Forcing High School Graduates to do Community Service in Order to Graduate?

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I swear I try to write every day. I really do.  Sometimes it’s really hard to find the time.  Have lots of topics though.

Anyway, I was reading in my old home town newspaper on their website that the local school board has voted 12 to 4 (with a handful of absentees) to require 20 hours of community service of all high school graduates, starting with the graduating class of 2013.  This is on top of 17.5 credit hours already required by the state of Maine. (That’s the newest version of state by state requirements for high school graduation that I could find.  I’m sure there’s something newer out there.  edit: 2006) This stems from an agreement of sorts between the Oxford Hills school district and the Maine’s commissioner of education, Susan Gendron, to trade off community service for an over abundance of used snow days that could have pushed back that year’s graduation date.

Now mind you I’m a bit of a fan when it comes to community service.  I do a fair amount of volunteerism myself. (Some days, it seems like that’s all I do.) In fact I think it should be recommended to high school students that they should at least chip in and help.  I don’t think it should be a requirement for graduation though.

  • Who’s going to determine what organizations will be allowed and if time served will be counted?  As noted in the article on the Advertiser-Democrat site, while the teachers are going to have first approval on what’s allowed and what isn’t, the final decision will come down to the high school principle and the director of guidance. I’m sure they’re honorable folks and all that but who’s to say what will be allowed and what won’t be? I’m sure there won’t be any issue with working 20 hours at your local church or library but what about 20 hours at your local Planed Parenthood? How about 20 hours for your non main stream presidential candidate?  Will those students who choose to spend their 20 hours helping out with Ralph Nader, if he ever runs again, find out afterwards that their time was wasted?
  • Will there be enough volunteerism opportunities for everybody?  The Oxford Hills isn’t that large of an area.  Last time I checked, the eight towns together made up about twenty thousand folks with a graduating class about just under 200 students. (It’s been awhile so those numbers have probably changed by now, for better or worse) Are there enough places students can go and volunteer?  Also remember that not all high school students have access to cars so getting to and from opportunities may be an issue.  Not everybody is going to be able to shelve books at their town’s library.
  • Ability.  Let’s be honest here.  Not everybody has the mindset to volunteer.  Sure, they may be gung ho going in but after 2 hours of ladling grits at six on a Sunday morning underneath an Interstate overpass isn’t for everybody.  And shelving books at the library isn’t for everybody either. 
  • Time. Sure, twenty hours over a four year period doesn’t seem to be a lot and I have to admit that I don’t think it is either.  But what about those teenagers who are working forty hours a week during the school year trying to make money for their families?  Or two jobs during the summer?  Are they going to be able to find the time to do their time?
  • Will it be worth it?  I have to wonder if students will get anything out of completing twenty hours of volunteerism.  As noted in the article, doing community service is usually done as a punishment instead of serving jail time.  Also, as noted in the article, colleges and universities look down on compulsory community service.  Will that reflect badly on graduates trying to get into a decent college?
  • If it’s so important, why isn’t anyone behind it?  I know I keep going back to the article but you’ll note that none of the board members spoke in favor for it.  Are they really behind it or just trying to appear to be politically correct?  Where were the community members speaking for it?  The students?  Seems like the only people behind it was Dr. Eastman, the district’s superintendent, and Ted Moccia, the high school principal.
  • One final thing: What happens if at the last minute it’s discovered that a student doesn’t have their twenty hours?  Is it a waste of four years?  If I was the parent and was presented with such an event, I’d been picking up my phone and calling my attorney.

What’s your opinion?  I do want to point out that as far as I’m able to tell via a quick search, there is no state level requirement for such time.  The volunteerism, as well as the senior project that’s also required, are above and beyond what’s required by the state.  A state that requires only two years of mathematics to graduate while most others require three.  A state that only requires a number in the teens of credits while most other states are over twenty now.  I think there’s a lot more things we need to be worrying about than having little Sue or little Tommy picking up leaves at the town beach.

Picture from here by the way.  Please excuse any typos up there.  Kind of rushed through this.