I see in today's Muskegon Chronicle that part of our governor's plan to turn the state's economy around is to raise the compulsory school attendance age to 18.
God help us.
Of course the justification for this is the urgent necessity of creating a pool of highly educated employees to attract high tech businesses to Michigan. I'm a bit skeptical about the chances for success with this particular plan. It seems to me the real reason jobs, skilled and unskilled alike, are heading overseas is due to a ready supply of cheap labor, few environmental regulations, no OSHA rules to follow, and no Workmen's Compensation or 401Ks to fund. Until we are willing to give up the quality of life we've worked so hard to build, the possibility that we will draw any meaningful number of well-paying jobs to Michigan is slight.
Understand that raising the compulsory school attendance age to 18 will create jobs, but not the kind of jobs you might hope for. Most of the new jobs will be "school" jobs. Think about it. Keeping young adults in school longer will increase school populations, which means we will need more teachers, administrators, custodians, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, etc.
School as a jobs program is not a new idea. Here's John Gatto's take on it:
"In the economy we have allowed to evolve, the real political dilemma everywhere is keeping people occupied; jobs have to be invented by government agencies and corporations; both employ millions of people for which they have no real use." -from An Underground History of American Education.
"Schools at present are the occupation of our children. Children have become pensioners of the government at an early age. They have make-work jobs, not really jobs at all - there is nothing asked of children in government schools that is real, there is nothing important to do there. Only one performance act is demanded by the state just as it is demanded with all other types of made-up government work: the children must attend. They must be present through the school day as they are passed from stranger to stranger to the sound of horns in this eerie form of growing up they have been assigned."
"We keep kids longer and longer out of the world of human beings and nature. We corruptly make jobs depend on school time and course work even when we are absolutely certain they have no demonstrable connections with such things." - from A Different Kind of Teacher.
Just as telling is an examination of the role of compulsory schooling in our economy by Daniel Quinn, found at www.ishmael.org/Education/writings/unschooling.shtml. Here's a sample:
"...they (schools) do a superb job of keeping young people out of the job market. Instead of becoming wage-earners at age twelve or fourteen, they remain consumers only - and they consume billions of dollars worth of merchandise, using money that their parents earn. Just imagine what would happen to our economy if overnight the high schools closed their doors. Instead of having fifty million active consumers out there, we would suddenly have fifty million unemployed youth. It would be nothing short of an economic catastrophe."
So, for the sake of the economy, our governor is going to propose that we extend the amount of time our children are to be indentured servants to the state. What an incredibly awful idea. As a parent, I'm appalled. What kind of hubris causes a person to think they have the right to impose that kind of sentence on my child? As a teacher, I'm dumbstruck. There are few things more enjoyable and rewarding than teaching students who want to learn, and few things more frustrating, painful, and pointless as trying to teach young people who have no interest in learning material that is essentially force-fed them. The students' attitude is understandable when the meal consists of the thin, tasteless gruel of Michigan's one-size-fits-none curriculum.
Let me be blunt about this. Any legislator who supports raising the compulsory school attendance age to 18 should be impeached and deported to one of the few remaining communist countries left on the globe. They may return when they have completed 13 years at hard labor for the sake of the economy.
"There are only two places in the world where time takes precedence over the job to be done. School and prison." - William Glasser