Students pawns in thinly-veiled ploy to save money

It’s minus-40 but the wind chill makes it feel even colder. Still, a group of students, bundled up as best they can, are out at 7:15 a.m. gamely trying to shovel snow away from the school entrances that had piled up from the blizzard the night before.
It’s a losing battle–but they struggle on.
A passer-by, scurrying to work, has little sympathy for the students. “This kind of community service looks good on you,” he sneers. “Bet you’ll think twice before you shoplift or vandalize something again.”
“Or no, sir,” one of them replies, eyebrows white with frost. “We’re just trying to graduate from high school.”
Far-fetched? Maybe. But it’s no more ridiculous than the Harris government’s decree last week that, starting in September, 1999, students won’t be able to graduate from high school unless they’ve done 40 hours of community service.
Yes, you read it right. No community service, no diploma.
The government didn’t say what constitutes community service. Does it mean cleaning up the school? A municipal park? Tutoring a fellow student, or perhaps helping a little old lady cross the street each day?
Does being a Boy Scout count, or a 4-H member?
It also didn’t give any hint as to who is supposed to keep track of a student’s hours. Nor is it clear if the government believes this is a great way to produce well-rounded students, or an ingenious ploy to get rid of custodians.
After all, why pay someone to be a janitor when you can make the kids clean up the high school in exchange for their diploma?
Don’t laugh. Wasn’t it former public school trustee Lynn Beyak, and PC candidate in the last provincial election here, who suggested at a board meeting a while back that kids pitch in to clean up their school to save money?
Sadly, the government is overlooking some very serious points here. First, what kind of message is it sending out by telling high school students that community service is something you “have” to do?
To think people have wrongly believed all along that you volunteer your time because you want to, or it makes you feel good.
Second, especially in light of talk of making the school day longer, one wonders when students will have time to complete their “community service” hours. Many high school kids hold down part-time jobs, as well as participate in some kind of extra-curricular activity, on top of doing their homework.
And that’s not even mentioning those kids around here who have to spend at least two hours a day riding a bus to and from school.
Third, it’s just not enforceable. Like, a school is going to keep a straight-A student back because they’ve only racked up, say, 34 hours of community service. Or maybe there will be some kind of test you can pass to make up the difference?
Three quick points about some of the reforms unveiled last week by Education and Training minister Dave Johnson:
oGetting rid of the OACs (grade 13 to us old-timers)–meaning two classes will have to compete for university/college openings or jobs in 2003–is a shame.
oExpecting teachers to become “advisors” to a group of students–when the government is cutting the number of teachers and their prep time–is confusing.
oMaking students do community service as a requirement to graduate from high school is just plain dumb.
Can school uniforms, truant officers, and the strap be far behind?

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