I didn't mean compulsory beyond 16, but for children. I do think there need to be alternate settings for kids who can't handle school.

 
At 4/15/07, 6:24 PM, Blogger cramerj said...

Don't overlook the children who want to go to school but the parents don't want the cost/bother etc.
Not rare now and quite common in the 50s.

 
At 4/15/07, 10:13 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

In case anyone thinks my post above sounded extreme ... did anyone see this story tonight, about prison inmates taking humanities courses through Bard College and being transformed by this opportunity to become educated?

http://tinyurl.com/3b7s6l

The president of the college said, "The most amazing thing, I have to say, the most shocking and absolutely unbelievable thing is that it takes radical incarceration, the loss of all hope, to engender a genuine love of learning."

Yep.

 
At 4/15/07, 10:19 PM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I agree with Polski3, except for the military service thing. Send the old men off to war, not children.

 
At 4/15/07, 10:29 PM, Anonymous jonathan said...

I was going to say "no," but you are talking about students, not teachers?

Student attendance should be mandatory. Neither government, parents, nor peers should have the right to pressure, bully, or otherwise manipulate kids into doing something else.

As far as the young person's choice? Let that start after school is done. The societal cost of having uneducated young adults is just too high.

 
At 4/15/07, 11:07 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Interesting posts, many of which illustrate one of our central problems: The public schools serve at least as much as social service providers as educators, and in many instances, more. A high school diploma has never been exclusively a specific guarantee of a given body of academic knowledge and skill competence, but a social milestone, a rite of passage into adulthood.

We are, in many respects, babysitters, and the public has adapted its institutions to rely upon that babysitting function. In reality, most kids, by the time they graduate from high school, will have matured sufficiently to be minimally functional in the adult world to the point that they won't be a net drain on society. But now the Army doesn't want and need 16 year olds, not unless they're Audie Murphy, and there aren't many of those.

I'm very clear on the philosophy of this issue. Any student who doesn't appreciate--on the whole--the opportunity afforded by a free public education, should be booted, unceremoniously and quickly so that those who remain can learn and progress. But as those who have commented before me have pointed out, this is a matter of transforming society, not mere attendance policy.

In my beloved Texas, for example, we run in vicious little circles. The state mandates not only testing, but attendance, drop out, and all manner of other standards and rates schools in several broad general categories. Therefore, while we can boot kids for misbehavior, in practice most schools provide a sort of mini-school for on campus suspensions, a lock-down like mini-prison school for off-campus suspensions, and an alternative school for kids who can't make it in regular classes. There are also a variety of other programs, because if the drop out rate dips too low, staff could be fired and a school could even be taken over by state educrats. Thus, all of these kids in alternative programs, who in earlier years would have been out on the street, are still on the rolls and the drop out rate remains low. A brilliant accomplishment.

And of course, test scores are part of a school's rating, so we work for excellence, and we can fail kids, but we're encouraged (no one ever really says it explicitly) not to fail anyone. While we preach excellence and accountability, our institutions have evolved to essentially demand and reward mediocrity.

Of course, years ago, substantial stigma attached to drop outs from peers and adults alike. No longer. Without parental responsibility and daily, cautious oversight, we have little hope, I'm afraid.

 
At 4/15/07, 11:08 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Interesting posts, many of which illustrate one of our central problems: The public schools serve at least as much as social service providers as educators, and in many instances, more. A high school diploma has never been exclusively a specific guarantee of a given body of academic knowledge and skill competence, but a social milestone, a rite of passage into adulthood.

We are, in many respects, babysitters, and the public has adapted its institutions to rely upon that babysitting function. In reality, most kids, by the time they graduate from high school, will have matured sufficiently to be minimally functional in the adult world to the point that they won't be a net drain on society. But now the Army doesn't want and need 16 year olds, not unless they're Audie Murphy, and there aren't many of those.

I'm very clear on the philosophy of this issue. Any student who doesn't appreciate--on the whole--the opportunity afforded by a free public education, should be booted, unceremoniously and quickly so that those who remain can learn and progress. But as those who have commented before me have pointed out, this is a matter of transforming society, not mere attendance policy.

