Giving diplomas to slacker students is a shortcut to a dead end street, writes Ms. Cornelius of A Shrewdness of Apes. She links to a Salt Lake City Tribune story about students who cut classes then “make up” a quarter’s work in a few weeks by doing study packets provided by a private company.
By the time Spencer Taiti graduates from Woods Cross High School, he will have spent hours of school time doing everything but learning. An inveterate class-skipper, the junior guesses he has failed or will fail as many as 10 classes, often because he didn’t bother to show up.
But he will graduate, the teen says. If he has his way, Taiti will make up all those failed classes by completing packets provided by private companies such as Layton’s Northridge Learning Center. The course packet his friend Meleana Otukolo completed in about five hours earned her the credit she should have gotten attending nine weeks of class for about 90 minutes every other day. At Northridge, that “quarter” credit costs $45.
“I want to get done with school the easiest way possible,” he says.
True slackers copy their friend’s packet, ensuring they learn nothing — except for poor work habits.
A new Utah law requires schools to accept unlimited credits from accredited private programs.
A counselor defends the private programs as an option for students who can’t or won’t attend more rigorous school-run make-up classes.
“If a kid can get out with a diploma, the rest of their life is better for them,” said Orin Johanson, a West counselor. “If we have to send them to some less-than-appropriate make-up [program], I, for one, think it’s OK if a kid is dealing with certain circumstances.”
That attitude drives Ms. Cornelius up the wall.
The door may initially open for these ersatz high school graduates, but as soon as it becomes obvious that the “graduate” does not possess basic skills, unless their family owns the company, they will be shown that very door out in the real world. And besides content knowledge, there are other skills that are valued in the real world, like: showing up on time, showing up regularly, being willing to do mundane tasks in the achievement of a greater goal, and being able to sustain effort for longer than a session of DOOM on the ol’ Playstation.
When I did a series on “Learning to work” about 10 years ago, I interviews many employers who complained that young high school grads didn’t understand that they had to show up every day — even Monday morning when they had a hangover. They complained about graduates’ reading and math skills too, but it was the not showing up that drove them nuts. A guy who ran a machine shop told me he loved to hire Vietnamese immigrants. They knew math and his bilingual Vietnamese machinists could translate for them while they were learning English. They show up every day, he said.