Fines for truancy: another band-aid on a gaping wound
by Eric Braxton on Apr 29 2009 Posted in High schools
The city is about to start issuing fines to parents whose students skip school. I know a lot of people like this plan. They say it will help catch the attention of parents. They say we need to hold parents accountable. While I think those ideas are fine, and I’m not that worried that $25 fines are going to ruin anyone, my reaction is, is this really the best we can come up with to solve a major crisis in our city?
Let’s face it, our neighborhood high schools are broken. These fines may make a few more students show up, but they will do nothing to solve the underlying issues that our neighborhood high schools don’t work and students don’t want to be there. I’ve spent time in some schools that I would gladly pay $25 a day not to go to. I’m all for personal responsibility, but as long as we try to solve this problem by punishing students for not going to school rather than asking ourselves (and them) why they don’t want to be there, we will not solve this.
I give the Dr. Ackerman and her team some credit. They have been pushing the idea of completely turning around failing schools and maybe they will have some success.
If we are going to get serious about solving this problem, however, we have to recognize that while everyone has shared responsibility, the primary problem here is not with our students or parents, but with our woefully inadequate and outdated neighborhood high schools. While there are many outstanding teachers and administrators working in these schools, the system just doesn’t work. It is based on a 19th century factory model that was designed to sort students: a few for college and the rest for the factories. Unfortunately, those factories are long gone.
What this means is that now is the time to really revision what secondary education is all about. We need to start asking some tough questions such as:
- How do we best prepare young people for the challenges of the 21st century?
- How do we make education relevant to young people who are dealing with the challenges of poverty?
- Where are their models of neighborhood schools that are being successful with low-income student populations?
It’s not that the fines for parents will do major harm, but isn’t it time that we get to the root of the problem? Our young people deserve better. I look forward to other’s thoughts on how we can truly solve this crisis.