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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Can't be bothered: Kids are absent from everything, not just school

Chronic absenteeism is way up, writes Robert Pondiscio, but kids aren't just absent from school. A disturbing number of young people are "absenting themselves not just from school, but from life." Kids are less likely to be wild and crazy, more likely to be passive and disengaged.

Fewer teenagers are getting their drivers' licenses, dating and having sex. "There is less social disorder, because there is less social life," writes Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute. "We are doing less of everything together.”

"Ninety percent of success in life is just showing up," said Woody Allen (or possibly a lot of other people too). Young people aren't showing up. They can't be bothered.

"In the past, even bored or indifferent students might have dragged themselves to school to escape their parents, to avoid the drudgery of being housebound, or to socialize," Pondiscio writes. Now they have their smart phones and social media.

The pandemic -- "safer at home" -- legitimized a pre-existing trend, Pondiscio writes. Students learned they could do very little and get good grades.

“When things get hard, kids tend to just shut down. They don't have the problem-solving skills or the will to go through something hard because, during Covid, not all of them really had to,” said a middle-school teacher and administrator. Parent behavior has also changed. “It’s way more likely now for parents to say, ‘My kids are having a hard time, so I’m letting them stay home for a little while,’” she added.

With a Baltimore outreach worker, Pondiscio talked to the mother of a 10-year-old who misses school frequently. She cited transportation problems, bullying, the need for her child to miss three days a month during her period and more. The child's school career seemed to be "drawing to a close in fifth grade," Pondiscio writes.

Do schools need to be more relevant to students' lives? Focus as much on "social and emotional learning" as on academics? Ban smartphones? Or is it the fault of parents?

Chronic absenteeism from school is said to be a canary in the coal mine, writes Pondiscio, but what if "the coal mine is  much, much bigger than just school" and it's filled with sickly canaries? "A large and growing cadre of disengaged and disaffected young people" seems to be unwilling to show up in the real, physical world. They don't want to work. They don't want to have sex.

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May 04

Her period? In the 5th grade? Am I missing something?

May 04
Replying to

Puberty is starting earlier these days, but if she has them that bad, a doctor should be involved. (and not just for a note )


JK Brown
JK Brown
May 03

"School helplessness" has escaped to the wild.

In spite of the fact that schools exist for the sake of education, there is many a school whose pupils show a peculiar "school helplessness"; that is, they are capable of less initiative in connection with their school tasks than they commonly exhibit in the accomplishment of other tasks.  --How to Study and Teaching How to Study (1909) by F. M. McMurry

What did they expect when children are given no liberty to develop initiative to study, to do something. An adult has been hovering over them constantly. Eventually, they stop trying to do for themselves since someone in "authority" will thwart every attempt.

How docile young people are, after all, in intellectual matters!…

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