Thursday, January 12, 2012
Community Service for High School Students
There’s an interesting article in the Washington Post in which Alfie Kohn, a leading critic of modern homework policy, and the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, comments on proposals to mandate community service for high school children. I would like to add one thought to his interesting comments. Regardless of the merits and drawbacks of such policies, there is still the notion of time. How much do we as a society, and parents in particular, want the school to tell our children how they should spend their time. I’m an advocate of time based homework requirements. The prevailing standard for homework is ten minutes per grade per night. Although I often think that might be too much, let’s stay with that number for now. So where does the community service time come? From the 90 to 120 minutes we already expect our high school students to work after school? I doubt it. I think those who advocate such requirements don’t typically think about the source of that time. If we truly think it’s important for kids to engage in community service (and I do believe we should introduce our children to social justice issues), then when should it occur? It is certainly a different matter for young people to participate in community service with their parents, with their religious organizations, and as activities they choose to do on their own. But when it comes to the school, we need boundaries. If community projects are good for children, is it instead of their other assignments? Or in addition to them?