The National Education Association—the largest teachers’ union in the nation—has just come with a plan to increase graduation rates: requiring “kids” to stay in school until they get a diploma or turn 21.
Why not 65? I mean, if you sit there long enough…. Of course, a better way to increase graduation rates is to hire better teachers, but that would require firing bad teachers. The NEA is firmly against that practice.
President Obama also wants to raise the age at which it is legal to leave school. He called upon states to make it illegal to leave school before 18 in the State of the Union speech. David Freddoso realizes what a disaster this would be:
For one thing, this policy forces many unwilling (and therefore disruptive) students on those who actually want to learn. For another, it just seems like something a U.S. president has no business proposing. What is he going to do, cut off funding for states that fail to comply?
More importantly, why did this come up in a State of the Union speech? As with many political proposals, Ockham's razor applies here. A crucial Obama political ally has something to gain from it.
Now, let's see–who is that ally?
As they say on Jeopardy: What is National Teachers Association?
So let us return to the more draconian NEA plan:
The National Education Association made the proposal as part of $1 billion-a-year plan it offered this week to increase high school graduation rates. In March, a Gates Foundation study found that a third of all public high school students fail to graduate and more than 80 percent of the nation's 3.5 million dropouts ages 16 to 25 regretted their decision.
If they regret dropping out so much, then they should do two things: first, study and get a high school equivalency diploma and, second, realize that actions have consequences (as in, it would have been easier to get a diploma, if you hadn’t dropped out, numbskull).
The NEA has made one interesting point in presenting this absurd idea, however:
In presenting the plan, [NEA President Reg] Weaver was joined by Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, a Democrat from Texas, who proposed a measure last year that would spend $1 billion on dropout initiatives, and Kathryn Brown, senior vice president of Verizon.
Verizon, based in New York and one of the largest U.S. telephone companies, can't find enough people capable of handling customer inquiries by sitting in front of multiple computer screens and interpreting their records, Brown said.
It is true that lack of skills prevents one from getting a job—but so does sitting in class until you are 21. I would agree with Pundit & Pundette that the NEA plan would result in “holding their failures hostage and keeping them from full-time employment or job training programs for three years beyond the current maximum sentence.”
Government-backed job training programs are generally duds and about as valuable as sitting like a bump on a log in class for a few more years. However, if you really want a job at Verizon, I’ll bet you can find some night courses to acquire the skills. But then, of course, the NEA would get that extra billion a year!
Pundit and Pundette correctly see in the NEA proposal further infantilization of America, as reflected in this sample from an advice column (and don’t forget being able to keep youngsters on their parents health plan until they are 27!).