In my beloved Texas, for example, we run in vicious little circles. The state mandates not only testing, but attendance, drop out, and all manner of other standards and rates schools in several broad general categories. Therefore, while we can boot kids for misbehavior, in practice most schools provide a sort of mini-school for on campus suspensions, a lock-down like mini-prison school for off-campus suspensions, and an alternative school for kids who can't make it in regular classes. There are also a variety of other programs, because if the drop out rate dips too low, staff could be fired and a school could even be taken over by state educrats. Thus, all of these kids in alternative programs, who in earlier years would have been out on the street, are still on the rolls and the drop out rate remains low. A brilliant accomplishment.

And of course, test scores are part of a school's rating, so we work for excellence, and we can fail kids, but we're encouraged (no one ever really says it explicitly) not to fail anyone. While we preach excellence and accountability, our institutions have evolved to essentially demand and reward mediocrity.

Of course, years ago, substantial stigma attached to drop outs from peers and adults alike. No longer. Without parental responsibility and daily, cautious oversight, we have little hope, I'm afraid.

 
At 4/16/07, 6:30 AM, Blogger M-Dawg said...

Of course attendance should be mandatory. Isn't it our job to prepare these kids for the real world? And being part of the real world is that if you are late enough days for your real job, you will get fired!

I don't mean to simplify this massive problem that we have in our schools. At my high school, the attendance rate is insanely low.

All the programs in the world will not solve this problem. But, how do we, as educators, solve this problem??? I think the problem is bigger than us. As a community (parents, kids, teachers, general public, police, etc.), we need to work together to address the problems.

At my high school, we have after school programs, night school, and an alternative ed program. None of these "alternatives" are working.

 
At 4/16/07, 8:08 AM, Blogger Superdestroyer said...

What is the advantages that college has over high school. That if you do not want to go to class, no one makes you and if you do not want to learn, you quickly leave. This leads to lecture hall classes of 400 people who stay quit and do not disturb each other.

why not give high school the same advantages? It would make every public school more like the elite private schools where politicians send their children. More learning will take place in a high school that is not mandatory than what currently happens in today's schools.

 
At 4/16/07, 6:07 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, first, if you're going to make attendance voluntary, you are going to have to come up with some other way to fund schools than average daily attendance. Otherwise, I fear, administrators will hold on to any warm body that walks through the door, whether it's there to learn or to make trouble.

I believe an education is absolutely necessary. But lots of bodies are in school that are not requiring the heads attached to them to actually get filled with anything substantial. We do need to educate all of our kids. But society does not reinforce the value of an education. And it shouldn't just be schools' jobs to keep kids off the streets.

I believe that learning is a lifelong process-- and we may not see the fruition of what we present to students until much later. In the meantime, school is viewed as a "right"-- not a privilege or a responsibility. Add in the people who are in school for socialization only, and we are seriously adrift from our stated function.

We have all had students who are just not cut out for what we have to offer-- and meanwhile disrupt the learning of others.

But I really fear that making attendance voluntary will merely further destabilize schools-- I have a sneaking suspicion that it would actually lead to the further "dumbing down" of school so that it would be a place to entice those not successful to show up anyway. Maybe I'm just cynical.

 
At 4/17/07, 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 4/22/07, 8:25 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

What needs to change is the system, not the idea of compulsory education. We already have more people voting for "American Idol" than vote in presidential elections. More dim folks the world does not need.

But the model is outdated. The comprehensive high school is not for everyone. Not when my plumber (and NO, this is NOT an elitist slap at blue collar folks: I admire those who can make a living with their hands, because I could never do so) shows up to do a job for me in his brand new pickup, which he bought so he can haul his boat down to the Jersey shore to his beach house. The one that sits on a lagoon. Which is where he keeps his boat.

High school can and should be about more than getting kids ready for college, especially when many kids don't belong in college, or want to be there.

But please, let's not use the military as an automatic option, especially for 17 year olds. Our kids should be worth more than cannon fodder.

 
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