Should schools enforce mandatory attendance until the age of eighteen?
The law does not recognize a person as an adult until the age of 18 with certain exceptions. Two exceptions that I can think of are the drinking age and charging a minor with an adult crime.
I am a teacher and I have taught high school in an inner-city. We had a few students that genuinely wanted to be there and put forth their best effort pretty much every day. We had some that were there because they HAD to be there and we had a few that did not want to be there.
The ones that wanted to be there were easy to teach. They listened and took notes. They did as I asked and behaved. They raised their hands and were respectful to me and to one another. These are the students that most likely graduated and went to college. These were the students that most teachers want in their rooms every day.
The ones there because they had to be were more challenging. These were the ones that I had to sell myself to. I had to convince them that they could benefit from this class and they could use it in their life. As I taught Personal Finance, among others, this was pretty easy. Once I showed them how to save money and how to make money I had them hooked. I showed them what would happen with a person that started at the age of 18 by investing $2,000.00 a year for 10 years versus a person that waited until he was 28 and invested $2,000.00 per year until he turned 65. The second person does not catch up to the first person. Some of these students were turned on by this information and they decided they wanted to learn. Sadly, not everyone did so and I felt as though the semester was wasted on them.
The students that did not want to be there were easy to identify. They were the ones that did everything they could to interrupt the class. They were obnoxious. They talked despite being asked, and finally being told, not to. They got out of their seats multiple times per class. They always had to go to the bathroom or get water or go to their locker for whatever reason. These students were a PAIN in the rear end and they did not care. I can say they did not care because of their actions and their attitudes. It is an understatement to say they were disrespectful. I was called names and cussed at by these students. I had one student transfer in from another state in March. He fit in every description I just gave. We had several discussions in the hallway. I finally looked at him and said, “Within five years, you will be either dead or in prison”. He said, “You can’t say that to me!” I replied, “I just did; deal with it!” and I went back into my room. I called Administration from then on with any of his problems.
So what is my point? I believe that students that fit this third category should be sent to a special school where they can start learning a trade. Teach them something specific. Train them to be a plummer or an electrician. Teach them something that they can put to use immediately. Since they don’t want to learn the “core” classes, give them something they can do with their hands. After all, one does not need to know American history to repair a car or to weld metal. The quality of education will drastically improve since the troublesome students will be gone. They won’t be interrupting the class with their stupidity. And, the ones in the middle section will see what happens when a student acts up and will have to make a decision on whether he is going to get with the program or be sent off to a trade school.
This is obviously not a perfect plan and many critics will decry its usefulness. However, kids under 18 need to learn something. They need to learn something to be useful in life or they need to learn in order to prepare for college. Either way, our students need to be in school preparing for their futures and, in large part, the future of this republic.