Gene’s Nickle

26 November, 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico is trying to change existing state law that requires, mandates, obliges, commands, dictates and directs parents or guardians to send their charges to school every day of the school year. Students who don’t attend school put their parents or guardians at risk of a fine, a jail sentence, or both.
The ACLU believes that it is unfair that teenage parents only have ten days excused absence a semester from school to take their babies to doctor’s appointments and such. They want to change the law to allow these kids to receive 14 days excused absence a semester.
My first question is: why would we not just exempt these immature grown-ups from the entire truancy law? I mean, should your local school district be able to dictate when a parent takes his child to the doctor?
I do believe that a high school diploma or a college degree is an appropriate goal. However, I am not convinced that every student enrolled in our public schools needs to be kept there, especially under the force of law.
Our society has need of plumbers, but plumbers don’t need to quote Keats or Yeats. We need auto mechanics, but mechanics don’t need to discuss String Theory. We need heavy-equipment operators, but heavy-equipment operators don’t need to apply the Socratic Method.
I am sure that by the time a student is fifteen years old, parents, grand-parents, and even teachers know whether matriculation to a university is probable or not. So, why not let these kids apprentice somewhere so they can learn a trade and become a productive member of society.
Which leads to my second question: who actually benefits from such a stringent truancy law?
It is pretty obvious that students are not benefiting from attending school; according to the Washington Post:

“The [SAT] average reading score for the 2012 graduating class was 496, down one point from the previous year and 34 points since 1972.”

Parents or guardians, under the threat of legal penalties and increased property taxes, are not beneficiaries, unless you cynically consider school attendance the same as day care.
Does the school district benefit? Well, the law ensures that the district will have returning customers; it just doesn’t ensure that those customers will receive an adequate product. When the “poor overwhelmed” school district has all of these students, they of course need ever increasing amounts of money.
Do teacher’s unions benefit? You bet they do! By mandating school attendance, you ensure that the largest number of teachers is needed. Teachers equate to dues payers, and that means more money to the union.
I think this move by the ACLU points out how foolish governments or bureaucracies can be when they run amok. The ACLU also points out the foolishness of Liberal thought: a parent taking his child to the doctor’s office for the eleventh time resulting in a grand-parent having to face a magistrate judge is egregious. However, it is okay to do so on the fifteenth time.
That’s my nickle
Gene Brown