Sunday, March 09, 2008

We Do Not Need To Raise The Dropout Age From 16 to 18 Years Old by Akindele Akinyemi


As usual, whenever I hear Gov. Granholm talk on education I get scared. Now she wants to propose to state lawmakers to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 years old.

Therefore, HB 4042 was introduced by Rep. LaMar Lemmons, Jr. on January 22, 2007, to require compulsory school attendance for children up to age 18, instead of age 16 as is currently required. The bill is supported by State Representatives Robert Dean, Bert Johnson, Shanelle Jackson, Virgil Smith, Gabe Leland, Steve Tobocman, Robert Jones, and Hoon-Yung Hopgood.

Of course I cannot support such a measure, even if I do get along with those who support the bill.

Michigan is considered a dropout factory in the United States. I see more 12-18 year olds on the corner of Grand River and Fenkell here in Detroit at CVS begging for money than have a desire to be in school.
They see school as a waste of their time or one more authority figure to rebel against. There are already laws on the books dealing with truancy and delinquency that are not being enforced. Raising the compulsory attendance age to 18 will not fix the problem.

What we are not looking at is both the parents and the public schools as the culprits and the cure for this crisis, not the legislature. Large numbers of parents either don't know or don't care that their kids are not in school. There are single parent or both parents working situations where the parents don't know and the schools aren't doing a good enough job of informing the parents that their kids are not in school. There are other situations where no matter how much the schools inform the parents, they don't care enough or have enough control of their kids to enforce their child's attendance. I mean, how many parents show up for parent-teacher conferences?

There was a time when attendance officers would make home visits or phone calls and speak personally with the parents and try to work with them to get their kids back on track or the parents would face legal consequences. Now contacts have been relegated to letters, emails or automated phone calls, all of which the kids know how to get rid of before the parents know about them.

HB 4042 does not address those who are home schooled. These are students that could be considered in violation should this bill become law. But there are legitimate reasons many home school students may not be in school on any given day. As examples, they could be traveling to co-op classes or to a part time job. Some home school students complete their high school studies before age 18 and get full time jobs or begin taking college courses. For some, their school day may be done well before the public schools are done for the day. Should they not be allowed to play in their yard, go shopping, shoot some hoops at a local park or any other activity because the public school is still in session? I can easily see this bill being misapplied to these students on a frequent basis.

Is this Gov. Granholm's way of trying to eliminate homeschooling here in Michigan under Jon Stryker?

If we want kids to stay in school we must challenge them with some meaningful information that does not bore them to death. We do not need any more abstract, meaningless to the students jargon that has no bearing on the real world problems they face. It is not an accident that Indian and Asian students are far more skilled than our students. Our curriculum encompasses way too many topics and does not allow for time to reteach concepts to the kids that aren't getting it.

By expanding the age of compulsory attendance, these bills take from the parents the ability
to choose what is best for their child. Government involvement at a young age is an ineffective substitute to parental care. On the other end, parents are not able to choose work or an educational option for their teenager. We are under the false belief that complying with this flawed bill that the problem of public school attendance will be solved by merely increasing the compulsory attendance age and hoping kids will comply. The unintended consequences, however, could have a far reaching negative impact on those students for whom HB4042 was not intended. Finally, this bill will waste taxpayer dollars by forcing more children into school even though their may be a better alternative open to them.

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